If you live anywhere on the European continent, then you'll have felt the same heatwave that's been affecting Stuttgart this past week. Temperatures climbed up to 100-degrees Fahrenheit (37-degrees Celsius) this Fourth of July weekend, which though I recognize is nothing compared to the U.S. South this time of year, it's still unseasonably hot for Germany and somewhat challenging in a country without home air conditioning. Still, the weather didn't stop me from going to the Schlosspark for a picnic yesterday afternoon and then out to the Marienplatzfest for my first time.
The annual festival takes places in the Marienplatz square just above the u-bahn station and next to the Zacke (the old "rack railway") station. To tell you the truth, we stopped by Marienplatz on Friday night to see what the festival was about, but the square was so crowded that we decided to come back on Saturday night without our dog, who was finding it challenging to find space to walk without being stepped on. And so on Saturday we made our way there again around 9 pm -- without the dog -- when the heat had subsided a bit.
At first I thought the crowds were better, but by the time we got our first beer, it was evident that everyone else had the same idea and we were shoulder-to-shoulder again with other festival-goers. No matter -- everyone was extremely polite and accommodating and there to have a good time. Most people were standing around drinking, but some lucky earlybirds had snagged seats on the stairs leading to and from the square. There were even some beach chairs and crates set up for the occasion, and many of the square's residents had opened their windows to enjoy the music from the comfort of their living rooms.
The primary focus of the festival was the electronic music playing at the big stage in the corner. We arrived just in time to hear "Monolink" from Berlin, a kind of electro folk, and the line-up over the four-day weekend promised bands from as far away as the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and South Africa. I also saw on the website that there would be some urban art stands, and though I did see one woman selling paintings, it was hard to spot much else with all the people there at that point in the evening. On Friday night I also saw a local bicycle shop showing their bike models and a big car was set up near the Zacke advertising for a charity group. All of it was rather alternative, making for a different vibe from Stuttgart's more traditional festivals like the Wasen and even the Sommerfest.
As far as food and drink goes, there was a great turn-out! There seemed to be quite a few cocktail bars in addition to beer stands by Wulle, Sanwald, and Dinkelacker. We initially wanted a Sanwald Hefeweizen, but they were all sold out when we got to the front of the line and settled instead on Pils. With out thirst slaked, we made our rounds to see what foods were available. I saw many of the same food stands as were at last street food market, including Madagascar and Nachtschicht. We liked the chili cheese fries so much that we decided to get another plate of them while we walked around. They were just as good as last time, and as we watched the fry cook making our plate, we realized the secret to the hand-cut fries is that they're double-fried before being smothered in chili and (real) cheese sauce.
I also saw several new stands, including one from Burreatos, a new burrito place downtown, as well as stands selling falafel, empanadas, and pulled pork. One blue food truck call Laugenbekenntnis caught our eye. They were selling pulled pork in a Laugenbrot, which is essentially a pretzel roll, topped with pickle relish and barbecue sauce. It was my favorite sandwich of the night. The roll was slightly hard on the outside and chewy soft on the inside with a perfect ratio of juicy pulled pork to condiments.
Since it was the Fourth of the July, we also decided to go for a crazy dog from the hot dog stand. I felt kind of sorry for them, because the stand was located closest to the stage, and they were having trouble selling hot dogs (both vegan and meat) through the crowds that were standing around to listen to the music. They were really happy to serve us a hot dog when we approached, and we ordered one with everything: sauerkraut, jalapeños, tomatoes, pickle relish, fried onions, mustard, and cheese. After stuffing the dog, the chef even toasted the cheese until it melted under the broiler. I've only recently started liking the heat of jalapeños, and so this was my first hot dog with them. All-in-all, it was a pretty solid, though messy, dog.
Around 10:30 pm the music died down as they switched bands, and we decided it was time for dessert and a walk home. Without a seat, neither of us was really interested in standing around and waiting, though I'm sure if we'd been a group out for a night of drinking and dancing it would have been a different matter.
We decided to go for gelato at Café Kaiserbau just on the square. A good friend of mine introduced it to me as her favorite ice cream place in Stuttgart last week, and I have to admit that it gives both Pinguin and Old Bridge a run for their money. On my first visit I chose two fruity flavors: Mango and Holunder-Limetten (elderberry flower and lime). On this visit, I chose creamy flavors: Karamell Fleur de Sel (salted caramel) and Ricotta mit Aprikosen und Rosmarin (ricotta with apricots and rosemary). I loved the lightly salted caramel, but the creamy ricotta-apricot was refreshing at the end of the hot day. The rosemary was a bit light, though, and I would have liked more of that flavor to pop. Both times I've gone their gelato has been creamy and with slightly more experimental flavors than Old Bridge. As for my favorite, I think I'll have to take a day this summer and go around eating ice cream to compare them all and then decide!
We took our ice cream cones to go and walked home in the muggy, but much cooler night air. Despite the crowd (expected) and heat (unexpected), I really liked the alternative atmosphere and live electronic music of the Marienplatzfest. They had a pretty good turn out for food, too. I will be back next year for sure.
Note that the Marienplatzfest is on for just one more day -- today -- from 1:00 pm until midnight. Make sure you make it down there before all the festivities are over!