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BAD DüRKHEIM, Germany — Leave your car windows open and you can smell the grapes while driving down the road.

There’s a good reason why it’s called the “Deutsche Weinstrasse,” or German wine road. A drive on Route 271 south from Autobahn 6 not only bisects fields of vineyards; it leads to Bad Dürkheim, home of the annual Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt, which starts Friday.

The name “Wurstmarkt” is misleading. Yes, there is plenty of sausage sizzling on the grills, as well as other foods. But the sausage market is more of a wine market. By far the dominant feature is the rows of pavilions under which hundreds of picnic tables and benches are occupied by thousands of people drinking wine.

The Wurstmarkt is not a drunken mess, though.

“Everyone’s been really cool and the atmosphere is great,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Walker of the 568th Security Forces Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, said at last year’s festival.

“It seems different than festivals in the States where you don’t ever see alcohol served. It’s all Coca-Cola and candy.”

After the grape casts its magic in Bad Dürkheim, the result is a sea of genuinely happy people with great glows on their faces. Occasionally, a drunken teen will harmlessly lurch through the crowd, bumping his way through, bottle in hand.

But the Germans are good at handling their wine; the Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt, after all, has had more than 570 years to practice.

“Everyone’s in such a good mood and relaxed,” Walker said at the fest last year. “I’ve been here for two hours and I haven’t seen anybody get mad. Everyone’s just very cool about it.”

The carnival rides, vendors, and midway games and lights make it feel a little bit like an old-fashioned county fair in the United States.

A word of warning, though: On Friday and Saturday nights the midway can become so crowded that it is literally impossible to move; like gridlock on the autobahn, and you can just stand and wait for things to get moving again.

There is a park next to the festival grounds, which is a good place to take a load off. The adjacent downtown area is typically German: quaint with narrow streets, pedestrian malls, old buildings and charming cafes.

The wine is served in thick, half-liter glasses with emblems from the various wineries.

Many of the Germans drink a combination of half-wine and half-sparking water, which is a good way to both beat the heat and protect oneself from overindulging.

“The French turn their noses up to water and wine,” Army Capt. Oliver Soria of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center noted at last year’s fest. “But after you taste it, it’s very good.”

If you go ...

What: Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt

When: Sept. 10-14, 17-20

Where: Bad Dürkheim, Germany, located about halfway between Heidelberg and Kaiserslautern.

Good Advice: Take a designated driver, take a train, or check your base travel office for bus trips.

Notable: This year’s event will feature 232 different wines and 21 sparkling wines (176 whites, 34 herbst and roses, and 43 reds).

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