‘ Our philosophy in this festival is simple: we want to make people happy. We all work hard and have our long list of ‘to do’s.’ However Austrians also have the right to smile, to love, to celebrate and to enjoy life. It’s too short. We want to invite people from all over the world and show our traditions.’
Claudia Wiesn. Founder of the Wiener Wiesn Festival.
To smile. To love. To celebrate life. To celebrate identity. To celebrate our roots. To celebrate traditions. Old and new. To have fun.
These themes have been a hallmark of all the festivals I have visited this summer.
Rotterdam Unlimited was a colourful, passionate celebration of the country’s afro-carribbean diaspora.
Nights of Old Ljubljana Town showcased the rich vein of multiculturalism that runs through the city.
Galway Oyster Festival. For one weekend in late September, locals and tourists marked the beginning of the harvesting season in riotous fashion, drinking copious amounts of their beloved guinness and eating the tastiest oysters known to mankind.
Nothing has changed much about the spirit and fashion we celebrate festivals in the modern era. Or have modern day festivals lost their relevance and purpose?
Lets pause and think about this. Festivals, as long as they have existed, have the key purpose of uniting people from all walks of society. For a few days , we suspend reality. We can watch films for 24 hours in constant daylight or are entertained by world class comedians after a day of snowboarding or maybe go to a music festival that also doubles up as an art festival . The opportunities are endless. All festivals involve at some point copious amount of alcohol via which we able to reach that fabled land of extreme euphoria. We dance with strangers all night as if they were old friends. We pass out at some point into a peaceful slumber.
Festivals have always been about having ‘fun.’ Maybe the context has changed.
We live in a world ridden with civil wars, endless boundaries and invisible walls. There is a growing loss of the physical sense of community.
More than ever we feel the need to reach out. Feel connected. Leave our mobile devices behind and search for a more authentic ‘real’ world. Embrace the unknown and open our mind. Return to a forgotten world.Revive, relive traditions that connect us to the cycles of history and nature. Find the link from the present to the past.
Wiener Wiesn is like any other festival. Based purely on the tradition of having fun. However it also celebrates the fun of having traditions.
I visited the festival on the last weekend of the event. Friday night.
What is it like I hear you say….
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest ? It’s a bit HAPPY MAD like that.
A fantastic atmosphere. Litre tankards of beer being chugged down by locals in lederhosen and dirndls. Huge colourful tents with pretzel decor. Plus of course sweaty Austrians dancing on the benches.
Not only in the hills and valleys but the grounds of the Prater come alive with the sound of music. Folk music to be precise. With over 250 hours of live music, this is Austria’s biggest folk music festival.
Held in the Prater against the timeless backdrop of Vienna’s giant ferris wheel you have a memorable setting with a host of patios, three major tents, and 2 stages set up for the festivities.
On the first night I walked into the largest tent of the three major tents, the Gösser tent.
It’s decorated in green and white with pretzels.
There are rows of tables as far as my eye can stretch. There is a huge stage with a band playing traditional Austrian drinking songs. The Schlager style music is not to everyone’s taste. Even though I am stone cold sober, my heart warms to the swaying hoard of drunken Wieners of all ages dressed in Trachten.
They are all singing along to Reinhard Fendrich’s pop anthem, I am From Austria. A song I have never heard before but by the end of the night, I have hummed, yodelled and yelled every syllable of.
This year’s theme was “Golden Austria” which meant that everyday, visitors could see the federal provinces of Austria showing off their customs, cuisine and music on the new festival stage at the Wiesndorf festival site.
Diversity is key here. This year the festival celebrated the second “Pink Wiener Wiesn-Fest” for the gay-lesbian community in their Wojnar tent.
The other cool thing here is the variety of food stalls. You could try a wide variety of Austrian cuisine ranging from Wiener Schnitzel to Brettljause.
And unlike in Bavaria, it’s not all about the bier. While Gösser is sponsoring the event, there is lots of wine – Wiesn, Vienna style.
