Things to do in autumn besides Oktoberfest

From carnivals and street parties to light festivals and even a dash of Glühwein, there's an awful lot going on in Germany this autumn. So if you've decided to give Oktoberfest a miss this year, why not check out a few alternative ways to enjoy the cooler months?

Things to do in autumn besides Oktoberfest
Traditional carnival celebrations in Düsseldorf, beginning with the annual "Hoppeditz' Awakening." Photo: DPA

September 23 marks the 2015 Autumn Equinox – that moment which sees Europe wave goodbye to summer for another six months. So as autumn descends on Germany, we thought we'd give you a heads-up about the best ways to enjoy the season.

What is the autumn equinox?

On any given day of the year, either the Earth's northern or southern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun.  Between around March and September, it's the northern hemisphere – meaning we in Europe get our summer months. During the rest of the year, the southern hemisphere gets the best of the sun's warmth.

However, on two days each year – named Spring and Autumn Equinox – the earth's tilt is perpendicular to the sun's rays. At these times, day and night are of almost equal length.

With the 2015 Autumn Equinox falling on September 23rd, Europe officially welcomes in the autumn and winter months this week.

And what happens during the German autumn?

You're probably well aware of the annual Oktoberfest down in Munich. A monumental party that kicked off on September 19th this year and runs all the way until October 4th, Oktoberfest is perhaps the pinnacle of German autumn tradition.

But if downing Maß after Maß of beer in a tent with hundreds of tourists isn't your scene, here are a few other things happening around Germany during the autumn months:

1.       October 3rd – German Unity Day

Photo: DPA

An annual celebration of the day in 1990 when two Germanys officially became one, German Unity Day is a public holiday. Of course, this year it falls on a Saturday, so most of us won't feel the benefit of an extra day off work.

Either way, it's a day of partying and celebration across Germany. You'll find post offices, banks and many shops remain closed throughout the day, while in Berlin a big party sets up around the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

With live bands, food, drinks and fairground attractions, the annual three-day festival is not one to miss – especially this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of this historical turning point.

2.       October 2nd-18th – Berlin Shines

The theatre in Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt lit up for 2014's Berlin Shines festival. Photo: DPA

One of two dazzling illumination festivals in the capital, Berlin Shines – or Berlin Leuchtet – adds a bit of brightness to what can often be a dull time of year.

During the festival, some of the city's lesser-known but important buildings and structures are given a splash of colour – with a mix of light installations, lasers, video and 3D projections. Musical performances, fireworks and guided tours round off this city-wide phenomenon.

3.       October 9th-18th – Berlin Festival of Lights

Berlin Cathedral lit up for the 2014 Festival of Lights. Photo: DPA

It may be a week shorter, but Berlin's other illumination festival lights up what feels like the whole of the city. From the Brandenburg Gate to Berlin Cathedral, the Berlin Festival of Lights cloaks everything it touches in light and colour – creating a truly spectacular show.

The festival's currently in its tenth year. However, the 2015 show is set to raise the stakes, as six artists from across the world compete to create the most dazzling display and pick up the first ever Festival of Lights award.

4.       October 14th-18th – Frankfurt Book Fair

Visitors flock to the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: DPA

With the shortlist for this year's German Book Prize announced just last week, excitement is building for the 67th annual Frankfurt Book Fair this October.

The announcement of the 2015 German Book Prize winner will kick off the event, famed as the world's largest book fair.

From signings, interviews and performances to workshops and cooking demonstrations, events are held in numerous different languages. One for lovers of literature everywhere. 

5. October 24th – Museum Night in Cologne

Cologne Cathedral at night. Photo: DPA

Kicking off at 7pm and continuing through the night, the 15th annual Museum Night in Cologne promises a night of exploration, excitement and discovery.

Spanning 46 locations and over 200 events, the Museum Night promises visitors the chance to experience art in new ways, in a truly unique atmosphere across the whole city.

The locations are connected by five shuttle bus routes, and a single ticket earns visitors access to all of the exhibitions, plus free travel on the bus all night.

Sounds like a perfect night in the cultural metropolis of Cologne.

