What is it?The Wörthersee GTI-Treffen is a huge car festival in Austria. It was originally aimed at Golf GTI enthusiasts but is open to anything from the VAG stable. 2012 marks the 31st anniversary, and it shows no sign of ever stopping! Over 140,000 enthusiasts drive to it from all over Europe, it’s a huge celebration of modern European car tuning culture.
Where is it?The event is centred around Lake Wörth (Wörthersee) in the Maria Wörth region of Austria. The focal point is the small town of Reifnitz, which expands massively for the duration of the event, but there’s plenty to see all around the lake.
When is it?This year it is earlier than in recent years, it begins on 8th May and runs through to the 11th. The date is tied in with Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt). Plenty of people make a full week of it though and arrive the Saturday before, so if you get there early there is still plenty to keep you occupied during the build up.
How do I get tickets? How much are they?There are two types of ticket - car tickets and individual person tickets. You can only buy the car tickets in advance off the web site, and these let you through the entry-checkpoints to drive in to Reifnitz.
The official page with prices is here, run it through Google Translate if you don't understand!
If you haven't got one of the car passes then you can park up in the car parks near to the entry points. You can buy individual person passes that last for the day or for the event for a few Euros. Don't worry too much about the car pass, there are shuttle buses that run from all over the place and will take you directly in for a few Euros, or you can get a boat from various points around the lake.
What happens there?Cars. Lots and lots of cars. Cruises and convoys around the lake. Fantastic beer. Lovely women. Great food. Great weather (more often than not). Amazing views. What more could you want? Well, there’s plenty of dodgy European techno music, rock/metal cover bands, motorcycle stunt riders, burnouts, bikini car-washes, crazy Europeans…
I want to fly there – where do I go?If you’re flying then the best place to go is Klagenfurt. This is a short distance away from the lake and is the nearest decent-size town, if you can hire a car then you’ll have an easy time of it.
I want to drive there – how far is it, what’s the best route, what’s along the way?It really depends on what you want to do. From the Channel Tunnel it is about 830 miles, but if you don’t mind paying for toll routes then it can be a bit quicker. We typically break the journey down over two days, stopping off for a night somewhere along the way. Stuttgart is ideal as there you can visit the Porsche and Mercedes Benz museums. Also notable is the hugely fascinating collection of cars and aircraft at Sinsheim.
Where can I stay?Anywhere around the lake will do – the main centres are Reifnitz and Velden, but if you are in Pörtschach or anywhere else you’ll still see plenty of action in the evenings if you don’t go in to Reifnitz. Hotels and B&Bs are always massively booked up well in advance but it’s still worth a go. There’s LOTS of camping, most of the grass/fields around the area are taken up with it but it’s worth looking up some places to try online and reserving a spot in advance.
What’s the camping like?Noisy. Chaotic. Drunken, but generally well-behaved. Great fun! A word of advice though, campsites with “FKK” in the name are Nudist sites. Yes, really. For the festival they usually have a separate area for the GTI-fans so you can stay clothed, but you still stand a chance of encountering dodgy 80-year-old Austrian flesh as you wander to the shower block in the morning.
What’s to see and do?In Reifnitz you’ll find large Volkswagen and Audi official areas with all the new models on display. Skoda and Seat had a much larger presence last year than in the past too. VW often have something special to unveil to the crowd, a few years ago it was the mad W12-powered Golf. There’s a trade hall with companies selling accessories, wheels, interior parts and things, large beer/food areas all around the place, an endless (but very slow ‘cos of the crowds) stream of cars parading through the streets, and tens of thousands of people.
If you have transport then go for a drive around the lake, via the Shell Garage in Velden (virtually a mini car show in itself). You’ll spend hours sat in traffic queues so make sure your cooling system is top notch, it’s a great way to see the sights and be part of it all.
If you are staying in one of the other towns around the lake, and the weather is good and you fancy leaving the car back at base then get a speedboat-taxi across to Reifnitz. It’s great fun and good value for money. When you get off in Reifnitz you can buy your wrist-pass for the day to let you into the town.
There is entertainment on the main stage in Reifnitz in the evenings, but it’s very, well, European… The atmosphere is great but many people prefer to drag a crate of beer and a deckchair to the side of the road near their hotel/campsite and watch the cars go by. If you find a decent spot you’ll see lots of cars stopping to do burnouts in the road, usually encouraged and cheered by the crowds - until the Police arrive to quieten things down anyway…
If you are there in the week running-up to the main event then look out for some of the pre-show meetings. A fair few forum-clubs organise their own mini-meets around the place and there is always something good to see. Lots of them go home before the main festival so it could be your only chance to see some of the most spectacular motors!
What are the Police like?In our experience they are polite but abrupt, well mannered but firm. They don’t mess about, there are loads of them, and they are armed. The Austrian Army are also drafted in to help, don’t mess with them. If you’re driving then keep all your documents with you in the car, and make sure they are up to date and you have the correct insurance etc. There’s a good chance you’ll get stopped and checked, especially at night when they are extra wary of drink drivers and street racing.
