Late each September, the many platzes of Salzburg’s Altstadt are transformed into a gigantic fair and traditional folklore festival, Rupertikirtag. St Rupert was the first Christian missionary to Salzburg and, perhaps not incidentially, a tireless promoter of the salt trade that made Salzburg rich. In 2011, Rupertikirtag runs from September 21st to 25th, and if you’re anywhere nearby, it’s not to be missed.
In truth, many Salzburgers breathe a quiet sigh of relief when September rolls around and the crowds of visitors to the July and August music festivals thin out. And, as if to mark the transition, they roll out Rupertikirtag, an enormous celebration of their city. This is a festival made by and for Salzburgers, and while the world is welcome, there’s no mistaking the traditional flavour of the fair.
The platzes fill up with stalls of food and goods of all description: beer and baked goods, candy, preserves, schnapps and wine, wursts and preserved meats, traditional snacks, and more. Stalls sells handicrafts, traditional clothing – known as trachten – hats, dirndls, lederhosen, and jackets. There are toys, balloons, gingerbread hearts, and hand-sewn linens and gifts of all types. Artisans demonstrate traditional crafts, and farmers display their wares.
There are sideshow exhibits, games of chance and fun-fair rides to equal any county fair. Brass bands entertain at open-air food and beer stalls, and an enormous beer hall hosts bands playing traditional music and classic folklore “schlager” hits late into the evening.
The history and traditions of the region are celebrated as clubs don historic military wear and parade to the rhythm of marshal music, sometimes sounding cannons and guns to loud effect. And the people watching can’t be beat: when it comes to Rupertikirtag, nearly everyone, young and old, puts on trachten of one form or another.
In 2011, Rupertikirtag kicks off on Wednesday with an 11 a.m. procession through the Old Market Square to the Cathedral Square where, at noon, it will be officially opened with the tapping of the beer keg. A spectacular fireworks display is scheduled for Thursday evening.