Sometimes I feel like Oktoberfest is like prepping for the movie Wedding Crashers (well certain aspects of it anyway). It's a short season (less than 3 weeks), there are lots of shenanigans and crazy things that you'll see, plenty of merriment, and a lot of beer to be consumed! This year we went to our version of Oktoberfest, called Volksfest, only two times. After that it's just too much festing so I go a few times and then I'm good until the next season rolls around. Canstatter Volksfest is the second largest beer festival in the world next to Oktoberfest and if you go you will see why. It's like 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 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 right here in Stuttgart and just a short 30 minute train ride from our house and therefore a no brainer when it comes to deciding whether to go to Volksfest or Oktoberfest. Admittedly, I haven't even been to Oktoberfest yet. I will try to go next year since I might be our last year to fest before we leave Germany.
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….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!
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!
Tip: 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!
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!
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.
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. Maybe I can get an image like the one below next year!