You ever get the feeling that people celebrate wherever you go? I’m not talking about people smiling when you announce you’re leaving – I get that a lot. But I’m talking about thousands of people coming together with you in a celebration of you being there. Well it feels that way whenever I’m in Munich.
I’ve been here before, as you may recall. On my mystery trip I ended up in Munich for Oktoberfest. Now I’m not claiming that Oktoberfest was just for me. Clearly that’s not the case. But it did kinda lose some of its oomph (but not it’s oompapa) when I left. Or so I hear.
Now I’m back in Munich and come to find out there is another beerfest coinciding with my arrival. The Starkbierfest or Strong Beer Festival, is to be held the weekend I’m here at the Paulaner am Nockherberg Brewery, just a stones throw from town. These are semi regular events but I highly suspect that they plan them around the schedules of visiting dignitaries and soon-to-be-legends like myself.
So I walked along Fraunhoferstraße which turns into Ohlmüllerstraße across the river on the way to the festival. It’s a pretty cool street. Record shops. Antique shops. Place to get what look like real dirndls. But why is there a Confederate Battle Flag?
Went in to the festival – a combination outdoor and indoor venue. First thing I did was went and got a maß (literally “measure” but use here for a liter) of Salvator, a schweinefleisch haxe (which is like a pigs knee or something) and a bretzel and dug in. The haxe was interesting – seasoned with rye an deep fried so the outside was crispy and tasted like a pork rind (which it is) but fairly dry inside despite being full of fat. Tasted great though.
When it started getting dark and cooling down I went inside the festhalle and accidentally sat next to 3 Americans who are here working at a hotel on a military base. They’re students studying hotel management at the University of Oklahoma. On my other side was a group of Germans. It was one of their birthdays. The guy would randomly look over and loudly sing “I’m proud to be an American! And I’m proud to know I’m free!” It was so funny I didn’t correct him but let him just go on butchering Lee Greenwood for hours.
After a while of that we all split up an I headed up to near the front where the band was playing and where a lot of volks were singing and dancing. Every once in a while the band would strike up an English song like Country Roads and I would belt out the lyrics like the rest of them. I left as they were shutting the place down, having thoroughly exhausted myself on singing, dancing and drink. The event was definitely reminiscent of Oktoberfest and I guess most Bavarian beer fests would be the same.
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Italians, Germans, Kenyans, Russians, Polish, Canadian, Irish, Americans and Brits and Aussies and Japanese. I have made and lost hundreds of new friends over the last few days. But now I must bid them, and Munich, auf wiedersehen.
I set myself a mission here: to have a drink at each tent on the grounds. That’s 15 by my map. Its apparently not very common for people to have visited all tents – even residents of Munich. I can see why, it’s a very difficult task.
Last night I had to find the back way into the Kafer tent – it’s usually just the rich and famous who get in there. And I talked my way into the Weinzelt where their specialty is wine. It was completely full, but I just told my story and showed my map with the other tents crossed off. The security guards actually cleared a path through the line for me to get in front of everyone else. I had breakfast and a coffee only this morning in the final one. Appropriate since the Kaiser-Schmarrn is a cafe.
I don’t think I could drink another liter of beer. It would be good to get out of town and clear my head a little. Fortunately, I have my next destination determined somewhere along the Danube.
Right now I’m on a speeding train winding its way through the Alps at 200km per hour. I’ll shortly arrive in Vienna and then to my next mission, whatever that may be.
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It’s nearly noon at Oktoberfest. Waitresses carry massive trays of food and armloads of beer. Nine liters (2 gallons) of beer in one armload. Trays that must be a yard across, filled with wursts, fowl, potatoes and more. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it.
I feel like Neo in the Matrix dodging trays and steins like bullets walking up the narrow rows between tables in the beerhalls. Nearly all seats are filled. Men and women wear the traditional dress of their native lands. I feel under dressed – my belt is the only thing I am wearing made of leather. Here you can see an idealized version of the German-speaking peoples’ past.
I sit next to a group of Austrians and discuss their attire. “This is the traditional clothing of the farmer and the farmer-shooter [hunter] near Salzburg. The farmer-shooter was quite a good job because in times of war, they were called upon. We have a long tradition of beating up the German man.” And they laugh. Old disagreements are buried now, as you can see when the band strikes up a particularly popular song. Everyone sings along, standing on the tables and benches.
I feel like I’m at a college football game. The large brass section and booming drums. Um-pa-pa Um-pa-pa. I hear familiar sections of songs. It occurs to me that The Budweiser Song would probably be very popular here.
Oktoberfest is like a giant picnic with a quarter million of your closest friends and lots of beer. Lots of singing and talking and laughing. It’s time for another stein. Prost!
I was on the tilt-a-whirl today. You know, the one that launches you up and around and flips you upside down. Well apparently my phone fell out of my pocket during that time. Spectators said they saw it mid swing. In other words, it launched a few hundred yards. Yeah, it’s bad. Luckily it landed softly in the water. Yeah, that’s bad too. The up-shot is that I found it. Or rather the guys who run the ride found it. They held it in a towel so it wouldn’t drip all over the place. It’s drying now. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you called me in the past day, understand if I don’t answer.