Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Drinking Festivals 2011

Do either of these drinking environments appeal to you?:

We did both of these - the Freinsheim Kulinarische Weinwanderung and the great and powerful Oktoberfest - within a week of each other last month!  Both involve a lot of merriment, but they're pretty different experiences.

First came the winefest, which is a big favorite of ours that I've written about many times before.  The only time we missed it was the year that it came on the same weekend as WEBMU Bremen.  This year we took a friend and a friend of a friend.  The weather was glorious!  The only downside was that the local train track decision-makers decided to close the tracks for maintenance between Heidelberg and Mannheim all weekend, and everything was completely bonkers.  On top of the wine fest, which is pretty popular, the huge Heidelberger Herbst festival was also going on over the weekend, so a lot of people were trying to get through the closed area.  We spent almost as many hours on trains and buses as we did at the festival - but it was absolutely worth it!  We had our yearly favorites - the Semmelknoedel and Pfifferlinge at a particular stand, plenty of neuer Wein and Weinschorle (once we started to feel a little dehydrated - it contains lots of water, but still wine! :D), and Saumagen, although we had to eat it at a different spot than usual this year because the crowds were unusually large and our usual spot ran out.  At one stop, we made instant friends with a group of retirees (?) who pretended to find our English beautiful (I mean, they couldn't possibly mean it) and taught us what a Mispel is.  (English: common medlar - ever heard of it?)  On the way home, we enjoyed the first leg of the ride with a train-carful of pleasantly toasted, jolly people who cheered for some poor sober woman who had to get her bike off the train before we could board.  I think there was a much wider age range of people at this festival than at the next one we attended....

Freinsheim Sep 11

....the most famous thing in Germany: Oktoberfest. Despite five years here, we'd never gone - it's expensive to stay in Munich at that time, it's absolutely huge and crowded, and the images on the news our first year here of trashed people having public sex in all kinds of places were sort of unappealing.  But, we always figured we should go sometime so we could see what it's all about.  Thanks to the Regensbloggers, we got our chance this year when their local branch of Democrats Abroad sold tickets as a fundraiser.  They graciously offered to let us stay with them, which brought the cost of attending down to much more reasonable levels and we are forever thankful! :)

We arrived around 10am and wandered around a bit through the mostly-empty Theresienwiese, the big field where the fest is held every year.  It was nice to see everything before the big crowds moved in!  Our tickets were for 11am, and we had to queue up outside the Schottenhamel tent, where we'd be sitting, before going in.  One security guy was a total dick to us, and the line was your standard pushy and confusing German non-line.  When we got into the tent the roar of the crowd - 6,000 people fit inside - was unbelievable, and we had to dodge all kinds of obstacles before finding our table on the opposite side.  The whole experience was a bit of sensory overload for me and I was actually pretty freaking grumpy when we finally got to sit down at a beer-splashed table.  But then the beer came....and we started to get some of the lyrics to the songs the band was playing...and before we knew it, everything was super crazy awesome and we were standing on benches having a great time. The food was better than expected too - although I admit to pretty low expectations considering the mass production that must be involved.

We left the tent in mid-to-late afternoon, and now everything was packed.  We managed to stay in a group and checked out some attractions including the Teufelsrad, some kind of slide thing that you have to ride a conveyer belt up to, and a historical section that is supposed to replicate the feeling of Oktoberfests from years past.  Check out all of these in the photo album!  By dusk, we were beat and headed back to Regensburg.  Thanks again for a great experience, Cliff & Sarah! :) (Their coverage of the event is here - including some great photos!)

Oktoberfest Okt 11

Which would you rather attend? :)


  1. Maybe the beer fest for me. Maybe. It's close, though.

    I went a few years ago, but got there at 10pm and left at 2pm the next day (spontaneous trip). Not sure I really got the full experience. In fact, I know I didn't. Beer and chicken was a good mix, of course.

    The wine festival sounded good.

    What is it about the lack of queuing skills here in Germany?! I just assumed that being an ordered bunch of people that they'd be excellent at it. I'm having to learn to relax about it. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to start pushing in like so many of the natives do.

    Cheers. Tom.

  2. After the Neustadt/Weinstrasse introduction you gave us, I'm itchin' for the Kulinarische Weinwanderung.

    Next year, I guess!

  3. I always tell people in the USA that German people love to find ways to drink outside...be it beer gartens, wine fests, gluhwein at Christmas....

    I LOVE Teufelsrad! My husband had gotten an iPhone application that was all about Oktoberfest...what beer tents were open, what the ratings were about, and also what rides there were. We came across a "ride" called "Teufelsrad" (Devil's Ride) that has been around for 100 years, but was rated a "not to be missed." I didn't know what it was but it was so fun to watch (and try!)

  4. We were so glad you could make it! It's fun to go with n00bs. That said, I think I put down two Maß before I even realized it. And as much fun as Dirndl and Lederhosen are, I was a lot more comfortable at the winefest.

  5. I still haven't been to either but given the choice, Ihave to say I think for me the Weinwanderung would clinch it... just because it's wandering around a lot in the fresh air with lots of wine. Which is what I like to think I do best.

    p.s. these two within a week of each other? You two are hardcore! ;)

  6. I must admit I have a special affection for wine fests, so they are my first choice. I was told "real" Germans watch Oktoberfest on TV and I am not fond of huge crowds, so we have never been. But, I think it will become a "must do" before we leave.

  7. Otomcio: Yeah, I expected them to be good queuers too. Oops. In a similar vein, I don't get the lack of "Entschuldigung" when people want to squeeze past me at the grocery store. They will generally just stop and stare/rub up against me until I get the hint rather than say something - which would have been more efficient!

    Cliff, Sarah, & Frau Dietz: Clear your calendars now, it's going to be Sept 21-23, 2012! :)

    Blopper: The Teufelsrad is definitely not to be missed! How awesome that you had the guts to do it - I was scared of flashing everyone in my Dirndl (several did...)!

    Gems: It's funny how the "real German" definition varies by area. Most of the attendees of Oktoberfest are actually Bavarians. (OK, to some not "real Germans"...but technically they are!)


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