This weekend was the summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year and the official start of summer. What I learned from this great National Geographic article is that the official start time is different all of the world, depending upon when the sun reaches it’s furthest point north of the Equator. This means for people on the west coast of North America, it technically started last Thursday night, whereas many people celebrated Friday, but here in Europe the celebration actually fell on Saturday. But all science aside, the longest day of the year for us means a reason to celebrate, so that’s exactly what we did.
My town, Aschau, celebrates Sonnwendfeier (in German) every year by throwing a big party at the top of Kampenwand, the mountain that sits at 5,500 ft above our town. The highlights include a giant bonfire lit right after the sun sets, men playing the traditional Alpenhörnen while wearing Lederhosen, a cover band playing live music on the deck of the restaurant Sonnenalm, and of course beer, schnapps and glühwein sold all night long. I would estimate there were about 500 people there, and based on license plates in the parking lot, they came from all over for this event.
The weather had been iffy the whole weekend, with a good chance of rain, so we were worried the event was going to be cancelled. But as luck would have it, right before sunset it started clearing up and graced us with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen since I’ve been living in Germany.
My friend Sara, who has been studying in Vienna, came to visit this weekend and it was her first time ever in Germany, so I was super stoked that we had a fun traditional German event to attend. Some other friends joined us and it turned out to be a really great night. The evening started with an old-fashioned gondola ride to get to the top where we enjoyed views of Aschau, the castle, the Chiemsee and the start of the fantastic sunset. Once we got to the top, we watched the rest of the sun go down and took lots of pictures. Here in Aschau the sun set at about 9:20pm, and wasn’t completely dark until around 10:30pm.
Shortly after, they lit the bonfire and the rest of the night consisted of music, beverages and the mesmerizing beauty of the fire. It was pretty chilly, too.. about 50 degrees F/10 C, with some wind… but of course standing by the bonfire you were definitely warm. We had actually intended to hike down at the end of the night and were prepared with good shoes and headlamps, but after finding out it takes about 2 hours in the dark, we jumped in line to catch one of the last gondolas down at midnight. Maybe next time!
It was fun celebrating the longest day of the year for my first time, especially experiencing Bavaria’s traditional way of doing it. It’s cool to think about how many different ways summer solstice is celebrated across the world.
Have you ever celebrated summer solstice?