Mandelbluten Festival: spring is here!

Mandelbluten Festival: spring is here!

It’s just past two p.m. on Saturday and I’m sitting outside at a picnic table in the vineyards surrounding Gimmeldingen at the opening festivities of the wine festival season in the Rhineland-Pfalz. The kickoff to winefest season is called the Mandelblutenfest, a celebration in March when all the almond trees are in full bloom. It celebrates springtime as well as the beginning days of wine in the Pfalz (pronounced ‘falltz’). And it is absolutely breathtaking on this particular Saturday afternoon!

The origins to this wine festival date back to 1934. At that time, National Socialist leaders tried to improve the marketability of German wine, by not only beginning to grow several more varietals in the region, but also by creating the German Wine Route (Deutsche Weinstrasse). In addition to the wine, each year during the festival an almond blossom queen and an almond blossom princess are elected. There is a processional through the festival streets that officially kicks off wine season in the Pfalz. Visitors can simply stroll through the streets enjoying the wine and the views, as I did, or you may sign up for official guided tours throughout the local vineyards.

Currently I’m alone as I sit here and write this draft. I made the walk over here by myself, about a twenty-five minute stroll from my house; and now I’m enjoying the wine, the sunshine and a bit of self-reflection. Soon though I’ll be joined by some coworkers so the rest of the afternoon is shaping up nicely.

As I mentioned, my walk from Neustadt to Gimmeldingen took no more than thirty minutes. Gimmeldingen is a neighboring wine village, also located along the Weinstrasse (street of wine). The walk was lovely and I could see the blooming trees off in the distance as I made my way here. So far I’ve only managed to hit the very first stall, but I was quite eager to take a seat, enjoy the views, soak up some sunshine and indulge in a traditional “Rieslingschorle”. It’s a very common beverage in the region. They simply add three-quarters of a glass with Riesling and then finish it off with one quarter of sparkling water. The Germans love adding bubbles, aka ‘gas’, to EVERYTHING, and their local wine varietals are certainly no exception. What it does is simply lighten the flavor a hint while adding a bit of refreshment with the bubbles. It’s actually quite nice and I like the flavor more than I excpected I would.

My plan for the rest of the afternoon- wait till my coworkers arrive, then check out the rest of the fest stalls while making our way through the streets of Gimmeldingen. I’m enjoying every bit of sunshine this afternoon, as the spring weather in Germany is very similar to Oregon spring weather back at home. One day it will be sunny and sixty-five degrees, the next cloudy, overcast and a cold forty degrees.

I’m really enjoying this experience as it is a unique springtime festival to the region I’ve called home for the past six months. A lot of my efforts on the weekends are to get out of Neustadt, hop on a train and explore other parts of Germany as often as I can. However, this weekend it’s nice to slow down, step back, and appreciate all that my current home has to offer.

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