It doesn’t make any sense.
Thousands upon thousands of people and cars, driving from all across Europe to visit a township two weeks before one of the largest single-model car shows in the world, only to leave before the show itself actually starts. I’ve been to Wörthersee three times over the last few years, but I couldn’t tell you if the Wörthersee GTI Treffen event is any good. I’ve never been. I don’t even know anyone who has.
For the most part, we often explain Wörthersee to our non-car friends as a road trip to get some fuel at a service station in Austria, only to turn around and come home again. It sounds ludicrous, and it pretty much is. There’s no point trying to rationalise it, as it won’t hold up to any logical scrutiny.
It doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most incredible automotive (non) events that happens anywhere in the world.
The casual nature of Wörthersee results in a very relaxed affair. Throughout the day there’s a constant stream of cars driving between the towns around Lakes Wörth and Faak. These are people just out for a drive with friends, or looking for somewhere to hang out. Over the years, certain locations have become hotspots for people to assemble, and there’s none more popular than the ENI gas station outside the town of Velden.
In fact, this station has become synonymous with Wörthersee and is often the first location that people think of. As such, it’s become a natural point of congregation. On one hand, this is great as if you want to see everything. You can just pitch up your camping chair at the side of street and let the cars come to you.
On the other hand, the volume of traffic and people through the area have become an issue for those living in the locality. While most out-of-town attendees are well behaved, there are always those who seemingly can’t control their impulses. In recent years, barriers have been erected at the side of the road to prevent cars from parking, severe speed-ramps installed to slow traffic right down, and a heavy police presence which has become renowned for their zero tolerance to anything. They will find you, and they will fine you.
Where some see problems, others see opportunities. Local shops introduce paid parking for however long the cars are in town for, at the princely sum of €10/$12 per hour. The ENI station itself embraces the potential business by organising itself to prepare for the huge volume of traffic that will pass through its forecourt, either for fuel or a car wash. The otherwise empty car park is converted into a temporary and fenced-off show area where people pay €20/$24 to exhibit their vehicles. Public access to view is free of charge. For now, at least.
Day or night, rain or shine, you can guarantee that there’s going to be a strong presence around Velden’s ENI in the weeks leading up to the official GTI meeting. What likely started as something simple between small groups of enthusiasts has become the way to experience Wörthersee for decades. How this fuel station has become a symbol of European car culture is nothing more than a happy accident. Still, provided they continue to embrace the influx of modified VW Group cars from out of town, there’s no reason to think that it won’t remain as such for years to come.
Plus, they have 98RON. Which is always a bonus.Gas, Gas, Baby