Cordoba. A city full of things, which I had no interest in doing. It’s got churches and art galleries, museums and parks, all of which I am sure are pleasant enough, but then most cities in South America offer exactly the same thing and I am yet to be convinced that Cordoba offers anything particularly more. It did have one thing to tempt me to change my plans and head there instead of Mendoza…a beer festival!
Yep, Cordoba hosts the third largest Oktoberfest in the world, which for someone who has always fancied going to Germany for it, is a decent pull. Throw in a token German in Arne, who was like a child at Christmas and how could I say no. The early signs were good. Oktoberfest actually takes place at a small village called Villa General Belgrano. Founded in 1930 by some German agriculturists, it picked up more Germans after the sinking of one of their ships during WW2 and became a little Germany within Argentina. Being an hour and a half away from Cordoba, it would seem logical that the village would be full to the rafters and instead we decided to stay in Cordoba and journey to and from the festival on the same day. Except, Cordoba also apparently sold out. On Friday we had no accommodation. Everything online and any we went past were all full for the weekend.
After almost settling for a guy’s tent on a concrete floor, with no sleeping bag and after two days of searching we found one place, which would house us. It was only then that we realised that over the ten days, more than one hundred thousand people visit for Oktoberfest. It had to be good right?
Well it was a mixed bag. On the one hand it was hilarious, in part due to being with Arne, whose dream of going to an Oktoberfest was quickly quashed. As far as we could tell, the German inhabitants are now long gone and instead they’ve left a festival, which seems more akin to mocking Germany than celebrating its heritage. Thousands upon thousands of people crowded around the streets with what they think are German hats (viking helmets are frequent), clothes loyal to their adopted country (kilts are fine), German beer holders and of course steins. Some sit around on the streets drinking, with their families and young children watching proudly. Others venture inside to the festival itself and enjoy the main stage offerings of men in lederhosen with dark hair and women in platform shoes dancing to non-German songs, including a couple of British WW2 tracks. There is not a blonde German in sight. German beer and food is kind of served alongside that well known German and indeed Argentinian beer, Heineken. At one point we were past by a group cycling contraption, with Argentinians looking very proud and waving the German flag. I laughed a lot, but then Arne hung his head and confirmed that that was probably the only German thing he’d seen at the festival and was not looked upon with any love in his native Hamburg.
Despite its randomness, It did provide a good opportunity to speak to lots of Argentinians. Cordoba has a large student population, many of whom speak English. It only added to the amusement that on the whole, they genuinely believed that this was Oktoberfest and to a lesser extent Germany. Seeing so many people celebrating a country in such a bizarre way made it worth the hassle getting accommodation and when Arne wasn’t crying in shame, then he was laughing, because neither of us will see anything quite like that again.