Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

To Fest or Not to Fest


This weekend the Burg celebrated its annual Fest. This is not the Burg’s only Fest – there is at least one per weekend – but it’s the big Fest, the one where residents don’t dare drive anywhere in their cars for two days for fear of losing their parking spaces, where we go to sleep to the thrumming sounds of bass, and where we can’t get into our favourite shops because there are stalls in front of them selling large piles of tat. The Big Fest is looked forward to for months before and is talked about for weeks afterwards. This year was my sixth Big Fest, and it occured to me, not for the first time, that all German Fests exist so that people can drink booze and eat sausages.

Whether it’s the Oktoberfest, or the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt (which is actually a wine Fest where they serve wine in beer-mugs accompanied by, you guessed it, sausages), or any Fest in any German town on any given weekend, the Hauptthema is alcohol combined with pork. In itself, this is not surprising. Germans are committed to their booze and pork products and show great loyalty to them.

After years and years of going to Fests, be it Christmas Fests, Easter Fests, carnival Fests, autumn Fests, balloon Fests, dragon-boat Fests, school Fests, work Fests, tennis club Fests – you name it, I’ve fested it – I can safely say that the two most remarkable things about German Fests are:

a) they are identical

b) Germans are adorably fervent about them

I love the enthusiasm with which people look forward to the Big Fest, which is exactly the same as last year’s Big Fest, and the ones before that. There is an almost innocent anticipation of pleasure and fun, even though the fun is no different to the fun they had last year and the twenty-five years before that. No-one says, “Stuff this Big Fest pork and beer thing. We’re going to show arthouse cinema on outdoor screens and only serve absinthe and herring. That should get the populace going.” No, there is a formula and we stick to it.

GHT and I took a walk around the Fest on Saturday night. It was my first nighttime visit to the Big Fest, since the previous five years I was either breast-feeding babies or protesting too loudly that it was his turn to go out. However, we have MIL in situ, so I had no excuse. Since it was a Big Fest, I was pleased to see there was not only pork on offer, but also fish, doners, Chinese food, Italian and other Mediterrranean delights. Since it was a Big Fest, there were two sound stages, and every street bar had its own music playing. There were many other alcoholic options outside of beer. There were lots of teenagers in shrieking groups saying things like, “I’m going to puke! Right now!”, but there were slightly older people, like us, and there were much older people, all out enjoying themselves. There was a pleasant, non-aggressive atmosphere of a community celebrating together and many different generations all enjoying the same party.

I lasted an hour.

Perhaps you have to be German to get into the swing of all getting sloshed in the street together. Perhaps I didn’t drink enough. Perhaps I have Fest jaundice.

All I am saying is that as a tourist you really don’t need fly to Munich for the Oktoberfest. Pick any German town on any weekend, and you will find a version of the Oktoberfest happening right there, complete with sausages, beer, loud music, puking teenagers, jolly pensioners and people of the middle years all out together having a lovely time.

As for me, pour me an absinthe, won’t you? I’m staying in with a Bergman film.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

21 thoughts on “To Fest or Not to Fest

  1. You drink the wine, I’ll eat the sausages! And even though you only lasted an hour, yay for MILs and nights out with hubbies.

    I was just reading about the origins of Oktoberfest. From a wedding celebration to a massive multi-week party. I’d have to seriously increase my booze tolerance (since even half a beer buzzes me) to even come close to one. And my tolerance for puking teenagers.

  2. Spanish fiestas are quite similar. I gave up on those a couple of years back. I let the in-laws take the kids, and everyone is happy.

  3. Sergio keeps mentioning that Octoberfest is happening in the next town over.
    I’ve been very noncommital…”Really, hm?” That is all I’ve said about that.

  4. Germans find any reason to party, huh? I agree with you that they tend to be the same old same old. We mostly go to meet up with neighborhood friends and visit with the locals. It’s also a inexpensive night on the town. Here in Bad Durkheim, all the restaurants close during Wurstmarkt, so there really isn’t any other place to go. Crazy!

    How long is the fest going on in your area?

  5. Haha- I fear it may a symptom of being *cough* slightly older. I used to love New Years camping at the beach which sounds similarly bacchanalian and which also prominently features puking teenagers. Nowadays I can imagine little worse.

    So I’ll have an absinthe too, thanks. And I’ll bring my knitting and some vegan snacks to pass around during the film!

  6. Dear Charlotte

    While you are not festing, may I share a rewriting exercise with you that might offer food for thought.

