22 September 2009

Pfifferdaj à Ribeauvillé

A recent trip to the Alsace took us to the town of Ribeauvillé. It was my intention to visit the
Cave de Ribeauvillé, the oldest coop winery in France. Instead, and unknowingly, we stumbled upon the oldest festival in the Alsace. Not a bad trade off.

Depending on your language of choice, the Fiddlers Festival, Pfifferdaj, or Fête des Ménétriers is a 528-year-old (to be exact) celebration of the brotherhood of wandering minstrels. In the 8th century Ribeauvillé--known then as Rathaldovilare--was passed from the Bishops of Basel to the lords of Rappoltstein. The brotherhood of musicians bought protection from Lord Tony Soprano Rappoltstein in the form of a tax and every year they made a pilgrimage to Ribeauvillé to pay their dues and hold their annual meeting.

Today the festival commemorates the 1000-year history of le Moyen Âge des Ribeaupierre, or the Middle Ages of the Lords of Rappoltstein. It's quite a show and officially lasts about tweleve hours though I suspect the unofficial festivities exceed what is listed in the program. The parade alternates between marching bands and floats with each float a representation of a particular time during the Middle Ages. We were there roughly five hours and by the time we left the parade was only about a third finished.

Naturally, there was plenty of food and drink. Lord Rappoltstein might have ruled the place a long, long time ago but Lord Pork is still the once and future king.

There are other options, and if you buy some of them you're even given free wine.

The floats started rolling down through town about three o'clock. We weren't quite sure what to expect. We weren't disappointed.

During the 12th century Ribeauvillé saw tremendous growth and became a center for commerce in the region. "Le Boom de Ribeauvillé" brought development, trade routes, prosperity, whorehouses, and all other forms of good livin'.

Take that Tournament of Roses!

There was the Beautiful and the Ugly (Le Beau et le Laid):

(Thanks for the pictures Mariah!)

And what parade would be complete without tortured children, experimental surgery, and a good burning at the stake? The Inquisition arrives in Ribeauvillé:

(Thanks Mariah!)

The streets were packed and filled with wine, food, and happy people.

Friends and foes alike set aside their differences and enjoyed the moment. Stockholm Syndrome in Ribeauvillé:

And to top it all off, many vintners are reporting that 2009 will be the best vintage in twenty-five years. Here's to the unexpected!

More Ribeauvillé resources:
La route des vins d'Alsace
Office de Tourisme du Pays de Ribeauvillé-Riquewihr
Les Ménétriers à Ribeauvillé (in French)
Le site officiel de la Ville de Ribeauvillé (in French)

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