Our day started out lazy, again. Everyone else went to bed reasonably early last night, 10-1030pm, while I stayed awake and drank all of Bob’s German beer. I was four beers deep by the time I noticed that each beer was 7.9%. By that point it was too late, so I did the only thing I knew how to do: opened another beer and veraciously attacked a box of goldfish crackers, fistfuls at a time.
The morning was a little more difficult than yesterday, knowing we’d be leaving our friends behind for this next piece of our adventure. When Brianna first brought up the idea of leaving Bob and Rachel’s a day early, I wasn’t a fan. Half of the reason for our trip was to see our friends and I didn’t want to cut that short. She was kind enough to remind me that the other half of the reason for our trip was to hit a German beerfest type event, and Volksfest would be our best chance. It took me a minute but was eventually able to agree. Besides, it wasn’t like we were saying goodbye to Bob and Rachel, we were saying, “see you in Switzerland.”
^Brianna was right, as it should be^
Before departing on our first German train, the four of us spent a few hours exploring downtown Weisbaden. Rachel took us to her favorite lunch place, Ratskellar, where we each had our own sweet mustard schnitzel & pretzel. Yes, we do know that there’s much more to German food than pretzels and schnitzels, but when one of your best friends tells you to try out one of her most favoritest foods in the world, you fucking try it. Rachel has street cred. And yes, it was every bit as good as she said it would be.
After some light souvenir shopping and a brief stroll through the park, we said “see ya in Switzerland” to our BFFs and hopped onto the 1424 to Stuttgart via Mainz. Even though this was far from my first European train ride, I shared more than a little of Brianna’s trepidation. It’s been 11 years since my last visit to Europe and smart phones weren’t a thing back then. This time around, all of our train tickets are digital / on our phones. Luckily for us, everything was just as easy as we had needed it to be. We’re basically pros now (remember I said that when things go sideways in any number of our half dozen upcoming train trips).
Stuttgart is a busy industrial type town with a lot of construction that threw us for a loop as we attempted to navigate our way out of the train station. I would say that Stuttgart is a bit like Detroit in that there is a lot of automotive manufacturing, but that’s as far as the comparison really goes. Arriving at a train station that we’ve never been to is a pretty fun experience. Exit to the left? To the right? Or just go straight out the main exit? Luckily for us, Brianna’s eagle eyes spotted our hotel from a park just outside the train station (we went left and then turned around and went right, zigged when we should have zagged).
The hotel’s close proximity to the train station was planned, as was the hotel’s close proximity to Cannstatter Volksfest, or so we thought. We thought Volksfest was gonna to be a 20 minute walk from the hotel, it turned out to be more like 60. Three transportation options pretty themselves:
1.) Taxi – Nein, too expensive.
2.) The U (subway) – Nein, too unknown.
3.) Walk – Ja, we are hikers.
And so we walked. The town was quiet with the appearance of safety for most of the hike. The hardest part of our trek was in trying to find a bridge to cross the large Neckar river that separates the part of town where our hotel was from Cannstatter. Much like the train station experience, our zig zag approach to navigation worked again. We made what ended up being only a 40 minute walk and only had to turn around a couple of times.
Volksfest is a large German fair-like event that could be both seen and heard as we approached. Much like in America, there are lots of spinning rides, to include a giant Ferris wheel. There was a ride that shot people up, a ride that shot people down, and another that whipped them from side to side. The swooshing sound that large carts full of people make as they pass eerily close to your head is a bit unnerving at first. Our nerves calmed after a beer or two.
Brianna and I wandered the fairgrounds, exploring foods and beers. There were a lot of “beer tent” type buildings for purchasing beer, but they mostly seemed like a collection of German night clubs where the patrons would go to dance on the table and sing along to live bands. Every place serves the same beers and we tried them all. We drank some beers out of plastic cups while we wandered, others we drank out of proper pint glasses and steins. The trick with drinking out of glass cups was that they would give you return tokens and charge a 2 Euro deposit per glass. We almost stole a couple glasses, as buying a mug for 2 Euro is pretty much impossible, but we ended up deciding against it.
Of the food we ate, there isn’t much to say other than YUM! We split foods to ensure we could continue eating all night long without getting full. Yeah, it’s called, “fat kid teamwork.” The chicken seemed simple enough at first glance, but it really was cooked perfectly to the point where the meat just slid off the bones. It reminded me a lot of aunt Kris’s beer butt chicken, which is really a compliment to both aunt Kris and the German people.
Of the beer we drank, my favorite was probably the Weizen-Russ; sourly deliciousness. The most interesting beers were the radlers. These were beers mixed with various other ingredients, like lemonade, ginger beer, or Sprite. Radlers weren’t my favorite tasting beers but they did rank high on the new experience chart.
I never thought I’d be writing to tell everyone that Brianna and I closed down Volksfest, but we did. We were sitting at a table with fresh Malteser Kristall Weizen beers when a large German security guard yelled something at us that we really had no chance of understanding. It didn’t make sense that the fest would be closing at 11pm, but who are we to argue with large German security guards?
It wasn’t that late and we weren’t that drunk, so we decided to try our luck with navigating the U, their subway system. In a normal situation, we would have been able to look at maps and figure out what train to get on. This was not a normal situation. Do you know what happens when a beerfest closes down? All the drunk people go home. We managed to buy tickets for what we thought might be where we should go, not that anyone would check those tickets – the trains were shoulder-to-shoulder packed.
The train car was hot, muggy, and smelled like old beer, but we both managed a smile in each other’s direction as the train began moving in the right direction. If you’re wandering what could make this kind of a subway experience even more uncomfortable, it’s when more people get in your train car and everyone starts to sing loudly in a language you don’t understand. It was actually a lot like the time I took the London Underground home after England beat Germany 5-1 in a World Cup match. We decided to exit the train early, right about the same time I started to smell a hint of vomit in the air. The stop we jumped off at was just a half mile shy of the hotel, so the whole subway experience did give us a little help and a lot of story.
If we don’t get lost and/or confused, then we’re probably not on an adventure, right? 😀
Stuttgart, it was our pleasure! Next up, Switzerland!