Bad Canstatter Volksfest

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Home Page > Features > Germany > Baden-Württemberg > Stuttgart > Bad Canstatter Volksfest (and Baden-Württemberg Agriculture Exhibition)

The Bad Canstatter Volksfest -- Second Biggest Beer Festival in Germany

When most people outside Germany think of beer festivals, the Oktoberfest pops immediately to mind.  After all, it is a world-reknowned event that draws hundreds of thousands of foreigners to southern Bavaria every year.  But it is hardly the only such event held across Germany every autumn, and some Germans to prefer the less-touristy and less-crowded festivals closer to home.  And so after already having done the Munich thing, we elected to try Germany's second biggest beer festival -- the Bad Canstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart.  Its Bavarian cousin may be grander, but this Swabian edition is just fine for those living within reach of the Black Forest. 

Its character is very similar to that of the Oktoberfest, but on a smaller scale.  The Volksfest is put on by the region's four major breweries (Dinkel Acker, Schwaben, Stuttgarter, and Furstenburg) who have one fest tent each (compared to the some 25 tents in Munich).  But there's a lot more going on at this festival than just the beer.  For the first nine days, the festival grounds also hosted the state agricultural exhibition.

It was a fantastic way to spend a lovely Saturday afternoon.

We were fortunate enough to make it to Stuttgart only minutes before the Grand Opening.  A huge crowd was gathered around the ceremonial festival pole, where a huge traditional band played great music.  The theme was the long-standing partnership between Germany and the United States -- although the Americans clearly took it in the chin during a hilarious skit depicts the trials and tribulations of a hungry American tourist trying and failing to make sense of a German menu in an old-fashioned 'gasthaus'.  This shot was taken as the ceremonial keg was tapped (although it is too distant to make out at the right). 

The borough of Bad Canstatt is located along the east bank of the Neckar River just north of the Green U.  The festival grounds are on the river, stretching for almost a mile.  Across the river is the famous Wilhelmina zoo and the Untere Schlossgarten.

The view here is of the Beer Festival from one of the two Ferris Wheels.  The Ferris Wheel in the distance claimed to be the largest in Europe (hard to tell).  A huge flea market was behind it.  The white tents below were beer houses, surrounded by the latest and loudest of amusement park rides!  

Like the Oktoberfest, the major breweries had their festival tents, colorfully decorated and accompanied by a beautiful array of horses pulling a ceremonial barrel wagon.  This one represents the Stuttgarter Hofbraeu.

The interiors were also similar -- full of color, live music, row tables, and celebrants dancing atop them.  This shot was taken from inside the Furstenburg festival tent as the music began cranking.  Around 3PM, the tent was 2/3rds full, and much of the crowd was getting into the spirit (one maß at a time).

We downed a couple bratwurst and some pommes frites (french fries) with mayonnaise before making off to the other half of the festival grounds.  Shown here is the gateway to the Baden-Württemberger Agriculture Exhibition (Landwirtschaftfest).  Running alongside the Volksfest for the first nine days, this Exhibition showcased anything and everything having to do with farming and industry -- from big tractors to milking equipment -- along with the products thereof (wines, produce, cheese, meats, etc.)

Thirty exhibition tents lined the outside, each about a football field big inside, filled with exhibitioners.  A number of them had small stages where bands played music, such as this high-school aged band.  We also encountered a roving band of traditional brass musicians wandering all over the complex, plus the four horse-drawn wagons from the breweries did a parade through the Exhibition grounds, their sleigh bells adding to the music.

We mentioned some of the big tractors before, here is just a sampling.  This was clearly a big event for area dealerships.  Cherry pickers, cranes, and combines were also present.  Other types of equipment that you'd never find in your local department store -- six-foot diameter exhaust fans, washing equipment for your neighborhood pig sty, institutional kitchen equipment (ovens, 100-gallon mixers), and huge milk pasteurizers.  Actually, it was a very good educational opportunity.

Of course, the most fun we had was visiting the animals, who occupied pens and tents along the riverside.  This shot shows some of the dairy cows that were safely penned but within reach of friendly visitors (particularly children, who were there in great numbers).  Cows, horses, pigs, sheep, they were all there.  The most fun was listening when it was feeding time for a certain loud batch of piglets fighting and climbing over each other trying to get dinner from their beleaguered Mom!

We left around five-thirty in the afternoon, as the large crowds began entering the festival grounds for a plate of bratwurst and an evening of music, dancing, and beer.  It was already plenty crowded as it was.  So, if you're in Germany and want a good festival to go to, but Munich's a tad far away, try the Bad Canstatter in Stuttgart!

Trip taken 27 September 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin

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