Sunday, June 13, 2010

Heidelberg's Witch Festival

The city of Heidelberg (HD) loves it's cult-related rituals.  In fall, there is a Vampire ball where people dress in extravagant Vampire costumes (think "Interview with a Vampire" outfits).  And in spring there is Walpurgisnächt, more commonly known as "witch night."

Witch night happens on the last night in April.  According to Wikipedia, this holiday originated by witches holding large celebrations with bonfires to celebrate the arrival of spring. Many in Heidelberg (HD) continue to celebrate the witch tradition.

On the top of the hill opposite of HD are monastery ruins and a Nazi amphitheatre.  These were all built on top of druid ruins.  On the last night in April, people (mostly hippies and students) hike the mountain - in darkness - and go to the ampitheatre.  Hiking at night to the ampitheatre is no problem... there is a constant stream of people walking up the forest trails to the mountain (as one friend put it "follow the dreadlocks, drum beats, and smell of pot"). 

At the top of the mountain (which we made without injury!), we encountered 2 parking lots with 30+ ambulances.  Seeing this was slightly alarming.

The ampitheatre (a short distance from the parking lot) was easy to find as there were loud drum noises coming from it.  In the ampitheatre, there were 3,000+ people, many bonfires (1 big bonfire, many small BBQs turned into bonfires), loud drums, people dancing (hippie style) everywhere, and random fireworks.   In the 30 min which we were there, 2 people were carried out of the ampitheatre by paramedics.  Many of the people in the ampitheatre were set to camp there overnight. 

The walk down was much easier than the walk up.  The path was filled with (drunk) people sitting and some (stupidely) attempting to walk in not-so-straight lines (this was done in a crooked path with frequent crashes into the trees and fences on either side of the path).  All in all, we hiked about 5km that night. 

Next year, we decided that we're going to have a cart next to the ampitheatre where we sell ice cream, water, and hamburgers/hot dogs.  None were there and we're sure many people would buy them.

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