The Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart is a smaller version of Munich’s gigantic Oktoberfest, although the suds-fueled merry-making is just as raucuous.
When some 5,000 people get together in a tent with mountains of food, rivers of foamy brews and a band encouraging sing-a-longs, it is just not possible to sit quietly for long.
Okay, I’ll admit it – yes, I did dance on the table, and yes, I had a giant liter of beer in one hand, swinging it side to side in unison with the rest of my body, occasionally clinking mugs with the similarly singing, swaying and laughing idiots on either side of me.
I was embarrassed into the tabletop display by the adjoining table of locals, who chided me and my table of American friends for sitting, therefore not having enough fun.
The famed Munich Oktoberfest began with a royal wedding. Bavaria’s King Ludwig I – also known as Crazy Ludwig, most famous for building a fairytale castle that inspired the Disney design — wanted to celebrate his 1810 marriage by proclaiming a state fair, in Munich, Bavaria’s capital and largest city, and where my mother grew up.
Ludwig’s festival was dedicated to the fall harvest and the region’s most famous agricultural product. That would be hops. And beer.
The 2011 Munich Oktoberfest is Sept. 17th to October 3rd.
Oktoberfest in Stuttgart
Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest began eight years later. It stretches for a mile along the Neckar River in the borough of Canstatt, for which it is named, in a collection of football field-sized tents serving food and music to accompany the beer, amusement park rides and games, and even agricultural displays from the surrounding Baden-Wurttenburg region.
This year, 2011, the Canstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart is Sept. 22 to Oct. 10.
The tents serve some 20,000 people a night. If each person has a couple or more beers – you do the math. No worries about driving, either, since the city’s public trolley system stops directly at the festival site.
Each local brewery has its own tent. I was inside Grandl’s Stuttgarter Hofbrau tent, where waiters in traditional lederhosen (leather knickers) and waitresses in dirndls thread their way through the crowds, weight-lifting up to six one-liter mugs of beer in each hand. Each filled mug weighs in at two pounds, so this is an Olympian two week work-out.