It’s that time of year folks, Oktoberfest! We experienced it last year in Stuttgart, Germany…and I’m already writing about now!
We celebrated our pregnancy announcement last September/October by going to Oktoberfest.
Well, the trip was already scheduled – but slightly modified on my part, of course.
Most of our European travel is spontaneous and where we go is determined by Ryanair prices du jour; however, Matt was on a mission to experience Oktoberfest for real and a trip to Germany was decided before we even moved to Sweden.
We ended up booking cheap tickets to the Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport, right on the border of France and Germany, and rented a car for a week. The plan was to go to the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart – an Oktoberfest celebration that is basically a carnival/amusement park with giant beer tents.
We booked everything for the trip last-minute (like we do…), and decided on Stuttgart because it’s slightly less intimidating than the bigger city of Munich (with a bigger, more famous Oktoberfest celebration), and second, the tickets there were cheaper. It may be a less ‘authentic’ (touristy?) Oktoberfest experience…but we arrived and everyone was wearing lederhosen and dirndl, and speaking German, and selling pretzels and sausages…so it was pretty damn exciting for us. Oh yeah, and beer tents, too…I mean, come on.
How I find the best accommodations for our travels: A lot of price comparisons between Ryanair and KLM (since KLM flies directly out of Linköping) for the plane tickets, and scouring of booking.com and airbnb.com for the most affordable/convenient places to stay. Sometimes I’ll look on other sites, but those mentioned here have done us well so far. After going to Spain and getting tired of fried tapas for every meal (right away), we decided renting a little apartment wherever we go would be more ideal than just a small hotel room, simply because it would allow us to shop at local markets and prepare our own food, which is both cheaper and healthier in the long run. For this trip to Stuttgart, though, airbnb didn’t provide and we ended up staying at a simple but nice hotel, Wiesbadener Hof, on a very quiet block but within easy walking distance to Wasen, where the Volksfest is held. If we rent a car, we go through Avis since Matt has an account with them (convenient).
So, with a baby the size of an apple seed growing in me (one year ago! oh my!), we set off to Germany! Matt had a beer in the airport before boarding the plane and…I didn’t. This is the theme of this trip, by the way. “Matt had beer. I didn’t.”
We arrived at Baden-Baden, picked up our rental car, and set off on the autobahn to Stuttgart. We had finally updated our GPS with European maps so another Oslo experience was avoided. We arrived in the city at sunset and found our way to our hotel, luckily there was free parking on the streets surrounding the hotel and we found a spot close by. After we settled into our room, we realized we had better get out to find dinner before it got too late. Having no idea where we were or what was around us, we wandered around the neighborhood hoping we’d find something good. Nothing was really open and everything was pretty much deserted (it was a Monday night) but we did find a little pizza/Italian type place on Marktstraße (market street).
Germany reminder! You better have some cash on hand before doing anything in Germany because restaurants don’t take cards. Of course, after our dinner we found this out. Of course the waiters didn’t have any idea where an ATM machine was. OF COURSE. So, Matt left his pregnant wife for ransom while running around the dark streets of Stuttgart looking for a cash machine. Luckily he returned rather quickly, and I say luckily only because I couldn’t play on my cell phone while he was gone (no wifi). I guess we had figured we could primarily use our debit cards, since that’s how it is in Sweden. Nope. Whoops. Bring along what cash you’ll need for the meal/day/event, okay?
Stuttgart itself was good to us. We set off on foot the next day to just wander and explore. We hit up Wasen (where the Volksfest is held) first thing, to scope it out. HUGE beer tents! Tons of carnival-type rides! The promise of unhealthy food galore! But it was early in the morning still, so we hit up a bakery in town to get a strudel treat, then took off on the city trails towards Königstraße, which looked like a good destination for wanderers like us. Google maps says it was a 4.5 km walk, and I believe it. Long walk, but beautiful!
The park that we walked through (or series of Schloss parks?) from Wasen to the downtown area had to have been the most beautiful park space I’ve ever seen. It definitely rivals some of the greats that I’ve wandered around (Golden Gate Park, Central Park, etc). A network of trails weaving around trees, water, open grass spaces, and through the city center so organically it hardly felt like we were in a city. It was a lovely way to spend the morning.
We arrived at the schlossplatz and then moseyed around the shopping streets looking for a place to have lunch. After some lunch and popping into a few fun stores that they don’t have in Sweden, we toured the Landesmuseum in Altes Schloss. It was a really nice museum with some awesome displays and tons of history. Definitely worth a visit.
After a fika (because we fika now like regular Swedes), we made our way back to the Volksfest for dinner, with one pit stop to lay in the grass before the sun went down.
Dinner in the beer “tent” (more like giant beer cabin) consisted of an apple juice and turkey salad for me, and a massive beer (or two) (as you do) and Schweinshaxe for Matt. It was an early dinner, partly to be able to get a seat inside one of the tents, and also to avoid some of the smoke. Germans smoke way more than I expected and it was a bit much for me: (raised in Colorado and California = smoking banned in public) (pregnant) (mildly allergic to cigarettes). The idea of hanging out inside a hot-boxed beer tent, sober, made me stabby (right? who’s with me?). Poor Matt, his Oktoberfest experience was a bit “watered down”, if you will, with his drinking partner sidelined for the trip.
Fast forward to our last evening in Stuttgart, we made it a point to hit up the Oktoberfest celebrations at Canstatter-Wasen one more time. I was determined to roll with it and let Matt enjoy himself. We managed to walk around the entire grounds, munching on pretzels, currywursts and bratwurst, and enjoyed people watching at its finest before it started raining hard. Germans are an attractive bunch, you know. The girls in dirndl are of course hot stuff…but the guys in lederhosen, HOT STUFF. We then made our way through three beer tents and I held out until things got really smokey.
The tents are awesome fun with lots and lots of singing (there’s usually a band on a stage in the middle of the tents), lots of friends, good food, and the beer! Matt was always reluctant to call it quits, and I’ve promised he can go to a proper Oktoberfest again before we leave Europe (I mean, I want/need to join in the fun too!).
Other than Oktoberfest and Stuttgart, we took quick trips to Neuschwanstein Castle and the Porche Museum. (Check back, links coming soon!)