Bardentreffen or Glastonbury? Bardentreffen is free!

By | Category: Travel destinations
pop up stage in 2014

pop up stage in 2014

It’s Glastonbury this weekend, an event known by music lovers, festival goers and wellington boot manufacturers the world over.

At London stations yesterday, you could easily recognise the Glastonbury habitués.

Rucksacks oozing groundsheets, water bottles and strange bulging bits identified them as they clambered about the trains filling up luggage racks, aisles and overhead space as well. The regulars know what to pack although reasonable weather is forecast for some of the weekend so those pictures of mud splattered tents and humans may not be in the newspaper headlines this year.

But the cost! The crowds! The queues for the portable toilets! The return journey as Glasto-goers return in their last pieces of cleanish clothing. All this can be tolerated by the avid fans but would you?

even the local church makes its toilet available for visitors watching a performance

even the local church makes its toilet available for visitors watching a performance

But if those people headed to the southern German city of Nuremberg, their musical fix can also last a few days. And there is no mud or sweaty bodies, toilets are clean and readily available, beer is on hand as is good food of almost every variety.

In late July, Nuremberg attracts tens and tens of thousands of visitors who come to listen to the folk based official programme and then the fring where every type of music available is played and performed by hundreds and hundreds of professionals and amateurs who return year after year, an inescapable date in their calendars as Glastonbury is for Brits. Ask them why they return and the answers are pretty similar; the range of music and performances as well as the camaraderie and atmosphere. Given that, why don’t more of us decamp to this pretty and hospitable city? The answer must be that it is not widely known. When was the last time you saw it advertised, mentioned or even talked about? The website is still only in German which must put off non-German speaking people for a start.

How is it that this festival called Bardentreffen came about and why is it in Nuremberg?

one venue is in the remains of a church. Nuremberg was bombed in the latter oart of WWII

one venue is in the remains of a church. Nuremberg was bombed in the latter oart of WWII

This year, on  July 30th, the city starts its 40th programme. Nuremberg is a popular place for conventions since there is so much to see and do there and nearby. There is industry, although you would be hard pressed to see it from the older party of the city where the fun and music takes place. But that industry and the conventions draw the visitors in apart from the summer months. Business people don’t travel then preferring their families and traditional holidays and who in their right minds organises conventions in the summer? The result was that the city had empty hotels, the restaurants had few bookings and the retailers had even less shoppers. The city authorities, the hoteliers and the tourist people got together and decided on along weekend of music events which would bring the visitors into Nuremberg in the summertime.

But how to compete with all the other summer attractions? Make it free. Yes the concerts, the street-entertainers, the buskers are all free, the costs being borne by the city. You might think that whilst the entertainment is free, the hotels and the pensions would up the prices to take advantage of the incoming trade but they don’t. They attracted little business before Bardentreffen so they have decided not to bite the hand that feeds it so hotel prices remain low, much lower than they will be when the business people return in the autumn.

All this is done to boost the local economy and my, has it worked. As I said tens and tens of thousands of people come, not as many as at Glastonbury but still over 100,000.  They don’t come just for the “official” programme where they can see the likes of Joan Armatrading and Gabby Young & Other Animals. The fringe gets as many supporters with people wandering from one to another all in an afternoon

coaxing music - not just sounds - from drainpipes

coaxing music – not just sounds – from drainpipes

Last year when I visited the events I could walk up just one street and see half a dozen different acts, some on corners, some on pop-up sets and some in theatres, concert halls, churches or parkland. One minute I was watching a six year old playing a violin as his sister danced and sang and the next I was watching a very accomplished jazz combo, somewhat incongruously, sliding out trad jazz worthy of any New Orleans Club or Ronnie Scott’s in London’s west end. Come the afternoon and I could choose between folk, heavy metal, classical or a fusion of anything in between.

In one shopping arcade entrance was a group of three, two men and a girl who mixed a modern haunting style with – of all things – a barrel organ. It was so different, so entrancing and so well performed I even shelled out money on the CD that they were selling to help cover their costs of being in Nuremberg.

the barrel organ trio

the barrel organ trio

A bit further along I spied a quartet playing different horn instruments and just along from them was a group playing what I took to be alpine halls. Horns but not alpine; these were created from bits of drainpipes fashioned into odd angles to develop the sounds they wanted. I confess: that’s something I am not going to see at Glastonbury.

But I will see lots of restaurants, bars, street cafes spilling into the cobbled squares and no signs of drunkenness or bad behaviour; just a lot people enjoying themselves as they move from one act to another. On a warm afternoon is there anything better than an atmosphere like that?

There are direct flights into Nuremberg from Stansted or you can fly into Frankfurt (two hours away by rail) or Munich which is just a fraction over an hour away. From the railway station a walk of all of five minutes will bring you into the old part of the city where the fun –and music –begins

Not even Glastonbury has its own whisky. Ayrer's islocal and found in just a few bars

Not even Glastonbury has its own whisky. Ayrer’s is local and found in just a few bars

Maybe Madonna, Status Quo, Dolly Parton or the Rolling Stones are never going to play Bardentreffen, but then neither will the six year old, the barrel organist or some of the experimental bands play Glastonbury. There is room for both. Just as Glasto-goers will move around the summer festivals in Europe they ought at least to spend a few days in Nuremberg where food, beer, friendliness and even the city’s own distilled whisky will make the culinary and accommodation memories of Glastonbury disappear from their minds. At least until next time!

 

For more about Nuremberg, click here.

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