Saturday, October 13, 2012

(Not) Oktoberfest - Cannstatter Volksfest

I think that I've clearly and frequently enough announced that I don't like beer. I don't like the smell. I don't like the taste. Yes, I've tried everyone of those beers that people say "oh, this one's different, it's:

chocolate/coffee/pumpkin/micro-brew/dark/light/white/Guinness/wheat/shoe leather/whatever-flavored

so it's good - you'll like it". Well, I'm sorry. I still just don't do beer.

Due to this "defect" of character, it's probably not necessary to mention that Germany's annual beer-drinking Lovefest, Oktoberfest, isn't really very high up on my bucket list. I'm sure that a visit to Munich to worship at the drunken altar of beer worship is on your list, but, alas, I won't be going this year. But...........I was interested in going to Stuttgart's own version of Oktoberfest, the Cannstatter Volksfest. Hell, it's local, it's one of the city's biggest events of the year, and, best of all, it's freeeeeeeee!

Just when you though leather pants were only for gay dudes in the Castro, you've got TONS of them right here in southern Germany. Actually, here, they're the new cool. Look at this photo below and notice how many dudes are in leather shorts with suspenders AND how many dudes are cruising around arm-in-arm with two cute chicks. Yep, exactly one. He's the shit!

Just like its big brother in Munich, people come together at the Volksfest to drink beer, people watch, drink beer, eat chicken, drink beer, go on carnival rides, drink beer, and hang out with friends.

While we're talking about it, the "traditional" clothing, Lederhosen for the guys and Dirndls for the ladies, is originally from nearby Bayern, which is the state where Munich is located. From what I understand, it became (much) more fashionable in Stuttgart to wear the trad duds over the last four or five years because the beer tents were getting too full. The event organizers decided to put a rule in place where you could either make a reservation for a table or you could wear the traditional clothing. Without one or the other, or both, there was no getting in to the event. What's a beer drinker to do, right?

Some traditionally clothed guys outside one of the beer halls at the Wasen (Schwäbian-German for "meadow" from the days when the event was held in an open field):

The outfits have gotten so popular that you can even buy a Dirndl at the local Kaufland supermarket for 50 Euros (~$65 U.S.). Diana modeling what's hot:

My first visit to this year's Volksfest was on the first Saturday night of the two-week-long event with Diana, Ying from my German class (center below), her husband (red jacket), and a couple of their other friends. I'm quite proud of my self-portrait photo skills now that I can fit SIX people in the photo and have it turn out fairly well:

So, you might ask, was the most interesting thing that I saw that night, other than guys in leather pants and chicks with their cleavage pouring out of the top of their Dirndls? How about ketchup, mayo, and mustard dispensers that seem to have been based on dairy cows? Oh, and note that they use Pennsylvania's own Heinz!

Oh, so back to the title of this story. Oktoberfest, like Champagne or Superbowl, is a trademarked name that can only be used by the owner. So that's why you have names like Cava, "The Big Game", or, in this case, "Volksfest" when everyone really knows what you mean but you can't say it. People in Stuttgart are very proud of "our fall festival that takes place at the same time where people drink the same beer and eat the same food" and I think they should be. They've done a nice job putting together an event that people enjoy and the area can be proud of.

Speaking of things with names different from the commonly used one, each day the big beer companies have their horse teams on display in front of their respective beer hall. These horses, often called Clydesdales (but in this case called Kaltblüter or, in English, Draft Horse) were used for many years to transport the breweries' beer around town.

I went with people from my German class to the fair on our last day of level B1. One of the guys, João from Brazil, is a horse guy back home. I know that every day of his six months in Germany he missed his horses so I think he was the happiest one of the group to get his photo with the horses.

By the way, João is one of the "German savants" from our classes. Some of the people in the class have been able to kick ass with learning the language. While I'm pulling my hair out struggling with how to say "nice to meet you" or something simple like that, people like João and Alex (in the photo below) are joking in the local Schwäbische Dialekte.

Bumper-car action at the 2012 Stuttgart Volksfest with peeps from class:

After our bumper car rides, we went for some well-deserved drinks at the Dinkelacker beer hall. The hall is probably about 400 feet long and 200 feet wide with maybe 26,000 tables inside. They've got a big stage along one of the long walls where a traditionally-dressed band was playing classic-rock tracks. I was hoping for some trad Oom-pah music that would go along with the band's look or something but apparently this is what you get on a Monday afternoon. There were still way-too-drunk people dancing on the tables, which, along with the company, made it quite entertaining.

Some of my classmates celebrating the successful end to another class. João and Alex who shame me with their German abilities, Ying (or at least half of her), whose German is at about the same level as mine, and another friend of hers waiting for our first round:

Even though I'm not a beer drinker, Volksfest was quite fun. Now that it's pretty much over, next up on the must-do-festival list is the Weihnachtsmarkt, which is the annual outdoor Christmas market in the city center. I am verrrrrrrrrry afraid of how cold it'll be as it's been over 20 years since I've had a real winter!

One last thing, I don't really have any other place to put this so it'll go here. Our roommate went to the real Oktoberfest in Munich on its opening day a couple of weeks ago. He's such a rockin' guy that he bought and brought home all the required ingredients for a nice, traditional, Münchener breakfast. Oh, and he even cooked and served it for us! Love! And yes, I did try the Weißbier - white beer - and it wasn't that bad - could it be the start of something???

Happy Oktober from Stuttgart from our family to yours!

(Thanks to Berat and Katharina for the history lessons.)

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