In the US, our infatuation with pumpkins at Halloween borders on the religious.  Long gone are the days when carving pumpkins was just for kids!  For us, October typically involves a carriage ride to the nearest farmer’s pumpkin patch, picking the perfect pumpkin for carving, and hosting a rockin’ party to turn our newly acquired orange beauties into works of squashy art.  While these traditions may be less common in Europe, we discovered this year that Germans share a love of Halloween – and by extension, pumpkins.  In fact, the town of Ludwigsburg is famous for hosting the world’s largest pumpkin festival, an event held with considerable pomp and grandeur on the grounds of an actual 18th-century Baroque palace.

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Lavish gardens of Ludwigsburg Palace

Every year, over 400,000 pumpkins are trucked in for the event, which runs from September through November.  While some of them are for sale, most are used for decoration.  Larger pumpkins are scattered throughout the grounds.

Artists skillfully use many of the smaller ones to recreate scenes and characters based around a theme, which changes each year.  In 2015, it was “Flight.”  This year the theme is “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town.”

Clown at Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

Tractor pulling a circus wagon, Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

A lion jumps through a hoop at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

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Tight-rope walker at Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

The festival features about 500 types of pumpkins, including peculiar green varieties, tiny ones, lumpy pumpkins, and those mottled in the colors of fall.  In addition to the large main circus displays, smaller carved pieces are sprinkled throughout the grounds, including peppy little porkers, snakes, and whimsical mice.

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Artists find creative ways to carve pumpkins, squash, and gourds.

Since a variety of events are hosted across the weekends at the exhibition, it’s a good idea to check their schedule (scoll to bottom) to make sure you see what most interests you.

Depending on when you visit, you can plan to see things like the Pumpkin Canoe Regatta where folks race across a small lake inside giant hollowed-out pumpkins.  Or you can attend the Gourmet Pumpkin Festival to see chefs concocting Germany’s largest vat of pumpkin soup. We were most excited about the Giant Pumpkin Carving Festival.

 

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B*A*N*A*N*A!

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~ Henry David ThoreauClick To Tweet

I love this one!  I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be Bartok from Anastasia, but it sure looks like him.

Though we missed the actual European Pumpkin Weigh Off, the winners were still on display a week later during our visit.

This year, Mathias Willemijns from Belgium set a new record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin, “smashing” all previous heavy-weight titles.  His monster pumpkin topped out at  1190.5 kgs – or 2623 pounds!

Winner of the European Pumpkin Weigh Off

Besides all the fun stuff to  do and see at the exhibition, what would a festival be without tasty snacks?

In keeping with the pumpkin theme, booths sell things like roasted pumpkin seeds in different flavors.  We tried all three, but I think I’ll have to stick with good ol’ fashioned salt.  The cinnamon/sugar ones are an odd combination.  Pumpkin sparkling wine, jars of pumpkin pesto, and pumpkin oil are also available for sale.

Pumpkin seeds rolled and cooked in salt, cinnamon and sugar, or “chili sugar”

For “real” food, a large building that functions as an actual restaurant is set up on site.  The menu includes some pretty standard fall foods, like pumpkin soup and pumpkin muffins, but some rather unique specialties as well.

I ordered kürbus-käsespätzle, which are traditional German cheese noodles with pumpkin.  Travis ordered kürbus-maultasche – meat-filled pasta squares in pumpkin soup.  The latter was a recommendation from a fellow blogger, Bevchen, who writes Confuzzledom.  Not only was her suggestion spot on (the kürbus-maultasche is incredible), but I first found out about the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival on her blog last year.

Stuffed to the gills after dinner, we wandered through the rest of the exhibition, where we ran across Ray Villafane’s hard-rollin’ band of pumpkin characters – the “Hubbard Family.”

An American who’s famous for his pumpkin carving skills, Ray Villafane and other artists from his studio have been invited to Ludwigsburg for the last four years to create a scene for the festival.  This year, members of his Hubbard Family sit around drinking, are passed out in pails, make a run for the latrine, lift weights, and engage in general rabble rousing.

In other words, they’re simply charming.

Ray Villafane’s “Hubbard Family” at the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

Keep tryin’ buddy, you’ll get there!

If you’re looking for a fun taste of fall in Germany, head to Ludwigsburg for the pumpkin festival.  Whether you decide to sample the pumpkin sparkling wine, test your luck in the pumpkin canoe regatta, or attend the giant pumpkin carving contest, you’re sure to have fun!

Rapunzel’s Tower at Emichsburg is on the grounds of Ludwigsburg Palace.

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Know Before You Go
  • An adult ticket costs €8.50 or €4.20 for a child’s ticket (age 4-15).
  • The 2016 exhibition runs from September 2nd to November 6th.
  • Be prepared for long lines at the entrance to buy tickets, particularly on sunny weekends.
  • Only domestic EC cards are accepted for payment.  If you don’t know what this is or don’t have one, bring cash!
  • This is a very family-friendly event.  For those who don’t have kids and don’t like jockeying past huge strollers – sometimes 3-wide on the narrow trails – visiting on a weekday might be more enjoyable.
  • Dogs are allowed in the park, but again, be mindful that small dogs especially are apt to be trampled.  We had our rat terrier with us and carried her on the most crowded sections of trail.
  • Parking is a bit of a nightmare (several nearby parking garages were completely full during our visit), but if you’re patient and willing to walk a few blocks, you’ll likely find street parking.  You can always take public transit as well.
  • Ludwigsburg is just north of Stuttgart in southern Germany.
  • Official website for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival (English)

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4 Responses

  1. This Epic World

    Woah! A pumpkin festival? I never knew about this! In India, we don’t really have a ‘fall’ season nor are we into pumpkins. So, this looks fascinating, <3

    Reply
  2. Confuzzled Bev

    You’re ahead of me – I still need to write about our trip.

    The pumpkin Maultaschen were so good! I could eat them again now. Mmmm. I hope we will make it again next year too.

    I have actually been to a wedding at Burg Frankenstein!

    Reply
    • Two Small Potatoes

      Haha, I can’t say I’m ahead, Bev. I’m just wildly disorganized! I still need to go through photos from our road trip through Italy in September so I can write it up. Bad blogger!

      The Maultaschen were incredible. Seriously, thank you for the tip! You don’t happen to have a good recipe for them, do you? I know you like to cook…

      I’m writing up our visit to Burg Frankenstein right now. It’s neat you got to attend a wedding there; it’s a pretty cool place for one.

      Reply

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