CologneSeptember 23, 2017 in Germany
In Germany the month of September means that it is Oktoberfest time. Obviously. This time last year we'd visited the country's original and largest Oktoberfest in Munich with our friend Ade and we thought it would be interesting and fun to visit a different one this year. We'd enjoyed Cologne when we'd visited in the early days of our European tour, so fixed our sights on their festival. Just before midday we pulled into the familiar stellplatz and were relieved to find a selection of vacant spots. Parking up in one with good access to the park for Poppy, we paid our €12 for 24 hours, had a bite to eat and got ready to cycle in. We'd spent time looking at Köln's Oktoberfest website but it wasn't very clear and gave only directions to the site (no address). Will had programmed a few possible locations into his phone and we set off along the lovely tree lined cycle track that followed the River Rhine. Once in the city centre the going got tougher. It wasn't clear to us where we could and couldn't ride and we needed to wend our way along busy roads with many junctions before we got to the first possible site where there was no sign of the celebrations. An hour after setting off we arrived at a large white marquee with sounds of instruments being tuned and a sound system being tested. We'd not seen anyone else as we approached and it clearly wasn't yet open to the public. Checking website once again we saw the entertainment started at 4:30pm and entry was from 3pm onwards. It was 2:10pm so we walked to a nearby park and found a bench to wait it out. This wasn't going well. Munich Oktoberfest had been open all day with several tents, stalls outside selling food and souvenirs and a whole fairground set up around it. At 3pm there was at least a decent gathering of festival goers, buzzing around the entrance in their dirndls and lederhosen while the brass band played upbeat oompah tunes. This was more like it! We watched as people began to get their tickets out and our hopes fell slightly. Tickets had been available via the website but we'd not needed them in Munich and assumed it was the same set up in Cologne. The saying goes that to assume is to... A doorman informed us that the event was full and without tickets we couldn't get in. Well bang goes that plan! We'd have been unable to get tickets because they would need to have been posted and we aren't at a fixed address.
The 40 minute cycle back into the city centre was stressful. Having to find our way amidst car fumes, cigarette smoke, noise and hoards of people wasn't fun and when we sat down at a table outside a café in the old quarter, Vicky was in a foul mood and Will was irritated. A 0.2L beer each did a little to lift our spirits and we wandered around town in search of food to substitute what we'd planned to have at Oktoberfest. Will found a pork sarnie but there was no lebkuchen hearts anywhere to be seen for Vicky so we returned to the van and she had her fill of Aldi biscuits.
Later that evening we'd made the decision to try and get a bit more out of Cologne than it had delivered so far. We went to a café bar in the park that Will had seen selling beer earlier in the day. It was just our luck that it was shut on a Saturday night! We persevered and eventually found a bar in the little run of shops close to the stellplatz. It was open and advertised an Oktoberfest special of a Maß of beer for €7. Hooray! The quiet bar was very different to the rumbunctious festivities we'd been looking forward to but we had Oktoberfest bunting above us, a litre of beer each and we were very happy to be able to be there. So happy in fact that we ended the night with a second litre and swayed our way merrily back through the park.Read more