The first thing you’ll notice is there’s no way the infrastructure is capable of handling the ludicrous amount of traffic. The second is that despite this, no one’s is urging the car ahead to get a move on nor are they blaring their horns on the regular.

Welcome to the Wörthersee Treffen (‘Treffen’ meaning ‘meeting’ in German), one of the largest car events in the world that pays homage to Volkswagen and three special letters – GTI.

For over three decades, the event has been considered a mecca of sorts for Volkswagen fans and enthusiasts around the world. As was the case years ago, the venue remains unchanged, with the small of town of Reifnitz, on the shore of Lake Wörthersee in Austria, welcoming scores of travellers looking to be a part of the famed meeting.

First time visitors might think that the heavy corporate presence by Volkswagen indicate the annual event was founded by the German automaker, but that is far from the truth. In actuality, the event’s origins has very little input from the German automaker and has more to do with a specific German celebration known as Vatertag, or Father’s Day.

Back in 1981, a group of Golf GTI owners decided to forgo the usual tradition of heading out into the wilderness and drinking themselves silly as part of Father’s Day tradition. Instead, they decided to savour their preferred fermented beverage while also showing off their cars by gathering at said town. This marked the start of the inaugural Treffen, and over the years, the numbers have continued to grow.

The increasing popularity of the event soon caught the eye of Volkswagen, who has since continued to be firm supporters. However, the support goes far beyond just placing a few banners and calling it a day.

For several years now, the brand has given back to its fanatical community by unveiling a number of special and unique vehicles, with the most recent being the stunning Golf GTI TCR Concept.

In past iterations, other brands under the Volkswagen Group umbrella like Audi, Seat and Skoda also flexed their automotive muscles at the event, but that wasn’t the case for this year’s show.

Instead, there’s just the Volkswagen pavilion for the 37th edition greeting visitors as they disembark the jetty – travelling by boat is the preferred way of getting to Reifnitz. Should you prefer to go by road, be prepared to endure a long queue of interesting cars inching their way to the site.

The pavilion itself it is an impressive sight, with a wide array of GTI and motorsports models for fans to get up close with, including a one-off, twin-engined Golf built to take on the 1987 Pikes Peak hillbclimb. There’s also the W12-powered Golf (Top Gear fans will remember this) stacked on top of a Mk1, and many more.

Aside from the cars, there’s no shortage of things to see and do as well. The centre of attention is the main stage, where select fans are given the opportunity to present their love for all things Volkswagen in front of a massive crowd, from personal project cars to unique stories relating to the brand.

This year was particularly special as it marked the first time a Malaysian VW society were given the chance to present something, and Volkswagen Club Malaysia were determined to make a lasting impression on the multi-national audience.

Represented by club president Kevin Tan along with fellow members Adi Irwan Ishak and Richard Tan, the group presented a well-crafted video highlighting the club’s various activities, including track days, go-kart sessions and just cruising around Negaraku (#MYpride).

The end of the video was followed by encouraging applause from the crowd, and then a brief interview for the spectators to get a little more insight into the club. A proud moment for club and country, and a moment that will forever be remembered.

Volkswagen’s acknowledgement of their most loyal fans by giving them a platform to speak up is further emphasised in other areas of the pavilion, whereby projects by various owners are on display, including concepts created by Volkswagen’s apprentices at its Wolfsburg and Zwickau bases.

Of course, while you can spend a lot of time in the pavilion, you’ll want to walk around the town itself, which essentially becomes the world’s most diverse parking lot. Everywhere you look, there is something that will demand your attention, and if you’re curious, an eager person to explain their creation.

There are no set rules about what modifications are deemed acceptable as everyone has their own preferred style. Is that Golf fitted with Lamborghini brakes and Porsche wheels? Yes it is! Why is that Mk1 slammed within milimetres of its life to the ground? Why not? Oh look, a Golf GTI is towing the shell of another Golf GTI! What’s over there? A beautifully restored Mk1 just as Giugiaro designed? The purists will be satisfied.

Regardless of your tastes, you can’t ignore the passion, dedication, time, talent and resources these owners invest to transform their vehicles to represent their own individuality, if not their ability to keep these machines continuously running from the time when A-ha’s Take On Me topped the German charts.

While in the past the vehicles were primarily Golfs, it has since expanded to include models from other makes as well. These can vary from the odd supercar or two, to a classic you never knew existed, and even a tractor. A tractor!

Whether parked by the side of the road, or part of the traffic jam parade (Fandrive) looping on less than a kilometre of tarmac around the town, the vehicle owners present are just pleased to be seen, and if they have a loud exhaust system installed, heard as well.

The chance to brush shoulders and share tales with fans from other countries adds to the warm nature of the event. Vehicles present wore license plates from Italy, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, England and there was even an owner who shipped his Golf all the way from the United States just to drive to the event.

The festivities aren’t just limited to the town of Reifnitz either, as there will be no shortage of cars to gawk at in the other town around lake Wörthersee, as you’ll see shortly.

If you’re a big fan of Volkswagen, or if you’re looking to make a pilgrimage of the automotive nature, the Wörthersee Treffen is certainly one of the things you must do in your lifetime. For further convincing, please refer to the massive gallery we’ve curated from our time there.