Oktoberfest is a huge event. For three weeks, there are lots of shenanigans, crazy things that you’ll see, plenty of merriment, and a lot of beer to be consumed!
This year we went to our local version of Oktoberfest, called Volksfest, only twice. After that I’m pretty much beer-ed out until the next season. In Germany, the next large-scale beer festival is actually just a short six months away in the spring. It’s fruhlingsfest (spring fest), and is essentially the same thing as Oktoberfest, just without as many crowds.
Most people know about Oktoberfest, but what many are not aware of is that there are festivals like this all over the country. Near Stuttgart (where we live), it’s called Canstatter Volksfest.
Canstatter Volksfest is the second-largest beer festival in the world next to Oktoberfest. It’s a smaller version of Oktoberfest but if this is your first trip you might think that you are actually at Oktoberfest. There are 9 large tents in the same style as the Oktoberfest tents that each hold thousands of people. There are games, rides and rollercoasters, and much more outside around the fairgrounds.
Quick Info: The festival was founded in 1818 by King Wilhelm the first of Wuerttemburg and his wife Katharina. Today there are about 3.5 million visitors that come annually, and about 17,000 people are employed at the festival. Also, it takes about 2 – 3 months to build the festival every year.
For us, it’s just north of Stuttgart in Bad Canstatt and just a short 30-minute train ride from our house. Admittedly, I haven’t even been to Oktoberfest yet. I will try to go next year since it might be our last year before we leave Germany.
Photo Credit: Thomas Niedermueller. in.Stuttgart
My Top Tips
If you purchased tickets ahead of time be sure to bring small change with you. The purchase price doesn’t include tax so there’s a small fee, around .60 – .80 cents, per beer. If you tip your server each time they are much more likely to be at your table quickly and regularly!
Bring a trash bag
Yes, you read that right. Someone always brought a trash bag so we could put all of our jackets or additional clothing in them. If not, they are certain to have beer all over them by the end of the day. Or, be smarter than us and leave the jacket at home.
This year I bought tickets for Grandl’s tent on the first Saturday from 11-4pm. We had a great time but it flew by way too fast. When we first arrived at 11am there was a girl on stage, probably about 20 years old, trying to chug an entire liter of beer. It was so different than anything I’ve seen in the US. After years of living here, these kind of things still surprise me.
Then we used the tokens we received to buy liters of beer and our chicken vouchers to get our half of a chicken and a piece of bread. In case you’re curious, I looked it up and this meal is about 700 calories alone, and is helpful at soaking up all the bier.
Below are some of my photos from our fest times. This one is Grandl’s Tent. It was about 11:15am when I took this photo and it was already picking up!
One of the few photos of us. I’m always behind the camera and not in front of it!
We stood on the benches with the thousands of others, raised our glasses every time the band declared ‘prost!’ and had a merry time.
The next time we went was on a Friday night. There were about 8 of us and we didn’t have any tickets so we thought we’d try to wait it out. They set aside a number of tables for those without reservations and we hoped to be one of the people to get in. We ended up arriving too late so we waited in line for about an hour. At around 8pm the security guard let everyone in that was waiting in line.
Below is a photo of the Schwaben Brau tent during the day. Imagine just how crazy these tents get at night!
Photo Credit: Thomas Niedermüller. ” in.Stuttgart”
This tent was crazy!
By the time we got in people had already been drinking liters of beer for hours. You don’t have to have a table to order beer or be in the tent so there were a lot of people (including us!) hanging out on the sides.
We met up with some friends who were inside and to say it was crazy is an understatement. When you don’t have a table there is a lot of pushing and getting moved out of the way by the extremely busy servers who are holding upwards of 11 liters of beer in their hands or carrying trays full of chicken. Not to mention all the drunk people coming up to you and falling into you as they make their way to the bathroom. It’s madness! Luckily, we like a little bit of craziness so it was perfect for us. Having a table makes it much more easy going but beggars can’t be choosers.
Photo Credit: Thomas Niedermüller. in.Stuttgart
There were also a lot of dramas unfolding every which way. That much beer is sure to cause trouble, especially among the youngsters. In Germany drinking beer is allowed at 16 years of age so you’ll find yourself surrounded by many teenagers which can be a strange thing to take in.
So, as a result, I saw quite a few couples arguing and guys trying to console their significant others.
Rough lives those teenagers must have. The only crazy thing that happened to us is that right when we entered my husband slipped and took a bit of a fall. There is soo much beer spilled and glasses broken inside these tents that you have to be careful when you’re walking. At the time it wasn’t an issue but later (two weeks later when he decided to get it checked out) after his hand was hurting he went in and found out it was sprained. We ended up staying in there until about 1130, close to closing time for the tent, and were on our way. So overall we had two successful trips to fest this year. Thankfully Germany doesn’t make us wait too long for the next round of tent craziness…little do most people know, there’s a Spring Fest (Frühlingsfest) that is another small version of Oktoberfest again in Stuttgart. I believe there are about 6 tents (don’t quote me on that) and it starts at the end of April. I will be so sad to leave Germany and all these wonderful festivals!
While I can’t claim credit for some of these photos, they beautifully display the fun to be had here. On the last weekend of fest every year there is a huge fireworks display.
Photo Credit: Thomas Niedermüller. ” in.Stuttgart”