Douzelage News

691 whole horses and half a chicken

Festivals are a commonplace occurrence in all of our Douzelage partner towns – from Sea Sessions in Bundoran to Carnival in Granville, Pisana Loka in Škofja Loka to Pfingstfest in Bad Kötzting. This was the port of call this past weekend as I was invited, along with a number of our Douzelage Youth delegates, to take part in the annual parade through the town and experience the Pfingstfest and Pfingstritt.

Our arrival on Friday saw us spend some time in the capital of Bavaria – Munich. Our hosts Corinna and Stefan brought us to the Olympic Park (built for the 1972 games – and soon to be home of the fanzone for Euro 2024).  Also in this area is the BMW World where we got to see some pretty nice cars and bikes! We walked around, ate some typical German food and later experienced some Munich nightlife.

The gang in Munich at the Olympic Park
BMW World at Olympic Park

Saturday was the day for the parade as we made our way to Bad Kötzting. We got checked into our accommodation and tried on our traditional outfits that made us feel right at home and “part of the club”. Lunch brought us to the Lindner Brau Brew Pub where the schnitzel was out in force!

Lunching at Lindnerbrau

There was just time to walk to the parade starting area to greet some of the city officials including Mayor Markus Hoffman and assume our positions so that we were ready to leave on time to walk the more than 1km route through the town and down to the festival area.

Mit der Burgermeister, Markus Hoffman

The streets were lined with thousands of people eager to see the marching bands, community organisations and colourful characters that made up the procession including many horses and carriages which would make up the Pfingstritt procession two days later. The parade through the town, decorated in green and white, was a fun walk for all of us who were provided with our country flags to wave and for me, and equally proud moment, as I got to carry the familiar yellow and blue flag representing the European Union.

Marching with the EU Flag in the parade

We walked to the festival area where we went into the beer tent – now I’ve never been to Oktoberfest but I’ve been told that the festival we witnessed this weekend was what it was based on. I’d well believe it! An absolutely massive tent/marquee fit to hold thousands of revellers enjoying traditional food, drink and live music. Choruses of “Ein Prosit der Gemötlichkeit” rang out periodically as people young and old embraced their tradition and roots in dresses and lederhosen.

Pfingstfest 2024 Beer Tent

Beer and food (Bratwurst, Currywurst, Schnitzel and half a chicken) were in plentiful supply with the accompanying bars and fairground rides outside the tent providing no particular reason to leave!

We had to leave eventually of course and caught up on some much needed rest before a fairly free morning and afternoon which we used to have some fun in the local Kurpark and check out some of the Douzelage installations there – a boundary stone from each of the partner towns.

With Hannah at the Bundoran boundary stone in the Kurpark, Bad Kötzting

Following some epic thunder and lightning in the early evening, we headed back to the tent to grab some food and then it was time to watch the local theatre group have an outdoor performance in the town square. This was directed by long time Douzelage member Wolfgang Kercher who, along with his many cast, did a really great job entertaining the hundreds that had gathered to watch. Following the performance was the procession of light through the town. Again another tradition that proved hugely popular.

Das Pfingstl-Spiel street theatre
The gang with the tree!

Speaking of traditions, on Monday it was time to wake up early (though not as early as some!) to watch the Pfingstritt as the procession made its way out of Bad Kötzting to Steinbühl – just over 7km away. This parade, part of Pentecost celebrations, consisted of 691 horses and riders and in its over 600 years in operation has only ever been cancelled twice – once due to World War 2, the second time due to Covid.

Bad Kötzting’s Wolfgang Kerscher was one of the 691 horseriders on the day.

An impressive procession of horses decked out in all sorts of colours and uniforms went past our viewing point as the sun beat down on us even though it was only 9am.

The rest of our day was spent on the road to the spectacular Neuschwanstein Castle near the village of Füssen just 10km from the border with Austria. Built by King Ludwig 11 in 1869, of all the castles in Germany, this is probably the most recognisable and said to be the inspiration for Disney’s magic kingdom castle! We hiked to the castle and the famous Marienbrücke that gives an epic instagrammable moment. Our group took some pictures and then headed back for Munich (via McDonalds!) for the final night in Germany.

On the Marienbrücke at Neuschwanstein Castle
At Neuschwanstein Castle

A massive thanks in particular to Corinna and Stefan for organising the trip and to Markus, Isolde and the team at Stadt Bad Kötzting for their support of our visit. It was fantastic to experience the famous Pfingstfest and we will definitely be back!

P.s. – as seems to be inevitable any time I fly lately, our flight is delayed and I’m sitting in Prague airport after a 2.5 hour delay to our flight to Dublin. My chariot of a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 is hurtling towards us though and bed is in sight!