. Hollywood, war, romance, and a German Old World Village : Budget Travel Adventures

Hollywood, war, romance, and a German Old World Village

Huntington Beach Oktoberfest Old World Village streets murals shopsMany people love the beaches of southern California and even enjoy a little beer at the Huntington Beach Oktoberfest each year.

However, this German village in Surf City USA is so much more than that.

Sunshine, warm weather, beaches, World War II, bratwurst, beer, a German-American love story, and a taste of Germany. While unusual movie scripts like this are produced in Tinseltown, Hollywood is where this story begins.

Many people don’t think of southern California when they picture Germany.  A Huntington Beach Oktoberfest on the the sunny California shores isn’t what most people picture when it comes to beer, lederhosen, and German culture.  However, you can’t appreciate the Huntington Beach Oktoberfest without understanding its history.

Huntington Beach, California is a long way from Munich, Germany.  However, it may not be as far as you think.

Huntington Beach Oktoberfest Old World Village Huntington Beach Ratskeller German shopsWorld War II, romance, and a German village in California

The roots of German culture in Huntington Beach began in Hollywood.  Not on a screen but in the life of a woman named Dolores.

It was late 1930s and this young woman had an English mother who needed to sell a home in Germany.  Because of her mom’s citizenship, she couldn’t go to Germany.  So Dolores went in her place.  The year was 1939.

After arriving in Germany, World War II began as Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  While the war changed the lives of people throughout the world, this event was unexpected and life changing for Dolores as well.  The start of war meant a new life in Germany which would last quite a few years.

While she was there, she fell in love with the culture of Germany and enjoyed the music, club, and social scene.  While many people throughout the world hated Germany, Dolores fell in love with it – in the middle of a war.  After the war ended, Dolores came back home to Hollywood but packed her love of German culture in her heart.

Huntington Beach Oktoberfest Old World Village Old World Restaurant GermanIn 1952, German developer Josef Bischof made his way to the United States settling on California’s coast.  He had a dream when he moved here – he wanted to bring a piece of his homeland with him.  During these early years, Josef found a partner – he met Dolores in a German club.  With dreams in his head and Dolores’ love of German culture in her heart, they made a perfect team and sought to made Josef’s dream a reality.

Josef was able to find some land in Huntington Beach and set out to build 50 homes and shops in the tradition Bavarian style.  Keeping with tradition, these homes were built above the shops so families who ran the businesses also lived upstairs.  Imported lanterns along cobbled stone streets lead through a path of Bavarian buildings decorated with 70 murals of Europe from 18 different countries.

The vision was to build a typical German village with all the features that people would need.  There was a church built in the middle of the village and a banquet hall for receptions and weddings.  Throughout the village, there was a biergarten and gazebo, restaurants, a market, a motel, and a variety of shops ti purchase things like health foods, collectibles, and German groceries.

In September 1978, Old World Village had its Grand Opening and kicked it off with its first annual Oktoberfest.

Old World Village Huntington Beach European muralOld World Village in Huntington Beach, California

Today, Old World Village is the host of the annual Huntington Beach Oktoberfest.  This year marks the 34th annual event but Old World Village is so much more than a German beer and cultural celebration.

Today, Old World Village is still home to a a real life German village.  While Dolores recently passed away, Josef still lives in the village.  His daughter Cindy and her husband Jason still live here as well.  Their son Bern (known around here as Bernie) also has a home here and is now in charge of keeping the traditions and festivals like Oktoberfest alive.

Life continues here year round.  Each day, a number of Europeans come to the market and shop at the German deli and bakery where people purchase bread and other goods that come from Europe.

Every day, the shops and restaurants at Old World Village are open for business as people can come to enjoy authentic German food and enjoy many of the shops in the village.  When businesses close at the end of the day, many head upstairs above their shops to their homes.

Life doesn’t stop on the weekends.  Baptisms, weddings, and services are still a weekly part of the church as many people have made this their community.  The banquet hall hosts a number of receptions, parties, and concerts.  And beyond the Huntington Beach Oktoberfest each year, there are a number of festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in Old World Village.

In May, Maifest is celebrated with German bands and folk dancers.  A maypole stands in the village symbolizing typical German life.  On the second Sunday in July, “German Heritage Day” celebrates the culture with beer, music, and German food.  Think of it as a mini-Oktoberfest.

Typically, the 3rd Sunday in August celebrates the “Plum Festival” in honor of Dolores’ mother.  “Grossmama”, as she is known, lived in the village until she was 103.  When she was 100, she baked Dolores’ birthday cake – a Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake).  Baked goods with juicy plums honor this birthday tradition along with music and folk dancers.

Huntington Beach Oktoberfest Old World Village Huntington Beach Apple Strudel food shopsGerman dreams come true

Life at Old World Village is not your usual scene on the sun soaked beaches in Huntington Beach.  It’s not even your typical American one.  Bavarian life has come to California and made a home here.

