|Buttons loves beer!|
Well, this has been one of the busiest weeks of my life!
We moved into our new place last Saturday and then I flew out to Stuttgart for a work conference on Monday morning. Not the best timing (stupid landlord) but the royal treatment I got at Oktoberfest more than made up for it!
I really enjoy visiting Germany, primarily because ich kann ein wenig Deutsch sprechen! It's fun to speak another language and feel pretty certain that you know what you're saying, and what is being said back to you. But because of the move I didn't have much (well, any!) time to refresh my memory, so I flew out on Monday convinced that I'd be just smiling and nodding my way through the next few days. But I surprised myself - I got in a cab and the words tumbled out, I remembered much more than I thought I would.
I started learning German at school when I was 12 and loved it. I immersed myself in it whenever I could - I had a few pen pals in Germany (one I've recently found again! Hi Chrissy!) and my nan used to love the show Derrick which used to be on SBS. She would put the sound on for me so I could hear the German and she would read the English subtitles, so we'd both be happy. One year my teacher gave me some German recipe books and I loved poring over them. I used to make the jam filled terrassenkeksen from one of the books at Christmas time. The last time I formally studied the language was about 14 years ago, when I did it at pre tertiary level in Year 11. I was fine with reading and writing, but the oral examinations scared the life out of me, which put me off studying it at uni. I really wish I had now. Well, I wish I'd done a lot of things at that age ;)
But, anyway, it's amazing how adequate my schoolgirl German has proven over the years when I've paid a visit to Germany, and how much I remember within a very small space of time. And even though most people there speak English very well, making an effort to speak the language is always appreciated and gets a good response, in my experience. And it's so much fun too!
I had meetings on the Monday - it was a miracle I was lucid really, as I had been up since 4am and had two beers at lunch (that would make anybody sleepy!) - and then that evening was the gala dinner before the next day's conference, which was held at a restaurant called Kern's Pastetchen in the city. The restaurant is quite famous for its wine cellar and wine shop, so we were certainly in for a treat. The meal was spectacular. I was prepared a lovely vegetarian alternative for the courses that involved meat. This was the menu:
Appetiser: Pumpkin pudding with herbs and roasted pumpkin seeds (pictured above)
Soup: Cream of tomato soup (it was white but tasted very tomato-ey)
Entree: everyone else had a venison terrine, I had a salad of avocado, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and schnitzel mushrooms. This was my favourite dish!
Main: Poached egg on sautéed spinach with noodles and kohlrabi
Dessert: Plum dumpling with quark (like a cream cheese) ice cream and plum compote. I loved the ice cream, it was a tongue-tingling sour sweet taste, and very creamy!
A late night ensued, as you might imagine - despite pleas of feeling tired I was cajoled into coming along to a piano bar where I was given amaretto sours and we sang along to the various piano songs until very late!
The conference was the next day and was really fun - I love meeting new people and mingling, so was in my element really. The lunch at the conference was really good. Lots of potatoes and dumplings :) It was so hot as well! Every other time I've been in Germany it has been freezing cold (once in Munich it was -8 degrees every day and I had come very ill prepared!) so I had only brought cold weather clothes. Nor had I been to the waxer. Ooops!! ;)
We had a long lunch break so I took that opportunity to explore a bit of Stuttgart. What a charming, beautiful city it is. Church bells regularly sliced through the air as I wandered the Königstraße and the Schlossplatz. Being too hot and sweaty to go clothes shopping (!) I looked at the architecture, bought an ice cream and sat on the grass and people watched instead.
|Boots! In 30 degree heat! I was dying....|
I love foreign language bookshops too. I get a huge thrill out of seeing my favourite English books in other languages and seeing what the title translates to :)
The conference ended late in the afternoon and after a brief power nap (see this post!) I did my hair "Fräulein style" (a plait on each side then put on top of the head with bobby pins) and headed off to the Wasen! A trip to Stuttgart's Oktoberfest was organised by the company hosting the conference as hospitality to the international guests and a thank you to their staff for a job well done. I love places that have a "work hard, play hard" philosophy!
We took a tram there, and then wandered around to soak in the atmosphere. Two colleagues decided to part with 250 euros each and buy lederhosen!! It was like a fun fair, with glittering sparkling roller coasters and rides, including one with "thriller" eyes!!
I was not talked into getting a dirndl (traditional female outfit, as worn by my colleague above) but I'm keen to get one if there's ever a next time :) I was fascinated to learn how one ties one's apron on the dirndl is indicative of marital status (steeped in tradition, way before Facebook!). If the bow is tied on the left, the girl is single; on the right she is married or otherwise taken; tied in the middle means "it's complicated"; and tied at the back means she's widowed. I had fun looking at all the aprons and seeing which way they were tied :)
We were taken to the first tent (or hall, it was, rather) and had only been sitting for 60 seconds when we were given a litre of beer to get stuck into! Fantastic!! And excellent beer it was too.
There was a band singing traditional Oktoberfest songs (rock style!) and everyone in the place was singing along, standing up on the benches, dancing and clapping. It was a great atmosphere! Everyone was smiling and happy and having a good time. We were served dinner soon after the first few rounds of beers - it was much needed, to soak it all up! - and I had the speciality Käsespätzle, which is cheese noodles, and salad. Everyone else had half a roast chicken each, and bread. I was with about 20 people, so the whole table smelled like chicken! The beer had gone to my head at this point, as I remember it smelled pretty darn good!
I got the impression that, compared to the Oktoberfest in Munich, Stuttgart's Oktoberfest is very much a local festival and not as touristy. It was so charming and relaxed, with no one getting rowdy or annoying, as I half expected. I was told many tales of Australians at Munich's Oktoberfest - apparently there's a line outside the embassy every morning during Oktoberfest of Aussies who have lost their passports in the midst of all the merriment. I'm sure that's an exaggeration..... ;)
The evening passed with more beer, getting up on the benches and dancing, singing along to songs. I was feeling the effects of my few beers and enjoyed singing "Twist and Shout" at the top of my lungs! It was all over by about midnight and we got taxis back to the hotel - we took one look at the tram stop and thought not - it was like Jolimont station after a game at the MCG (if everyone had been drinking!). No chance of an early night - more piano bar, more drinking, more singing, more dancing!
I absolutely loved Oktoberfest. I can't believe I've lived on the doorstep of Europe for nearly five years and this was my first time! I thoroughly recommend it!
I also recommend, when visiting Germany, chuck the low-carb plan out the window. The bread there is phenomenal. I brought some Brötchen back with me :)
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest, or to Germany?