This article first appeared in The Local Germany.
Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle signed a reconciliation pact between France and Germany in 1963. Berlin’s first French-German Festival happened the same year – and yet Felix Reimer isn’t sure this sugary Volksfest was quite what the two statesmen had in mind.
If Adenauer and de Gaulle ever hoped the spirit of friendship across the Rhine would ever weaken national football allegiances, they were to be disappointed.
Not one person The Local talked to at Berlin’s annual French-German Volksfest on Wednesday afternoon had any doubt Germany would beat France in the World Cup quarter final on Friday evening.
Football, however, barely played a role at this, the 52nd event of its kind in the German capital.
In fact, it may be one of the biggest World Cup-free zones existing in the city at this moment.
But that didn’t stop the hordes of day-trippers descending.
Roll up for your free space mouse
“I like this, this is fun,” a showman assured those entering the fairgrounds.
He sold lottery tickets at the “Lucky Post” and had a special offer: For buying an XXL lottery bag, containing 60 individual tickets, they would also get a free space mouse.
The space mouse, a stuffed toy, looked like an unfortunate cross between a high rodent and a character from the US adult cartoon series “South Park.”
Numerous places offered hamburgers, hot dogs, candyfloss and every conceivable type of wurst. Crepes and frog legs were also available to fans of the French cuisine who looked hard enough, although typical German fairground fare dominated the food options.
With little connection to France apparent, most people seemed to be there for the various rides.
Visitors streamed from bumper cars to a roller coaster with a massive Marilyn Monroe statue, or queued up to hang upside down at 48 metres in a giant 360° swing.
One merry-go-round took those who dared up to a height of 60 metres.
On the ground, their screams were barely audible.
From Bavaria to Brittany
At least two ghost houses tempted visitors in from the bright sunshine.
The “Valley of the Kings,” featuring decorations in the style of ancient Egypt (where French revolutionary leader Napoleon Bonaparte had spent some time, after all) seemed to be people’s favourite.
The ghost train “Dance of the Vampires” was quieter, despite offering a spooky train ride.
The “French village,” advertised as a festival highlight, was not so easy to find.
Arranged around a wooden windmill with an ale house on the ground floor, its fake half-timbered facades could have represented any region from Bavaria to Brittany.
Ultimately, it was the clichéd French music blaring in the background convinced your reporter he was in the right place.
The festival takes place on Berlin’s official fairground on Kurt-Schumacher-Damm. It is easily accessible by car via the A111 motorway separating it from Tegel Airport or by bus via U-bahn stations Jakob-Kaiser-Platz or Kurt-Schumacher-Damm. Entry costs €2, rides are extra.