Quinquennially, that is once every five years, the city of Wuppertal holds a mid-summer celebration called ‘The Long Table’ (der lange Tisch) in honor of the city’s founding in 1929, when the cities and towns of Barmen, Cronenberg, Elberfeld, Elberfeld-West, Heckinghausen, Langerfeld-Beyenburg, Oberbarmen, Ronsdorf, Uellendahl-Katernberg and Vohwinkel were all merged to form the new city of Wuppertal.
For the 2019 celebration, ninety years after the city’s founding, they blocked off two kilometers of one of the main streets, Friedrich-Engels-Allee, between the opera house and Haspel. Twelve outdoor stages and over two hundred stands were set up on this ‘party mile’ (more like 1 ¼ miles, actually), where an estimated 200,000 visitors came to celebrate on a Saturday afternoon and evening and on into the night, until about 4 am on Sunday.
I arrived at the first outdoor stage just as five opera singers were performing a selection of popular highlights from operas and operettas. I didn’t recognize any of the singers at the time, but saw some of them again the next evening in Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt.
Nearby, the festivities surrounded this statue of Friedrich Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, who grew up in Barmen right behind what is now the opera house. The wealthy Engels family had five houses in Barmen at the time, one of which still exists and is currently being renovated. Judging from the expression on his face, Engels does not seem to be enjoying the party.
My original plan was to walk the whole two kilometers of the festival, sampling some of the food from the many food stands and checking out what was happening on the other eleven outdoor stages. But since we were in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures in the upper 30s centigrade, I soon decided to be sensible for a change and get in out of the heat. Perhaps I’ll try again at the next ‘long table’ in 2024.
My photos and text in this post are from 2019.
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