Every year around mid-September, Volksfest starts on Stuttgart’s Canstatter Wasen. The first official festival started in 1818. Here is a little history lesson from the official site.
… in 1817 King Wilhelm I of Württemberg, with the formation of the “Centralstelle des landwirtschaftlichen Vereins” (“Central Point of the Agricultural Association”), laid the foundation for what we know today as the Cannstatt Festival. An agricultural festival with horse races, the awarding of prizes for extraordinary performance in livestock breeding together with a general festival was expected to rebuild the Württemberg economy, which was heavily damaged after the Napoleonic wars. The following year, on 28 September 1818, one day after the King’s 36th birthday, it happened: The Cannstatt Festival was held for the first time, 190 years ago as seen from today. And since 1818 the Cannstatt Wasen has been the site of the huge festivity.
So enough with the history.
For about seventeen days, this festival takes center stage for all of the night life in Stuttgart. Want to go dancing? To the Wasen. Drinking? To the Wasen. Don’t know what to do? There must be something at the Wasen. That was pretty much my social life for the next seventeen days during the time of Volksfest.
First time: We’re going out to Volksfest after the meeting. Someone had arranged for a table and the interns were going to socialize that night. We each had a big Maß of beer (a liter of beer). Since it was a fairly international table, I promptly learned and forgot each country’s version of ‘Cheers!’. Well, I do remember the German ‘Zum Wohl’ and ‘Prost’.
Second time: My friends called asking if we wanted to join them for another night at Volksfest. I played one of the carnival games and promptly lost my 3 euros.
Third time: Another meeting with the interns. By this time we all knew the drinking songs and started to dance and sing much earlier than usual. Ein Prosit zur Gemutlichkeit!
???th time: One of my good friends in Stuttgart wanted to try a carnival ride. We decided on the log ride. I didn’t know what we were thinking as it was fairly cold already in Stuttgart. Good thing it’s not like Splash Mountain at Disneyland and we were only moderately wet.
It is not a coincidence how the Volksfest in Stuttgart takes place around the same time as the Munich’s more famous Oktoberfest. They both commemorate the fall harvest in some way or form. Many ethnic traditions have some way to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. In the US, we have our county and state fairs. (Although how good they are is an entirely different matter.)
Personally, I think Stuttgart’s Volksfest is much better than Munich’s Oktoberfest having been to both. Here are the reasons why:
- It is much easier to get a table in a tent at Volksfest
- There is a dedicated S-Bahn stop for Volksfest
- It is easily less crowded at Volksfest than Oktoberfest
I think Volksfest could be a destination event like Oktoberfest. I hope it gets more recognition but still retain the carefree atmosphere I remembered.