Stuttgart's Volksfest: Put on the Lederhosen and Grab a Beer
Slaughter Plate Anyone? Tales from the Volksfest in Stuttgart
By David Greitzer
The Volksfest starts at 11 a.m. so you leave the apartment at about 4 p.m. It’s a three-kilometer walk which helps you build up just enough thirst for that first beer. You follow the throng of lederhosen and dirndls because the Volksfest is the only place to go dressed like that on a Wednesday in Stuttgart.
It’s drizzly and grey out but you don’t care because once inside that beer tent the body heat of 5,600 yelling drunk people will keep you cozy and warm. No reservations tonight so you have your choice between eight different beer tents. The first two hold about 5,600 people. The third one about 4,000. And, each other tent holds about 2,500.
You pick the Dinkleacker tent tonight because you spent last night in the Schwabenbrau tent and you feel like spreading the wealth.
Packed Full of Beer Drinkers
It’s already pretty full and your choices of seats are limited since most people reserve their spot online ahead of time. One of the waiters finds a seat for you and your two friends. They have to shoehorn you in between four older ladies and a guy that looks like Austin Powers. Yeah Baby!
Neither the ladies nor Austin Powers want to relinquish any space. Austin Powers wags a crooked finger at you and says he’s saving two spots for his friends. You shrug your shoulders and say, “Nicht verstehn.” This means you don’t understand. This puts Austin Powers in an even worse mood. “Ach!” he barks with contempt for foreign intruders. The old ladies are a little nicer thinking they’ll get to flirt with three middle-aged Americans. Regardless, your charm only works so much and she makes you straddle the table leg which cuts off your blood circulation and renders you a eunuch.
A Multi-Beer Onslaught
You want to eat now so as to lay a foundation for the multi-liter beer onslaught you hope to endure. The waitress comes around and they are so busy you don’t have time for questions about the menu. You choose the six mini bratwurst on a bed of sauerkraut. “Only women and children eat that. You don’t want that. Try this,” and she points to something else on the menu that says Schlachtplatte (Slaughter Plate). “Ok. I’ll have that,” you say trying to recover a little bit of manhood.
The Slaughter Plate arrives and at first it looks pretty good. Then, you start to scoot things around with your fork and discover the massacre that must have happened to make this culinary delight. Atop a bed of sauerkraut is a boiled pork chop complete with an inch of fat attached. Next to that are two sausages encased in some gut lining of something. The ends are stapled together. This worries you a little.
If something has to be stapled to hold in the insides then should that really be consumed? You cut the dark brown/red sausage and coagulated blood with chunks of pork fat pour out. Nasty. It wasn’t as bad tasting as the other sausage. You try cutting that one open and a very unnatural grey-colored meat-like substance oozes out. Revolting. You eat it. Yep. It tastes exactly like you think it would.
“Did you like it,” she asks while picking up the empty plates. “Wunderbar,” you reply forcing a satisfied smile on your face while rubbing your tummy.
Austin Powers suddenly has a little respect for you and winks as he bumps his beer stein into yours. The rule is, “if you clink, you drink.” This can get out of hand so you start guarding your clinks. You keep saying “Yeah Baby” but Austin Powers doesn’t get it which makes it even funnier when he smiles in return.
Coming in for a Clink
One liter in and you feel the buzz. Austin Powers is hammered. His lower dentures sag out a bit over-lapping his mouth. He comes in for a clink and you meet his clink with enough gusto to send him nearly off the bench. You are standing on the benches at this point. The old lady next to you just ordered another beer and this pisses you off because now you realize she won’t leave anytime soon.
While standing on the bench peering down you notice she has some sort of tattoo above her breast. You think it’s supposed to be a butterfly but it looks more like a weeping pterodactyl. Standing up allows for retuning blood circulation and the confidence that you can drink Schnapps. A finger snap at the waitress and boom, schnapps is delivered.
You realize you haven’t peed for about two liters so you climb down from the bench and go in search of the toilet. Of course it’s at the opposite end of the tent.
You get caught up in the crowd and you’re pushed through the gauntlet of drunken weaving people and deposited in front of the urinal trough. You see a really drunk 16-year-old trying to stand up and not slip into the trough. Drinking age is irrelevant here.
In the doorway is a woman collecting .50€ from everyone. Advisory note: take a lot of change with you to the Volksfest. And, if you’re feeling generous buy your friend a pee.
The old ladies have left and have been replaced by a group of teenagers. You realize one of them is yelling in your ear because the music is so loud. “Vare are Sie from?”
You say near San Francisco because no one has ever heard of Sacramento. And with this kid, named Jerkel, you realize you have to pull back even further so you say California.
He says cool but it sounds more like kewel. Jerkel is nice enough. He and his friends are loudly singing all the words to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline as if it was a new top of the charts hit.
Highway to Hell
Austin Powers looks jealous and tries to start a spontaneous clinking. You all do. Yeah Baby. More blaring music and more clinking. The band on stage is playing AC/DC’s Highway to Hell with an accordion back up. You realize you’ve just surpassed your old record of three liters and there’s a reason the record was so hard to break. You’re seeing double and almost fall off the table.
It’s time to go home. Where do you live? How are you going to get home? Yeah Baby!
Editor’s Note: The Volksfest in Stuttgart, Germany runs concurrently to Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest. Though slightly smaller it claims to be the “biggest party in the world.” Prossit!
David Greitzer, a former Navy Photojournalist, AP stringer and Sacramento Union photographer, now focuses on travel writing and photography. His work has appeared on the covers of the Boston Globe, London Times and in hundreds of other newspapers and magazines.