Few summer weekends go by when there’s not something going on in Ulm, and particularly on its central Münsterplatz which hosts the June Stadtfest and a famously grand Christmas market in December. But the city’s biggest annual bash is Schwörwoche (Oath Week) in late July, which centres on the Danube, and celebrates an annual mayoral address in which a pledge to honour the town’s 1397 constitution is reiterated. This rather solemn affair takes place at 11am on Schwörmontag – the penultimate Monday in July – but is bookended by a couple of livelier celebrations. The enchanting Lichtserenade (Light Serenade) in which candle-lit lanterns are floated down the Danube takes place on the previous Saturday, and the big event, Nabada, starts at 3pm on Schwörmontag when all manner of vessels and raucous crew navigate their way a couple of kilometres downstream to a fairground. Water pistols feature heavily in the celebrations – and local department stores discount them on the day.
The Danube is also the focus of other traditional frolics whose origins go back to the fifteenth century and are held every four years (next in 2013 and 2017): Fischerstechen (Fishermen’s Jousting) takes place on the river on the second and third Saturday in July and a Bindertanz (Coopers’ Dance) is held on a pair of July Fridays the same year. Finally, the banks of the Danube also host a biannual July event, Donaufest (even years), which celebrates the music and culture of the communities along the river’s length; Austrians, Hungarians, Serbians and Romanians arrive to sing, dance, and sell snacks and handicrafts.