The Summer Festival on the Elbe
2020: Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th June
Each year on the second Thursday in June, the ceremonial ‘Matjes tasting’ initiates a four-day-long spectacular to celebrate the beginning of the new Matjes season (Glückstädter Matjeswochen). Held since 1968, it is a tradition still upheld today. At the heart of this tradition is a little fish – the original “Glückstadt Matjes”, still processed by hand and prepared according to the traditional recipe. It has not only won the hearts of the town’s citizens, but also of many gourmets from Germany and beyond. Hundreds of participants eagerly wait on the historic marketplace for the heavy wooden barrel with the first Matjes of the season to be opened and for the attending VIPs to take the first bite. A short chewing and tasting and then the result will certainly once again be “Excellent!”
While the Danish monarch and founder of Glückstadt, Christian IV, aimed to earn worldwide fame by building the town and its harbour, Dr. Manfred Bruhn had a completely different vision. The town’s former mayor decided to turn the local delicacy – the original “Glückstadt Matjes” – into a tourist attraction. With this vision, he laid the foundation for a local festival that has become one of the biggest festivals in Schleswig-Holstein.
On 13 June 1968, thanks to Dr. Bruhn’s initiative, the first opening event of the „Glückstädter Matjeswochen“ took place. The perfect backdrop was provided by the lugger ship Balder shipping to the inland port and dropping its anchor in front of the herring fishery building. Mayor Dr. Bruhn then climbed on board the logger for the ceremonial tasting of the new season’s first Matjes. In front of a number of journalists from different parts of Northern Germany as well as residents and visitors, the fishing master opened the barrel, bent the back of the Matjes herring, skinned it and offered it to the mayor for tasting. For the first time, he officially took a bite of the first new Matjes and gave his verdict. The herring was already praised back then – a tradition that is still upheld today.
After the end of the herring fishing trade in Glückstadt in 1976, fishing master Helmut Sievers (at the request of Mayor Bruhn) continued the processing and marketing of Matjes herring from Glückstadt. The original “Glückstadt Matjes” is still being processed by hand by the local Matjes producers Raumann and Plotz.
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