A bite of Stuttgart
Stuttgart. There’s something about the phonetics of that name that makes me think of talking with a mouth stuffed with M&Ms or nougat - something part chewy, part melty, part crunchy, part nutty. Stuttgart wouldn’t normally have been on my list of places to see - at least not on my first trip to Germany - but some of our friends were car crazy and they simply had to visit the Mercedes Benz Museum. And in all honesty, now that I’ve gone to it, I would recommend Stuttgart, especially during Oktoberfest. This post is about what we did in the few hours we were in Stuttgart. It really doesn’t contain too many tips. There’s a lot of getting tipsy, though.
Stuttgart has an enviable food and clubbing scene - of which we know nothing of. It also has a beautiful historical quarter and a very fine palace - also nothing we know of. We didn’t do much more than wander around the museum and then go off to the Oktoberfest. As for the museum, I loved it.
Benz’s love for design is evident and comes strong in the displays. To call it a car museum is a rather myopic description of this edifice of time. Mercedez Benz is not just any car manufacturer. It ushered in the era of the motor car and transportation. The first person to drive it long distance was a woman. Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz was a woman way ahead of her time. An inventor in her own right, an investor in her own right, and typically history for most part would have liked to swallow her into oblivion. She “wasn’t allowed” to be named as the inventor as she was a married woman. A bit of feminist history there. The seamless design of moving from one display to another through a continuous ramp sort of gives you a feel like having the window seat in a time machine. Like everything in Germany, the company went through a dark phase in history as one of the leading suppliers of the Nazi party during WWII - a fact that it never tries to gloss over. Again, that stoic Germanness when it comes to accepting and acknowledging the past and trying to be as decent as possible in the here and now. From the preferred brand of the fascists to what it is today, it’s constantly been a proud flag bearer of superior German engineering.
Even to someone who barely cares about cars (except for being in one and being driven around to nice places), the displays are such that it would actually get your heart racing. It brings the excitement and ecstasy of flooring the accelerator on a beautiful stretch of uninterrupted tarmac, with a play of lights and highlights that wrap the cars in a divine prismatic halo.
Hours. Tuesdays - Sundays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Mondays
Box office Closing Time: 5 p.m.
Tickets. Day Ticket Regular: 10 €, Reduced: 5 €. Free entry for children (up to and including the age of 14).
After gawking at cars for a good few hours, we thought we should check out the fairgrounds we could see from the higher storeys of the museum. Initially we’d intended to check out the Porsche Museum as well - but realised we didn’t really have enough time until closing hours. Therefore it was onto fun and games.
The Cannstatter Volksfest as it is locally called is one of the best Oktoberfests to visit. We found parking in a place that was quite a walk away from the grounds. One thing you need to make sure with parking lots are the timings. Not all of them are 24 hours. We asked a very nice looking, nice man if the parking lot was 24 hours and he, in his extreme German effusiveness, assured us that it was - he told us that it was the parking lot of the hospital opposite us but since it was the weekend, we could pay and park there. So we did.
And then began a maze-like, winding attempt to get to the grounds. Google was in a wild goose chase mood and had us walking around in circles. We walked through small residential streets and suddenly were gaping at a freeway. From across the very busy road and its adjacent river, the hoop of the giant wheel waved over to us. Google Lady egged us to cross the road. A free way. Jay walk across a freeway. In Germany. Where the only thing people loved more than manically sticking to the rules is driving manically fast. We positively blanched at the idea. No way were we going to be terrible ambassadors representing Indians and brown people, with the exact kind of behaviour that was assumed to come second nature to us. But then again, we looked up and down the road and saw no traffic stops or anywhere better to cross. And then we saw a bunch of white people run across the road. Looked like they were also listening to this miscreant Google. There was nothing left to do but to break some rules and hopefully not some bones. When the traffic showed some scope of the former than the latter, we dashed across the road. And then there was a picket fence between us and the small walking path next to the zooming traffic. Oh goody, another place to act like a bunch of lawless brown people. The fence was a bit too tall for me to scramble over, so I had to squeeze through a gap. Just then, as if to give me a whole lot of spectators, the traffic stopped. I was wearing a skirt and as I wriggled through the gap, I’m very, very sure I flashed a bunch of nice Germans. I feel terrible.
As we walked towards the grounds, we were so sure we were going to get hauled up by cops for breaking the law. The grounds was on the other side of the river and right at the foot of the bridge was a bunch of cops who had probably witnessed our entire miscreant saga. We walked as casual-like as we could while we were shitting bricks inside (getting caught by cops in a foreign country was not on the agenda). But they barely even looked at us - clearly people crossing the road like a bunch of cows was the last thing on their list that day.
When they day began, I wasn’t expecting to do more than being in temperature-controlled museums - so I’d picked a skirt for the OOTD. It was more like disaster of the day. I wasn’t dressed for scaling or squeezing through random fences. I wasn’t dressed for fairground activity. I wasn’t dressed for the day’s schizo tendencies - what began as a really warm day became yowch-freezing. What I was dressed for though, was to fully understand the literal meaning of “freeze my bum off”. And I CERTAINLY wasn’t dressed for that momentous occasion when I would decide to face my fear of heights (under the influence of Jager bombs) and go on one of that chair o planes rides that go really freakishly high and wide. While I screamed my face off from the cold and the fear that we were going to end up in the river (who puts a swing carousel near the river bank!!!), my skirt flew gaily in the wind, flashing all of Stuttgart and sundry. Altogether, a smashing success of a day!
I love German fairground food. I love its heavy smells and how it settles very happily in my stomach. I love the pork knuckles and the wursts and pretzels and the flour dumplings and the schnitzel and the pastries and I love uttering those mouthful phonetics and failing horribly at pronunciation. Oktoberfests might be crowded, but the whole place is so steeped in beer that it finds its way into you veins and makes you very, very happy. The sun mimics the colours of the brew till you feel like you’re somehow in this massive bierstein.
After we’d had our fill or bier and salty snacks and dizzy rides, we stumbled happily down the streets towards the car park. Giggling, laughing and all until we found the car park locked. Holy crap, talk about a buzzkill. We needed to return to Langeltheim and we couldn’t get to our car. After fretting and trying all kinds of stunts for a good, freezing, half-hour, we tried the intercom that was near the parking lot for the zillionth time. And a woman answered. We told her about our predicament. THANKFULLY SHE SPOKE ENGLISH and thankfully she was very understanding . I had new appreciation for the meaning of gratitude. She came from the hospital and opened the door for us without any fuss or irritation - she told us that we were supposed to carry the parking access card with us - we’d left it in the car. It scans the door open! Gah! We learnt that the hard way. But all was well and a massive cheery moon ushered us back all the way to Langeltheim, chuckling with us over our rather adventurous day. One amen for the road, indeed.