    I did not edit my existing document. I preferred to work on a clean screen, reading from a hard copy of the draft. So I opened a new document. This allowed me to rewrite absolutely, with no restrictions. I typed all 87 000 words, but it went quickly.

    The first draft was in the past tense. I rewrote in the present tense and was astounded at what happened. It lent the work immediacy, authority, tension and credibility. It also disciplined me to write exactly, as if the work was non-fiction.

    I demoted my male protagonist, who didn’t have a raison d’etre, to a less important role.

    In his place, I inserted a female protagonist, justified her position, knowledge and capability. She achieved all the things the male did, but better, just as credibly and more admirably. She earned my respect and I was obliged to write her the way she demanded. I made her forty years of age, to pull the legs of two girls I esteem but love to tease.

    I rewrote in American English as opposed to British English. Wikipedia supplies a dictionary. That was a lot of fun.

    I recomposed all the dialogue. Surprisingly, when seeing naive copy, the way it should be written just seems to flow from the finger tips.

    I was ruthless in deleting adjectives and adverbs. This made for better, stronger sentences.

    I also tightened the writing by shortening sentences and removing unnecessary words. If a sentence was slightly too lengthy, I cut it in half and made two sentences.

    So much for the rewrite. I wonder what you think of the above. Now to face the literary agencies. That scares me. I’m also confused about how to rewrite the 110 000 word tomboy story and have sleepless nights over that.

    What I have done in the past with a partial first draft I am unhappy with, is pretend that I have made the correcting elements up front and throughout the chapters to date. Then I’ll carry on writing as if those elements are already in place, even though they aren’t. That means the second half of the draft doesn’t tie up with the first half. I wait for the rewrite to upgrade the first half.

    I heard a lovely piece of music the other day. It is called, The Tale the Pine Trees Knew. What a beautiful title.

    Wishing you a tough minded approach to your writing and a delight in its execution.

    tadpole, getting scarder and scarder about submitting

  7. I guess that sausages and beer taste more or less the same no matter whether you have them at home or at a fest.

    Perhaps fests are so loved because they are all the same. It is the familiarity of a loved tradition that appeals to the people.

    As for me – I prefer a little change now and then.

  8. I don’t generally like huge groups of people, or eating in the street, or drinking in the street, and Pittsburgh often has similar festivals – I lasted about an hour too at each one I’ve attended. It’s the one community pleasure I don’t particularly enjoy…the combination of my claustrophobia and hypochondria generally come into play.

  9. I remember being delighted at the number of fests that seemed to be on in the three months I spent in Germany. It really gave me a taste for bratwurst, that’s for sure! The beer was always a bonus too…

  10. ah the beloved Fest, one of the few things I seriously do not miss about life in Germany. As you know the Spargelfests were my particular pet peeve, they started earlier and earlier every year, disrupted entire bus routes – it is JUST a vegetable. Oh dear, eight years on and they still make me cross!

  11. Next year I’ll go without you.

  12. Count me in on your movie night – I’ll bring plenty of dark chocolate … or would it clash with the absinthe?

  13. OK, you stay home with the absinthe, I’m off to my fifth Oktoberfest in Muenchen on Friday. Woo ho!! I will be the one with the flashing bunny ears and the expensive camera, photographing the ‘Wiesnhendl.

    Overexcited does not begin to describe it. Maybe it’s my 15th century Prussian heritage coming out.


  14. This is a really funny post, you are an excellent writer. Your Ollie posts are particularly funny.

  15. If there’s room for me on the sofa, I am always more interested in Bergman than large crowds of festival folk. Call me reclusive if you will. Hilarious post, Charlotte!

  16. “there is a formula and we stick to it”. The provincial English have so much in common with the Germans. Am with you on the absinthe and the Bergman (though at the moment, early John Woo might be more appropriate…)

  17. Charl you are so funny! I love your take on the Fests. I think it must be a bit like marmite; maybe you just have to have grown up with it to like it. It being heaving crowds (no pun intended) and not a veggie snack for miles around. But despite that, I admire their sticking to a formula that, well, works for most.

  18. Pingback: Strange Shores #2 « On a quirky quest with Lady Fi

  19. Hi Charlotte, just to remind you I am hosting the next round of Strange Shores, if you want to join in, just post your links to this blog post:

    and I will include you.

  20. I love your posts. You have an underlying sarcasm that I just love. You are so good at explaing exactly what life is like here without upsetting anyone who´s mother tongue is not english. Hehehehe…. I wish I could put things that irritate the hell out of me in such subtle language, that it wouldn´t shock anyone. Well done, you have the gift.

  21. Pingback: When I Was 35 « Charlotte's Web

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