Kunshan is not the first place you’d associate with the Oktoberfest. In fact, you’d be doing well to even find it on the map. The birthplace of Kun opera, Kunshan is a self styled “charming water city” located halfway between Shanghai and Suzhou. Like many other provincial towns that tout their supposed canal strewn streets, it is in fact just another modern, generic and souless city, eager for investment, and hungry for development.
To this end, the savvy local government has realized what a city of the future really needs. That’s right, an Oktoberfest. So it was to the sound of beer mugs clinking and lederhosen rustling, that Shanghaiist attended the very first Kunshan International Beer Festival.
Munich it ain’t. The atmosphere was more family carnival than drunken debauchery. Not once did we get approached by an overly familiar fraulein. Well not a German one anyway. However there was plenty of Hofbrau and Erdinger (if you’re into weissbier, personally Shanghaiist feels it tastes like that terrible tasting medicine you had to take as a kid). The beer was washed down with a smattering of sauerkraut and an absolute paucity of wurst (where were the jellied white or black meat sausages?). The less than authentic food would not have sated a hungry Bavarian.
With empty stomachs, we staggered out into the maelstrom of curious Chinese families who had come to see what all the oompah was about. Stumbling between tarpaulin and carpet, Shanghaiist emerged to a house of horrors. Well, the gleering clown faces and cacophony of noise made it seem so.
The rest of the night was nothing but a beery blur, full on pretzels and high on brau. Waking up the next morning, it was difficult to piece together the night before. But the real puzzle was, where the hell did the stuffed Garfield toy come from?
Kunshan International Beer Festival, 17-25 September. Daily 6-11 pm. VIP tickets RMB 180. Tel: (86 21) 6875 8536 ext. 1647. Email: [email protected]. See website for transport information.
Photo by Simon Ostheimer.