There are a number of nice towns to visit outside the city of Córdoba in Argentina but a trip to Villa General Belgrano doesn’t just mean a lovely scenic journey past lakes, through valleys and into the mountains, it’s also a little pocket of Bavaria that somehow found itself on a mountainside in Argentina. Oh, and this month it’s holding the 2nd largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany.
Villa General Belgrano was founded in the 1930s by two German speculators who had hopes of developing agriculture in the region. Aside from the town’s alpine location, they built houses with typical Bavarian architectural features including gabled red roofs and wooden panelling. The town attracted immigrants from Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria with their Central European customs and delicacies including beer, strudel and leberwurst, tagging along behind. During WWII, a German warship sunk of the coast in the Atlantic and many of the survivors also came to settle in the village. Oktoberfest – or Fiesta Nacional del la Cerveza as it is known in Spanish – was one of the traditional events they re-established and it has been running since the 1960s. It is now one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside Germany.
From September 30 to October 10 the town throws itself into parades, beer-tasting, dancing and all-round merriment. Communities that have influenced the identity of Villa General Belgrano are invited to perform and celebrate along with the rest of the townsfolk. Beer tents are erected and a special stage area is prepared in Brewer Park (Parque Cervecero).
Both national and international beer stands set up shop. Since the national beer Quilmes is as bad as Bud Light and Carling, visitors who have been backpacking in Argentina will delight in tasting the produce of microbreweries. You can round off a good glug of beer with some of the traditional dishes on offer. Fill up on Frankfurt sausages, leber-wurst, smoked pork ribs and chucrut. For pudding there is selva negra cake, a chocolate sponge pudding with cream and morello fruits or apfelstrudel, apple pie with puff pastry.
The general line-up includes a decorative parade through the street led by the Black Monk. Next up is a spigot of the first barrel of beer – it’s considered lucky to catch a drop from this first batch if you can get close enough! There’s also the electing of the National Beer Queen, chosen from 20 applicants who have been pre-selected from around the country.
Things kick off at noon but performances continue well into the night midnight. Dance groups, orchestras, bands and singers from all over the world come to perform at Oktoberfest – the town’s in full swing. The atmosphere is very merry with costumes (men in very short shorts and feathers in their hats) oompah music and beer guzzling.
- 30th, 1st and 2nd entrance fee €5 per day
- 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th entrance fee €10 per day
Villa General Belgrano
Aside from the Oktoberfest celebrations the surrounding area offers great hiking opportunities through the alpine landscape. You collect maps and details at the trusty tourist office in Plaza José Hernández. Hiking through the woods will be a welcome breather for those finding Bavarian kitsch all too much!
You can spend the night at Hostel Tinktinkie, just down the road from Villa General Belgrano. It has shared and private rooms for €10, so you’ll have plenty of beer money left over. Alternatively, bed down in Córdoba in the fun Baluch Backpackers. All the guests love the Argentinean BBQ nights, live music and dance lessons which give the place a lively and friendly atmosphere. You can find another Cordoba hostel here
- Córdoba: 2-hour bus journey, costs €3 and buses leave hourly
- Buenos Aires: 11-hour journey, costs €20 and buses leave daily
- La Cumbrecita: 2-hour journey, costs €3 buses leave daily
Thanks to patricioxxx for the image off Flickr!