SEE ALSO´: Cologne's 10 must-see spots for culture vultures

6. November 11th – the beginning of Carnival Season

“Hoppeditz' Awakening” marks the start of carnival season in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA

From November 11th until the following Ash Wednesday each year, Germany is alive with carnival spirit.

Rather confusingly, the celebrations have different names across Germany – while Cologne and Düsseldorf celebrate the start of Karneval on November 11th, for Berlin and Bavaria it's Fasching, and the Black Forest you'll find yourself welcoming in Fasnacht.

Either way, this very special day in November marks the beginning of carnival celebrations across Germany. From televised street parades in Cologne to the awakening of jester “Hoppeditz” in Düsseldorf, the Germans definitely know how to welcome in carnival season with a bang.

SEE ALSO: The Local's guide to Karneval

7. November 11th – St Martin's Day

Children carry lanterns during the 2011 St Martin's Day procession in Berlin. Photo: DPA

As if the launch of nationwide carnivals wasn't enough, November 11th is also the day of one of Germany's lesser-known religious traditions.

The event is a celebration of modesty and altruism – both qualities associated with St Martin of Tours, to whom the day is dedicated. However, it's also a chance to get together for evening lantern parades through towns and cities, followed by songs, sweet pastries and mulled wine (Glühwein) around a bonfire.

The celebration is particularly popular with children, many of whom build their own lanterns for the parades.

SEE ALSO: Celebrating St. Martin's Day in Germany

By Hannah Butler

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Seven must-attend online events in Germany in April

Most cultural institutions remain closed in April, but there's plenty of activity happening online. Here's a list of online events for you to attend in Germany in April from the safety of your own home.

Seven must-attend online events in Germany in April
Semperoper in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Deutsches Theatre, Berlin, Interactive online event, until April 16th 2021

‘‘16-year-old Laura finds a message in her locker on the last day of school before the lockdown. A classmate is in danger and asks her for help. But Laura cannot solve the riddles she finds in her exercise book. Since she can no longer trust anyone at her school, she asks four outsiders for help’’. 

This is the plot of the interactive game with live performers hosted by Deutsches Theatre. Viewers get deeper and deeper insights into the dark machinations of the school via Zoom, Telegram and websites. In the style of escape rooms and detective games, a microcosm of corrupt clique leaders, illegal events and frightened schoolchildren unfolds.

To participate, you need a PC, a smartphone with the Telegram messenger app and a stable internet connection

Semperoper, Dresden, Virtual performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, starting April 5th 

Starting on Easter Monday, the Semperoper in Dresden invited its audience members to attend a virtual performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. A recording of Dresden’s latest opera can continue to be viewed free of charge. 

Volksbühne, Berlin, Digital Collection, until further notice

        Photo: DPA

Volksbühne in Berlin has various online events to check out. These include a production of Oedipus, talks on the role of instruments in the pandemic (‘Piano against Corona’) pieces by the Rosa Kollektiv in collaboration with the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation and more.  

Arab Film Festival, April 21st-30th

With a selection of fresh films, the festival will present the latest film making from the Arab world. Impressive film art, gripping stories and blunt statements are the focus of this year’s official selection, paired with strong protagonists. Feature films and documentaries deal with topics such as migration, gender roles and the culture of remembrance and show a contemporary and often personal image of a turbulent region.

Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, DIGGIN’ OPERA II  April 25th 6 pm-7:30 pm

Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is showing an opera production produced entirely by high school children, including writing music, creating the stage sets and costumes. Under the guidance of the best specialists in their field, the young people have worked over several months to put together a music theatre production which they will now be presenting at the Festspielhaus online 

Virtual Marathon, Germany, April 11th

At the Virtual Marathon Germany, you can run anywhere in the world, alone or with friends! You can choose to run a distance of 21, ten or five kilometres.

You can set a training goal for yourself for April 11th and as a reward, you will receive a marathon package in the mail – including a medal and running shirt. In the virtual marathon, each participant can choose his or her own route. There are even prizes for winners, for which more than three hundred people have already registered.

Gämeldegalerie, Berlin, Online collection, until further notice

The National Museums in Berlin have published another virtual tour of one of their museum collections: Following the Bode Museum, the Gemäldegalerie can now also be explored digitally in its entirety and in both German and English. The gallery is showcasing its 58 rooms, 112 panoramas, and 1,200 works of art.