Everyone knows Oktoberfest, right? Beer tents, people in Bavarian clothes, giant mugs of beer, carnivals, the whole shebang. It's one of the first things people think about when they think of Bavaria, so would you be surprised if I told you a lot of Bavarians can't stand it?
The main reason is, of course, tourists. Oktoberfest gets overrun by tourists, partiers, and general craziness, and as someone who's been two years (soon to be three) in a row, I gotta say, Munich's Oktoberfest can be kind of tiresome.
That's why I was thrilled to hear about the Straubing Volksfest! It's all the great things about Oktoberfest, just without all the tourists and craziness. Better yet, it was only an hour away from us so we put on our dirndl and lederhosen (Fionn a bit grudgingly) and hopped in the car.
We had plans to see the new Batman movie in english that evening, so we decided to go to the fest early in the afternoon. Plus I was taking some medicine that week that had strict no alcohol rules, so we didn't plan on staying out late or getting crazy.
The first thing I noticed about the fest was that the only non Germans there were me and Fionn. It felt really authentic. Better yet, there was a pavilion set up to showcase Bavarian culture, clothing, food, dance, and music through the years, which was really interesting to see.
We walked through the pavilion and then stopped to watch some of the dancers. They were really good and fun to watch. You can watch a snippet here:
We made our way through the shopping area and then came upon the beer tent/carnival area. We went into a beer tent, got a table right away, had some food and listened to the band. Fionn had a beer and I had apfelschorle. It was such a great experience being able to actually enjoy a beer tent and not be jostled around and have beer spillt on you (which is usually the case at Oktoberfest). We talked, we listened, we sang along-plus it's the 200th anniversary of the fest, so that was pretty cool!
After about an hour in the beer tent, we walked around to scope out the other tents, decided to forgo the scary looking amusement rides, and after sharing a crepe, called it a day around 5pm. We both had a good time and said we'd come back next year.
I'd love to come back at night when the beer tents really start rockin', but that'll have to wait til next year since we didn't stay that night and the following weekend we were out of town. Oh well!
A funny thing happened as we were leaving the parking lot though-I met my first German policeman! I was the designated driver and had only been drinking soft drinks (just in case you were wondering!) and when I went to leave the parking lot I noticed an opening in the roped off area of the lot. Another car drove through this opening, and seeing no other marked sign for "exit" I figured that must be it and followed the car. As I continued and came to the intersection I suddenly realized I'd made a HUGE mistake-I'd driven onto the pedestrian/bike lane!!
Of course all the other cars are staring at me in confusion, INCLUDING the Polizei car that just happened to be sitting at the red light...and then promptly got out of his car to fuss at me.
I apologized profusely and said I'd made a mistake trying to leave the parking lot and I guess he took pity on me because he just told me to be more careful and stopped the traffic so I could turn around. Thanks, Polizei man! :)
Hopefully that'll be my first and LAST run in with the German police! And I'll be sure to look for the clearly posted exit signs next time!
So if you're in Bavaria during Straubing and you want the Oktoberfest experience without the Oktoberfest headache, check out the Straubing Volksfest!