There is a festival for almost everything in Tyrol – from humble vegetables to fire brigades. In the past week, we had our fair share of beer at the Radish Festival in Hall in Tirol, followed by the Maypole celebrations in Tulfes two days later.
Why a Radish Festival?
An entire festival in honour of a small red root vegetable? If you grew 200 million of them in not even 200 hectares, you might also consider celebrating in a big way.
The radishes are grown in the fertile soil of Thaur between Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol. Known as “Austria’s biggest vegetable garden”, the small town produces about 60% of all radishes in Austria.
World Record Sandwich
To wet everyone’s appetite for their crunchy vegetables, the farmers collaborated with a well-known bakery to create a mighty sandwich of 28 metres long. This is indeed a new world record. (Like one proud participant said, who cares that no-one else has attempted it? A world record is a world record ?.) The Bäckerei Therese Mölk made 200 kg of bread dough to produce 28 metres of bread in specially manufactured moulds. Topped with freshly sliced radishes and garden cress, the sandwich quickly shortened. Sold for €2 per (huge) piece in aid of charity, it was to be expected.
Music, Beer and Radishes
From the buzzing Oberer Stadtplatz (upper town square), we followed the sounds of a traditional brass band to get to where the real festivities were happening behind the old town hall (rathaus). The kids were kept busy with all kinds of radish and non-radish related activities in the garden. This meant the parents and grandparents were free to drink beer and wine in the company of the Musikkappelle Thaur. We ate Straube (a kind of a pancake) for the first time. For the bigger hunger, our usual radish festival lunch – Tiroler Gröstl – didn’t disappoint. This is sliced fried potatoes with bits of roast beef. At the radish festival, it is always served with cabbage salad.
At €1 for 2 bundles of radishes, we are still getting a good daily dose of vitamin C and potassium from the little red vegetables in our fridge. The best is that Mattheus loves them despite the sharpness. Interesting fact, by the way: The snow in Tyrol is said to enhance the sharpness of the radishes.
On 1 May we were greeted by the top of a Maypole sticking out from behind the school in Tulfes, which is also our hometown. Soon after, the tunes played by Die 4 Tiroler, a “traditional party band”, enticed us to make our way to the town hall. They were a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, because we were joined by other townsfolk coming from all directions. (The 1st of May is also a public holiday in Austria.)
The Maypole tradition goes back many centuries in Austria and Germany. An incredibly long tree trunk is decorated with ribbons, wreaths and signs for local folklore groups to perform under. In some towns, the young men must guard the tree overnight to prevent it from being stolen or sawn off by a neighbouring town.
Folk Dancing Around the Tree
On the day of the celebrations, different dances are performed by groups dressed in their finest costumes. The schuhplattler, characterized by the stomping, clapping and striking of the shoes, thighs and knees with flat hands, are especially popular.
While the dancers were strutting their stuff around the tree, we queued for food. Typical Austrian fare such as schnitzel and potato salad and sausages and pommes frites (chips or fries) were on the menu. Kaskrapfen (like a deep-fried cheese pie) too. Fortunately, the drinks queue wasn’t as long as the food queue.
After lunch, it was time for the big tree climbing challenge. The aim is to get as far as the bell near the top and ring it. It’s not an easy feat to cling to the smooth wood and hoist yourself up at the same time. Even so, the bell rang out about 4 or 5 times.
Unfortunately, the festivities came to an earlier than usual end due to rain. However, the Maypole will remain in front of the town hall for the remainder of the month to remind us of good times had.
- If you want to know about upcoming festivals in Tirol, keep an eye on the events calendar. I try to stay as up to date as possible, but please let me know if I missed anything.
Watch the Maypole Dances
Watch the Radish Festival Video