The giants catch your eye, and then they keep you captivated. Organic sculptures with individual personalities. Some appear to be almost melting, while others look like stone.
In the formal gardens of a castle in Ludwigsburg, Germany, lies a pumpkin festival fit for royalty. Come along as I explore the details that make this event one of the best in the world…
For two years, Ludwigsburg has been on my mind. I first discovered the event while searching online for the pumpkin events of Europe. Long ago, I took a German 1 class in Switzerland, and it was there that my very first word in Deutsch was kurbis, or pumpkin. Six years later, pumpkin would change my life, and perhaps rule my world. So that night in 2016, I searched online for kurbis, and struck gold.
As a pumpkin grower, with a great love of pumpkin biodiversity, pumpkin artistry, and all of the culinary aspects of squash, the event was like a dream. Unfortunately, my 2016 journey was postponed due to an airline strike, which left me crying in the Venice airport. I remained mad at the airlines for quite some time, sulking over the loss of my pumpkin party. My reaction illuminated just how much I wanted to attend this event, and I vowed to try again.
When I returned to Italy this year as a Slow Food Terra Madre delegate, I made the pact with myself that I would go to Ludwigsburg, and this time by train. My transit from Naples to Ludwigsburg took 13.5 hours, and it was the very best decision I could have made. It was a test of dedication. The train wound it’s way through Rome, Florence, Bologna, Innsbruck, Munich, Stuttgart, and finally arriving at my destination. The train had stunning vistas all around, and I was content to simply gaze at the landscape as my seat mate, and I spoke of our travels. As I neared Ludwigsburg, I was noticeably giddy.
The festival runs from September, through the first weekend in November. There are special featured events on each weekend: a pumpkin regatta, German giant pumpkin competition, the all Europe giant pumpkin competition, carving competitions, a weekend of kurbis (pumpkin) soup making, and ending with smashing pumpkins, where crowds gather to crush the giant pumpkins.
Each weekend offered something special, and ongoing large scale pumpkin sculptures are on display for the duration of the event. There is also an extensive pumpkin menu served throughout the grounds. I’ll be returning tomorrow, to view the special carving competition, where artists carve the non winning giant pumpkins. I’ll also make a dedicated effort to work my way through the kurbis menu.