Gäubodenvolksfest – Germany’s 2nd Largest Beer Fest

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Just when I thought I knew what to expect around here, my husband came home with an invitation to the Gäubodenvolksfest in the town of Straubing. Because of his job in IT, a vendor gave tickets to clients and he ended up with two. It was a peachy deal – we had a hotel room in nearby Plattling, cushy round-trip charter bus from our hotel, reserved tables at the fest and all the food and beer we could consume.Regardless of my prior ignorance of the event, the fest is a big deal. It was begun in 1812 by Bavaria’s King Max Joseph I as an annual fair for the people living near the Danube. Today it has a big trade show, six major beer tents, more than 120 carnival rides, numerous food and drink stands, music and about 1.3 million visitors during its 10-day span. By comparison, Oktoberfest has 14 major beer tents, has over six million visitors and lasts 15 days.We drove the hour and a half to our hotel (Zum Grünen Baum) in a town called Plattling, which lies outside Straubing where the fest was located. It’s a beautiful, small, family-run hotel with friendly staff that speaks English and a cafe on the ground floor. I highly recommend it.Kerstin, a rep from TechData, the hosting company, met us and invited us to another hotel down the street where the party had already started! We arrived a little while later to a crowded terrace and lots of friendly people in Tracht, which means Lederhosen for the men and Dirndl for the women. We were dressed up, but not in Tracht. That is being remedied, however, for the next fest!Presently all 67 of us were herded onto a double-decker luxury coach. We knew it would be a beer-centric night when someone mounted the stairs carrying a huge jug of beer, a sleeve of plastic cups and a mischievous grin:

Well, that jug didn’t last long, but we all managed to maintain during the hour drive to Straubing. During the drive, they handed out what looked like little garters that we were to write our names or initials on. I wasn’t sure what that was about. I would find out later.

As with anything in Germany, even with a ride you have to walk quite a distance. We disembarked about a half-mile from the fest grounds. We could see the giant Ferris wheel as we approached:

Our tent was the Krönner, a huge structure that holds almost 4,000 people inside with about 1,500 seats in the outdoor area. They served Irlbacher beer, a kind I’d never had before. Local brewers make batches of beer specifically for the fest, of course. Irlbacher Festbier was very good!
It’s so fortunate that we had reserved tables in the loft area because I had a great balcony to do my photos from. Besides, the tent floor was already getting full:

Soon our waitress appeared. She might not have been cheerful, but she was efficient!

As soon as the beer arrived, we discovered what the small garter thingies were for: read more