I don’t speak German, will I be OK?You’ll be fine. Make an effort to learn a bit of the language or at least pick up key words along the way though, it’ll take you far. Anyone under the age of about 35 will probably be very keen to test their English out on you, which helps a lot!
Do I need to do anything with my car?As already mentioned you should keep all your documents with you. Don't forget the usual euro-stuff like headlamp beam deflectors etc. If you’re running German-style plates then expect to get pulled by confused officers, especially if your car is left hand drive. Keep your headlamps on in the daytime, and don’t speed. There are radar-traps all over the place to catch the unwary or those that get carried away. If you’ve got aircon then make sure it is all working properly, and you will possibly be spending hours sat in traffic if you drive around on the main days so the cooling will have to be all in order. Carry a warning triangle, and a fluorescent jacket/tabard to wear if you break down. You’ll need a bulb kit too.
What’s the weather like?In our experience it’s wise to expect very heavy rain at some point that will dry up rapidly once over (camp sites get very muddy!), and it often gets very hot. We have seen 44 degrees on the dash of our car, so keep plenty of water with you if you drive anywhere and get stuck in a jam!
Some of the people coming aren’t interested in the cars, is there anything else to do?
Lake boatsYou can get to Reifnitz from Pörtschach or Velden by taking a speedboat taxi across the lake, it’s great fun and doesn’t cost much per person. If you want a more leisurely experience then there are larger tour boats that take a few hours going from place to place, definitely a good way to relax!
The PyramidenkogelThe Pyramidenkogel is a very tall viewing platform that looks out across the whole area and on a clear day gives the most spectacular views. If you are afraid of heights then it probably isn’t for you but it really is worth a visit. During the week there are often small forum or club meetings in the car park, you stand a good chance of seeing some spectacular cars that you might not see again! It’s quite a steep and winding drive up there so if your clutch is marginal then take care.
Mini MundusThe Mini Mundus is a model village in Klagenfurt. We've never been ourselves but it looks as though there's plenty there to keep non-car people entertained for a while!
Swimming and SunbathingAlways a good way to pass the time. There are plenty of places around the lake to jump in for a swim and it’s a refreshing way to escape the heat.
Where do you recommend to eat?There are loads of restaurants and cafes around the area, particularly in Pörtschach and Velden. Our personal favourite is Ciao Ciaos, which is just outside of Pörtschach. Gorgeous Pizzas at good prices, good service too. It gets very busy so get there early if you can, you’ll see it as you approach by the cars spilling out onto the road because the car park is often rammed full.
In Reifnitz on a show day we recommend the Volkswagen stand itself, down by the lake – you can’t miss it. You buy tokens from the staff and then exchange them for food at the counter. The Currywurst is gorgeous, it’s the genuine Volkswagen stuff too that you normally only get in Wolfsburg! Cheap and filling, lovely.
If you like garlic, or want to see someone suffer a fiery garlic fate then buy a Langos… Not really recommended but you have to try one at some point! There’s usually a stall near the bridge over the river opposite the trade area in Reifnitz. If you’re there for the evening and have had a drink or two then definitely try it!
Any top tips?
ShoppingThere are plenty of supermarkets around the area, and there’s one in Reifnitz (this gets busy on the main days!) but if you’ve managed to rent a house or want to stock up with shopping then your best bet is the big EuroSpar in Klagenfurt. It should have everything you need!
Keep your empty beer bottlesIf you buy crates of bottled beer in supermarkets then remember that you can take the bottles back for a partial refund. You put them into a machine (usually near the entrance to the drinks section) and a receipt is printed with a bar code on that you can use at the checkout. The amount you get back depends on the type of bottle, it’s definitely worth doing, and you can take them to any supermarket – it doesn’t matter where you bought them from.
Seecups – don’t lose the tokensIf you buy yourself a beer in Reifnitz from one of the stalls it’ll come in a plastic cup with a Wörthersee print on it, in past years they have been transparent but last year they were white, you may get either. You can take these back to any stand that serves them for a partial refund (or discount on your next one) when you have finished, but don’t lose the little plastic token that they give you or they probably won’t pay out!
Take change for the toiletsOn the main days in Reifnitz there are loads of toilet facilities around the place, they have an attendant outside and they are almost always immaculate and well stocked. It’s usually 20 cents to use them, so it’s worth holding on to any 20c coins you get as change in shops etc, saves messing around trying to figure out what all the different Euro coins are when you’re desperate to go!
GTI FMWhen you’re out cruising around the lake in your car, or sat in your camp site, tune your radio to GTI-FM, the radio station for the festival. The music will definitely give you the atmosphere of the party, and if you speak any of the language it’s full of information that may come in useful. You can listen to it streaming through the website to give you an idea of what to expect, but during the festival there are live DJs and news/traffic/competitions.
Fuel pricesIf you’re there for the week then fill your tank up before the main days as the prices at all the stations in the area seem to go up overnight. They certainly do at the main Shell station in Velden and the queues are massive there throughout anyway.
Good question! I think I've covered most things... If you have any specific questions then get in touch and I'll try to answer as best as I can, and if it's anything that should be in this FAQ then it'll get added in!