"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Stuttgart, Part 2; or, Oktoberfest!

We were determined to experience a German fall festival. Oktoberfest in Munich seemed the obvious choice, but many Germans discouraged us against it. They said it was crowded, expensive, and overrun with drunken tourists--mostly American tourists. Since we were seeking something a bit more authentic, we opted for the highly reccommended Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. And we were not disappointed. Not only was the festival itself a blast, but we didn't run into a single American.

The Volksfest is a traditional harvest festival; it began in 1818, and it is now the second largest in the world (after Munich's Oktoberfest). It is only 16 days long, but it attracts over 4 million people every year. We counted for three of those.

The huge fruit column stands in the middle of the fairgrounds and is famous as the symbol of the festival since its beginning.

We were immediately struck by the bright colors and classic feel of our surroundings. In some ways it felt like a festival before our time. Perhaps you've been festivals in the States and felt, "They just don't make 'em like they used to." Well, for the Volksfest, they do.

One festival tradition is to buy a heart-shaped cookie with a message written on it for your 'sweetheart.' We saw many people walking around shamelessly with the cookies hanging around their necks. Candy stalls selling these cookies were everywhere.

We decided we had to buy one.

Ich liebe dich = I love you

Penelope wore hers proudly.

Of course the real reason most people attend the Volksfest is for the beer. There are seven huge and elaborate beer tents, each seating between 3000 - 5000 people and sponsered by different German beer makers. They all brew a special beer just for the festival. Each tent has a character of its own. Various "bands"--I guess that's what you'd call them--play German folkmusic on a stage in the center of the tent. And they are very serious about it. At various points the crowd would erupt in toasts, clapping, and horrays. Often what they seemed to take so seriously we found absolutely hilarious.

The beer, of course, was huge. One liter, when it sits in front of you, is bigger than you could ever imagine.

Even Penelope was amazed at the father's drinking ability.

But she's quite a drinker too and definitely wanted to take her own shot at a Volksfest beer--even if one of the smaller ones.

(This glass is one of the half-liter variety.)

The food was just as wonderful and big as the beer. The most popular dining option was a full roasted hen, a roll, and a liter of beer. By popular I mean that almost everyone had it, irrespective of age or gender.

Not only were the portions massive, but the quality was exceptional. All the food was freshly made on site and with the best ingredients. We also saw some cooking techniques that we hadn't previously encountered. Here, for instance, is some pegged salmon smoking vertically around an open cedar fire.

The festival boasts the largest mobile ferris wheel in the world, and we couldn't resist the opportunity to try it out for ourselves. I have to admit, I was a little scared when we reached the top.

But the views were worth it. (Notice the large beer tents lining the left side of the picture.)

There were, of course, some rides even more daring than the ferris wheel.

Penelope was mesmerized by all the lights and sounds.

As the sun went down the bright lights made everything even more magical.

Soon it was time for us to leave. But not before we took one last look at the ferris wheel.

But this isn't the end of our Stuttgart adventures. Stay tuned for the stories of the father in a fight, crazy Bavarian clothing, and a very interesting train ride home...

No comments:

Post a Comment