Thursday, October 11, 2012


Don your dirndls and lace up your lederhosen, ladies and gents! It's fest season!

Lederhosen don't actually need lacing... but it was the best I could come up with. The point is that it's that well loved time of the year when Germans come together to celebrate some long-dead royalty's wedding day (or birthday)!

And beer.

...ok, fine. It's mostly about the beer now, but history is important too!! I'll give you the gist and let you google the rest.

I'm sure by now most of you have figured that I'm referring to the infamous Oktoberfest in Munich. While you would assume that Oktoberfest would actually be held during the month of its namesake (the original actually was), you would be incorrect. They hold it in late September. Why? Better weather, of course! Even though King Ludwig's wedding day was super cool and all; and they invited the common folk to come out and celebrate with them, that's in fact not the fest I'm referring to. I'm actually more excited about our local Volksfest!

The Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart began as an agricultural festival, celebrating "OMG we actually survived that hellish winter!" and held on King Wilhelm's birthday. They probably should have held it on Czar Nikolaus's (yeah, the Russian guy) birthday since he was the one that sent the grain that saved their frozen butts... but he wasn't king, like his cousin. And May is a terrible month to celebrate a harvest! Good month for "sweet Jesus we survived the winter!" though... hmm... I digress.

Volksfest here is very similar to Oktoberfest in Munich, but it has a few less tourists. If you ever get a chance to attend, you must get the full effect by popping your head into one of the tents. Do this before 1700, when table reservations kick in, and you can grab any open seat you can find! It could be a little crowded, though, as any time during fest season is a good time to drink. This was the scene when we arrived around 1400 this year.

Once you secure a seat, it's time to order your halbes Hähnchen (half chicken) and your Mass (liter of fest beer). Other food and beverage is available, but this gives you the authentic experience. Eat quickly though because before you finish that beer, you'll be standing on the bench, swinging your stein and singing along to the live entertainment!

You may not know the words, but as long as you move your mouth and appear to be having a good time you're in good with your tent neighbors! It's also a fair bet that you'll at least be able to hum along to a good portion of the playlist. In the States, you can keep your Li'l Wayne, Justin Bieber, and One Direction. Over here, we rock American 80's! Don't like the 80s? Have another beer. You'll love this great American export by the time you reach the bottom.

After your second liter mass, it's time to hit some rides. If you're not feeling like the tilt-a-whirl, the log ride, or the sling shot, at least shell out the Euro for a calm trip on the Ferris wheel. This is a particularly enjoyable time after the sun has set and you can get a good view of the fairgrounds all lit up. 

Finally, if you attend the fest with a sweetheart, make sure to pick up a heart-shaped, decorated Lebkuchen with your favorite valentine-type message on it before the night is over. Don't wait too long before catching the train home, though. The later you wait, the greater your risk for getting wet!

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