Having had a great time in Berlin earlier in the month, we were back for a second dose of Germany on our way through to Paris to see Kirsty. In between we have seen lots of great German countryside, by train, tram and bus.
We didn’t choose Stuttgart as our German ‘city of choice,’ but we had a great time there anyway, as we seem to do in every place we go. Stuttgart just fitted in well geographically as we needed to go via Vienna, Prague and Zurich. Stuttgart was almost totally ’booked out.’ They had their own version of Oktoberfest going on and the more famous one, in Munich, was only 230 kms up the road. But we managed to find a great hotel, out of town but on the trainline near one of the Mercedes Benz factories.
The two highlights of our stay were attending Stuttgart’s version of the Oktoberfest, which goes for three weeks, and going to the Mercedes Museum.
The ‘real’ Oktoberfest was three or four hours away from where we were staying, so we decided it was too far to go for a day trip, when we had another, not quite as big, but almost identical, on our doorstep. The local one was held at Bad Cannstadt, a suburb of Stuttgart. It had all the same features as the one in Munich: rides, stalls, beer halls and entertainment. Even though the people are not Bavarians, they still dress up in the same lederhosen and traditional dresses, which is a great sight and they have a lot of fun.
I am not sure why they need to go for three whole weeks, but the event sure attracts the people! We went on the Saturday, so the crowd was massive, which made for an excellent German (Bavarian) atmosphere! Everybody was wandering or sitting around having a great time. It was quite similar to the Royal Adelaide Show in many respects but everything was kind of bigger and better. Amazingly, admission is free, which I guess makes the people keep coming back for more. Some of the rides were incredible: roller-coasters and all the usual stuff but some that went up to dizzying heights and many of which flipped the riders upside down! Even smoke and mirrors!
And then there was the food and drink: beer everywhere, sausages of every description, gingerbread hearts, pretzels and food from other nationalities. The beer halls have to be pre-booked and typically include your table, several litres of beer, entertainment and a roast chicken. We were content just to wander around, soak up the atmosphere and see all the various characters within the grounds. Everybody was in a chatty, festive mood and there were lots of photo opportunities. Meanwhile, we tried some of the food and drinks on offer. Among the funniest sights were groups having their ‘buck shows’ or ‘doe shows.’ One particular group of guys took their inspiration from the movie ‘Hangover II,‘ complete with Mike Tyson face tattoos. The groom had set tasks that he had to complete as well. Fun times.
The Mercedes Museum was fantastic. Housed in a spectacular eight storey building, it featured stunning vehicles from every era, right back to the invention of the car. The collection must be worth millions. There was a great time-line featuring all of the main events in world history alongside the vehicles from each era. Among our favourites were the sports cars, some of the early vehicles, limousines and a range of Mercedes formerly owned by celebrities. This featured Diana’s car, Ringo’s, various world leaders’ cars, even a Pope mobile. The museum has already had almost a million visitors. Highly recommended.
Every second person in Stuttgart seems to drive a Mercedes as well. I guess a lot of them work for Mercedes and have staff cars or heavily discounted models. Throw in the BMWs, Porsches, VWs and Audis and there are a lot of German vehicles on the roads. Enough to save the Greek, Spanish, Italian and Irish economies! But no match on the Mitsubishi 380. Brrrm, brrrrm, brrrrm.