This past weekend I had the opportunity to go the Oktoberfest with my host family. I was aware that there was an influence of German culture in the part of Brazil that I was, but I wasn’t expecting to see what I actually saw.
My host family operates a transportation business. They own two vans that have “Escolar” written on the side, meaning that they are designated by the state as only being able to take kids to and from school. However, for non-school transportation, such as Oktoberfest, one has to get a special form off the Internet and then fill it out with the names of the passengers you’ll be taking and where you are taking them. The reason for this is because the government is then able to charge you a certain amount based on what you make off for transporting those people.
My family had to go through this process as they were taking a group of Brazilians who came from Brasília to Oktoberfest. The exact location of “oktober” as it was called by the majority of Brazilians I spoke to was in Blumenau. Nicknamed the “Alemanha tropical” (tropical Germany), and for good reason, it was about a two-hour drive from Florianópolis. The highlight of the ride there was going through a town known ONLY for selling lingerie and bikinis. It was amusing to literally see store after store only selling lingerie and bikinis.
Upon entering Blumenau it was clear why it was nicknamed “Alemanha tropical”. It literally felt like I was back in Germany. The buildings, the way the streets were laid out, and the people, the people! Overwhelmingly German looking. It took me about 15 minutes to realize I wasn’t in Germany.
Once we dropped everyone off in the van at their hotel we made our way to the pre-party downtown. It was a congregation of drinking, amazing weather, and German songs intertwined with samba beats. I had my share fair share of “chopp’s”, Portuguese for draft beer, which in fact is more common than bottled beer.
Oktoberfest itself was impressive. It takes place in this massive park called “Parque Vila Germânica”. Before entering, my family and I conjured up a plan so that we wouldn’t have to pay to enter. Given that my family, specifically the mom and her friend, were licensed to do transportation they didn’t have to pay. Not sure how that worked and wasn’t really in a state to question how. When reaching the entrance I pretended to be their American tourist guide and they did all the talking. I just nodded my head whenever the employees would look at me. I pulled off a hell of an acting job because I was let in for free!
Inside there were three massive stages with live bands. The music was German influenced and the type of dancing that ensued reflected that. It was a massive party that went on until 5 am. My poooooor American body only managed to stay upright until 1:00ish – still getting used to going out at a time when I would normally be getting home in the States. On the way out I experienced my first cachorro quente (hot dog), one of the most popular lanches in Brazil . I’m super simple when it comes to eating hot dogs: Mustard. Hot dog. Bun. However, the cachorro quentes here come with a different condiment formula: peas, corn, and little French fries. Not my cup of tea, especially peas, but it was satisfying nonetheless.
All in all being able to experience two cultures at the same time was a unique experience. To say German and Brazilian customs juxtapose one another would be an understatement. Yet, Blumenau managed to make it work.
Cheers! Saúde! Prost!