Octoberfest – Cincinnati

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is worth the visit. Since its beginning in 1975 it has grown to hosting over 500,000 people and is advertised as “America’s largest Octoberfest.” This year it was held on Friday September 19 through Sunday, September 21. There is plenty of German food consisting of bratwurst, sauerkraut, sausages, potato pancakes, soft pretzels, cream puffs, strudel, jumbo pickles German potato salad, Limburger cheese, pigtails, and pickled pigs feet. If the food is not to your taste, then perhaps you will want to try dancing in the street by participating in the annual Chicken Dance, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in 1995-97. There is plenty of beer and other refreshments for children along with many vendors.

Picture of band

Picture of Ocktoberfest in Cincinnati

We had a great time visiting and enjoying the food, but when it came time for the Chicken Dance, my young teenage daughter did not want to be captured in the news doing any of those moves.

About a dozen years ago, Cincinnati celebrated its history as the “pork capital of the world” by commissioning the creation of pig statues. You may still find some in businesses and around Cincinnati. Look for them the next time you are there to celebrate Oktoberfest.

Picture of pig sculptureCincinnati2102913

Colonia Tovar

In 1843, approximately 391 German men and women from Baden were recruited to settle the down called Golonia Tovar, Venezuela. Colonia Tovar was named after its benefactor, Manuel Felipe Tovar, the Count of Tovar. For nearly 100 years they remained isolated in the mountains of Venezuela with their only outlet through a river to Caracas. During their first hundred years they remained isolated, building town’s architecture, its culture, food and celebrations after their German traditions. During the later half of the 20th century, they have inter-married with native Venezuelans and adopted Spanish as their official language. However, if you visit you will still see the strong imprint of Germany in the mountains of South America. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income. According to Wikipedia is one of the richest towns in Venezuela as measured by quality of life.

My wife had the good fortune to visit Venezuela when it was relatively safe for US citizens to travel there. We took a bus through the Caracas and out into the mountains. Along the way we saw the congestion of the city and the poverty surrounding it on the hillside just on the fringes of the city. From that point on we had a beautiful drive into the mountains when we arrived at this oasis of German culture. We hadn’t heard of it before our trip, and certainty didn’t expect to find a pre-World War II settlement of Germans.

The first thing we noticed was the architecture, it was clearly a picture of rural Germany. The second thing we noticed were the surnames of the people and street signs. It was an interesting blend of German and Venezuelan cultures which sometime caught us off guard, for example, seeing German buildings and food and hearing Spanish.

It seemed like a “Garden of Eden.” The flowers were beautiful, the town was spotless, people friendly and the food great.

Picture of German HotelPicture of German Church

Indiana Covered Bridge Festival

My wife and I took a vacation day to attend the Indiana Covered Bridge Festival in mid October 2013. The festival primarily covered three Indiana towns, Bridgeton, Mansfield, and Rockville. Each town had its own festival characteristics. Bridgeton was more like a tent city with few permanent structures and unpaved roads. Mansfield consisted of a combination of many tents and many more physical structures, including some historic buildings with about two paved roads. Rockville’s festival was integrated into a formal town with some tents that were interspersed on the sidewalks.

Picture of vendor stalls

Picture of large tent with vendors

Picture of vendors

Picture of horse

Mansfield and Bridgeton had covered bridges and grist mills. The Bridgeton Bridge had burned down as the result of arson but was rebuilt in 2006. It is no longer connected to the road that passes through town and now sits silently next to a new roadway bridge. The Bridgeton mill was the most interesting because you take the stairs to its three floors viewing the machinery on each level. It represented a time when the nation was becoming industrialized. The internal operation of the mill was made with wood, leather and metal components that I suspect were assembled on site.

Picture of Bridgeton Mill

Picture of red covered bridge

Picture of red covered bridge

Picture of front of Mansfield bridge

Picture of food vendorThe bridges and mills didn’t seem to be the focal point for most people. They were more interested in the dozens of eateries, and shopping. Some of the food was hearty fare including ham, beans, and corn bread. Another example was chicken soup with a side of mashed potatoes with gravy, and a role; how’s that for starch? Most of the rest of the food was typical of a carnival with staples of elephant ears, soft pretzels, ice cream, fudge, fried chicken and vegetables.

The shopping was interesting. Some of the products were made by hand. These items included hats, rugs, wooden signs, wood carved by chain saws into animal figures, potpourri, ceramics, and architectural wonders made of metal. Other products look like they came from companies dumping their inventories, like socks and work or garden gloves lined up in boxes by the dozens. Other vendors sold inexpensive costume jewelry, plastic puzzle lights and knock off perfumes and purses. Some of the more unusual items were animal hides and tools.

Take time to sample the local seasonal customs and celebrations they can be fun.