15 October, 2013

Oktoberfest!

No year-long stay in Germany would be complete without experiencing the famous Oktoberfest, so this past weekend that is exactly what I did!

Maxim and I drove to Stuttgart on Saturday, which is home to the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in Germany (after Munich) and also home to Maxim's sister, Lea. We arrived at Lea's apartment in time for lunch, and then in the afternoon we walked around the city for some sightseeing. We saw the castle (which I'd seen before when I was in Stuttgart for a layover between trains in April), the park area around the castle, the ballet/opera house, and the train station, which includes a tower that you can climb and enjoy the view over the city.

The castle



Obligatory couple-y picture :)

The ballet/opera house

The inside of the train station. I mainly took this picture because of the huge ad for chocolate.

Part of the view from the top of the train station tower. As you can see from this picture, Stuttgart is at the bottom of a valley and is surrounded by hills. As a result of those hills, the main roads leading into Stuttgart all have a decent length of tunnel right before entering the city.

Some sort of museum. I just liked the building and the red carpet.
The tower at the train station, as well as allowing great views of the city, also contains several exhibits about the plans for the new train station and the new high-speed train route between Stuttgart and Ulm. The plans for the new building look really cool, and the new construction will not just include the train station but a lot of the area around it. The train tracks will be underground so the space around the station will be used for parkland and new apartments/businesses. Unfortunately, construction is at a standstill right now because of supposed environmental concerns, so the area around the current train station sits empty, with the ground torn up and no progress being made.

After our explorations of the city, we went back to Lea's apartment, had some food, and got ready for Oktoberfest! Maxim, Lea and I all wore the traditional German outfits: a Dirndl (dress) for girls and Lederhosen (leather pants) for guys. (Before anyone gets too excited... No, the dress is not mine, I borrowed it from one of the girls in Maxim's fraternity.)

We clean up nicely, don't we? :P
It's not clear in the picture, but my apron is tied on the right, by the front of my right hip. Where you tie the apron is important, because it signifies your status, marital or otherwise. Apron tied in the back means you are either a waitress or a widow; tied on the left means you're single (let the flirting commence!); tied on the right means you're in a relationship or, more traditionally, married (flirt with caution!); and tied in the front (middle) means you're a virgin.

Once we were all dressed and pretty, we took the train to the festival grounds. The festival we went to was called Cannstatter Wasen (or Cannstatter Volksfest) and consisted of a combination of carnival rides, food stalls, and large tents where people gather to listen to music (live bands all the way!) and drink massive amounts of beer. It reminded me a lot of the Feria in Sevilla, but with colder weather and different clothing. When we first got there we tried unsuccessfully to enter several tents, but they all required wristbands and there was tight security at most of them. Undaunted, we joined an outdoor gathering with live music and lots of people. It was very crowded so we didn't get a table, but since no one was sitting down anyway it didn't matter. Most of the people at the tables were standing on their benches and dancing. 

We had a beer at this outdoor area and then decided to try our luck again at the tents. This time we had a strategy: instead of all trying to go inside at once (there were four of us at this point), we went in the door one at a time, didn't make eye contact with anyone, and walked quickly past security. We were lucky that security was distracted by someone else at the moment we chose, so all of us got in without any trouble. I didn't take pictures of the entire tent, but from the pictures we did take you can see the band in the background and get an idea of what it was like.

Me and Lea

Me being a good German and drinking my beer

Prost! (means "Cheers!" in German)

It's a Brade sandwich!
Notice the picture of me drinking a beer that's bigger than my face? That size of mug (the mug is called a Krug) is the standard size of beer served in the tents. I think it holds an entire liter of beer--double the size of an ordinary German beer--and believe me, holding a liter-sized mug (or should I say bucket) of beer in one hand is heavy! While I was taking a sip I had to hold the mug with two hands, and even holding the beer up between sips left a sore spot on my hand the next day. Oh the dangers of drinking!

The tent was a lot of fun (even though we waited a ridiculously long time for our beers), and before we knew it it was time to leave. The tents close at midnight, so we got on a train back towards the center of Stuttgart and found ourselves a bar to continue the night. After a few more hours of dancing and some food, we headed back to Lea's apartment and slept until close to noon.

All in all, a very successful Oktoberfest. Although, predictably, the large amount of beer hit me the next day and the afternoon was a bit of a struggle. Oh well, it was completely worth it!

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