Just a few miles from here, Disneyland may be the place where dreams come true.  However, Old World Village is where German dreams came true for Josef and Dolores Bischof.  And for those here in southern California, Old World Village welcomes visitors and locals alike with a hearty ‘Guten tag!’

A German-American love story born from World War II and dreams of a German village on a southern California beach.  It may not be a Hollywood script but it’s only fitting Hollywood is where it all started.

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  1. Wow, this is such fascinating history. I knew (vaguely) that Huntington Beach had a large German population, but I never knew why.
    Technosyncratic Travel recently posted..Monthly Travel Budget: Sept. 2011 (England, Malta, Germany)My Profile

  2. Andrew says:

    Hmm. I know there are a few of these little villages around the US. The one I know in Georgia is pretty freaking kitschy though. Though reading that she was interested in replicating the Bavarian style helps give light to why Americans seem to equate Bavaria with all of Germany. Just like a lot of Europeans think everyone from the US are Texans.
    Andrew recently posted..Titisee, SchwartzwaldMy Profile

    • Well to be fair, Josef Bischof was from Bavaria and he wanted to create a German village that represented Bavaria since he was from that area. I know Bavaria is the romantic side of Germany that most people envision. In this case, it really is authentic. Even the German bands that played at Oktoberfest were from the same town as Josef Bischof – Wurzburg. The vision for this was Josef’s when he moved to the US from Germany. Dolores just had a love of Germany as well so she was happy to be a part of it. It’s a great story though!

  3. Christina says:

    What a story! I had no idea there was a Bavarian village in Huntington Beach! As a native Bavarian I am truly intrigued and will make sure to visit whenever I get to go to California on holiday. And they even celebrate Maifest. Very traditional. I would love to see that!
    Christina recently posted..Discovering Vancouver: Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese GardenMy Profile

    • I had no idea you were Bavarian? Where are you from? Do you know the town that Josef is from? The village is pretty authentic and very interesting. I had no idea this existed in HB and this story was fascinating.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Are you in Huntington Beach or the LA area right now??!
    Jennifer recently posted..Portland Vacation Attraction – Allure of the AutomobileMy Profile

  5. Your best post!! Well done! What an interesting story, to set up a piece of your own homeland in a foreign country. I bet the Oktoberfest celebrations are good!
    John in France recently posted..Auvers sur Oise – Dining with Vincent Van GoghMy Profile

  6. Leslie says:

    Who needs to travel to Germany? You can get a taste in your backyard ;)
    Leslie recently posted..Photo Essay: Berlin street art celebrates Marlon Brando, Little Lucy and an infamous kissMy Profile

  7. This reminds us so much of Leavenworth near Seattle!
    Shirlene from Idelish recently posted..{USA} Luxurious Grand Wailea in MauiMy Profile

  8. Laurel says:

    Very cool! I never would have expected to find a piece of Bavaria in Huntington Beach. Is it well known in the area? I can see how a lot of people would be interested in this, visiting Germany, without actually going to Germany.
    Laurel recently posted..Photo Journey to the Munich ResidenzMy Profile

    • Apparently, it is popular with a lot of Europeans as many come here every day to do their shopping at the market to get stuff they can’t get in the US. Since it has been around for 30 years, I think a lot of people know about it but many may not be aware of this story or the details of how it came about. My wife is from the area and she knew it was there but didn’t know much about it.

  9. Deb says:

    What a charming story and what a wonderful way to keep the love story and the memory of Delores alive. Octoberfest is going in the next town of Kitchener here in Ontario close to where my parents live. It is alive and well and Kitchener actually has the largest Octoberfest outside of Bavaria.
    However, it doesn’t have the charm of Old World Village. I look forward to visiting this place the next time we are in California. Thanks for sharing the story.

    • Thanks Deb! It’s amazing how we learn about places like this and the stories behind them when we travel. It’s what makes travel come alive. And who knew Kitchener would have the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich? Would love to hear that story!

  10. robin says:

    There are other examples of this kind of reconstruction in the US and I’ve heard people dismiss them as kitsch and inauthentic but I find them touching – someone from the mother country trying to recreate it in their new adopted home. Great post.
    robin recently posted..El IdiomaMy Profile

    • I thought this story was fantastic so I had to share it. Once I heard about the efforts, the romance, and the dream of building a place like this, I was excited to be a part of this place. I had no idea so many Germans had an impact like this on the communities and towns in America.

  11. Suzy says:

    I had no idea Huntington Beach had a little German town as well! Very interesting, especially how it started.
    Suzy recently posted..My Airline Broke Up With Me: The Importance of Airlines Flying The Friendly SkiesMy Profile

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