Around Pentecost, there is but one destination in Erlangen: the Berch (“Berg” means mountain; “Berch” is how it is pronounced in the local dialect), for Bergkirchweih, the fair of the year in Central Franconia, and Germany’s oldest beer festival.
The Berch-Kerwa has been held since 1755, when the alderman decided to move all the country fairs and religious parades from the old town to the mountain. This was quite a match, since the local breweries stored their beer there, in the cool cellars dug in the mountain’s sides: the perfect location to avoid dry throats.
Along the Burgberg (the mountain’s name), not only beer cellars, but also 90 stands can nowadays be found on the funfair and numerous takeaway counters follow one another. A beer pint is much less expensive – and the open-air beer gardens in the shades of chestnut trees make for a cozier atmosphere than the gigantic, overheated and steamy tents at Munich’s Oktoberfest.
Erlangen’s annual Bergkirchweih awaits no tourists from Australia or China. Instead, a lot of Franconians from the surroundings as well as the city’s 30,000 students find their way to the holy mountain every day. In total, around 1 million visitors are expected – vs. 6 million at the Oktoberfest.
Sticking to regional pride, many Franconians think that the Bergkirchweih in Erlangen is “the better” Oktoberfest…