Besides the traditional spritzer, you’ve can sample the “Uhudler” , a speciality from the south of Burgenland. This yellow pink wine is made from old hybrid vines. It tastes delicious : think strawberry or blackcurrent juice.
Then there is the music. Brass music bands from different regions play at the traditional Frühschoppen at lunchtime. It’s hauntingly beautiful and makes me nostalgic listening to the bands.
If you are planning to come to Wiener Weisn fest, there are a few cracking warm-up events that I recommend you don’t miss out.
If you strike a pretty pose in a dirndl and equally fine at decorating your Lebkuchenherzen ( Gingerbread Hearts) then consider entering the annual Miss Wiener Wiesn contest, in which the contestants will be judged on their beer mug lifting ability and also singing karaoke to the Heidi song (Heidi –Deine Welt sind die Berge). Perfect festival then guys to meet your future wife.
If that wasn’t enough to send your pulses racing, then there is also the Dirndlfliegen (flying Dirndl) event at Laarbergbad. Women and men donning Dirndls take creative dives off the five-metre diving board. The prize? Winners received free tickets and drinks coupons for the Wiener Wiesn event itself.
Altogether, it is a fun few days plus you are in one of the most romantic and beautiful capitals in the world. Wiener Wiesn is refreshing alternative to the madness and crowds of Oktoberfest.
So after a summer of festivals my personal conclusion is that nothing much has changed about Festivals.
Their purpose is still the same. Having fun. Letting go of yourself. Just the context has changed. The world has changed and keeps changing. My opinion of festivals has changed for the better.
Before this summer of festivals,I would leave festivals in a ceremonial hangover. Now, by embracing this new world of offbeat and lesser known festivals , I have become more open, mindful of the world around me.
So here’s a toast to this new exciting world of festivals. Another toast to a wiser, worldly me. Long may it continue.
From 27 September to 7 October the Kaiserwiese in the Prater transforms into an alternative fairground of 3 Bierzelte (beer tents) long tables crammed with beer, Schnitzel, pretzels and Würstl.
This is a child friendly event, but it is recommended not to bringing them to events after dark when things starts getting a little out of control.
During the day, from 11.30 am to 6pm, admission to the Wiener Wiesn-Fest is free. On Mondays and Tuesdays it is free all day.
The Wiesn-Fest Party, with three hours of live music, starts at 6.30 pm. The party tickets costed €39 per person when booking a table and €44 per person for a single ticket. The tickets can be purchased in advance or on the gate. In addition to the three festival tents, everyone can enjoy free entertainment in the Wiesn Village: at the open-air festival stage, in the ORF Alpine Hut, in the Winzer-Stadl for wine-lovers, in the hayloft, and in another Alpine hut.
For a more detailed music program check
Through till 7 Oct.
Kaiserwiese (Next to the Prater Planetarium)
2., Prater 90
Where to stay in Vienna
While not in the heart of the old town, I can recommend to you the Meininger Hotel Downtown Franz in Vienna. It’s a few metro stops from the city centre. The Metro station is a pleasant 10 minute walk from the hotel. Hotel itself is clean, comfortable, nice design and affordable compared to city centre hotels. There is a nice lounge for guests to relax and a small bar. If you are looking to save money, guests can make use of a well equipped kitchen. Staff are friendly and helpful. Wifi works throughout the building and is great. The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is for an extra €5.90 and is a great way to start the day. Doubles start from €60 mark while a bed in a 6 bed room starts at just €14.
My other recommendation would be the Wombats Hostels in Naschmarkt.
I visited the festival as part of the Must Love Festivals project, a collaborative blogging project aimed at raising awareness of cool, lesser known festivals across Europe. Many thanks to Meininger Hotels, Visit Austria and Vienna Tourism Board for supporting my trip and the Must Love Festivals project. Plus huge thank you to Wiener Wiesn Festival for the invitation. As always the views represented here are entirely my own and completely unbiased.