Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Der Morgen von oktoberfest

[ Oktoberfest morning ]

Saturday morning I woke up twice – the first time was at 5:30 in the morning. One of my friends had called to tell me that the first group of the Americans had arrived in Munich from their night train. I must have mumbled asking if the trip was good, or something along those lines, and then crashed again until 6:30 when I woke up to get ready to meet them in the long cue lines of the Oktoberfest. Ciocia Zosia and I both got ourselves ready to head over to downtown. I tried to convince her that I could get their myself if she just pointed me to the nearest metro station, but she insisted that she take me to the festival to make sure that I met up with my friends. The plan was that I would hang-out with some of my American friends for the first half of Saturday for the big opening events of the first day of the festival, and I would meet back up with Ciocia later.

She was very funny because during the morning she wouldn’t let me be polite and let her shower first, or wait for her to start breakfast. She would just hurry me along – Krzysiu, schnell, duschen duschen – essen essen! – Which is somewhat correct German… but not exactly a command, but more along the lines of Showering, Showering! Eating, Eating! Along with the fact that she used a polite form minus the Sie if you can follow along with German grammar. I spoke far from perfectly as well, and that was the charm of our conversations – they were so incredibly wrong, that we actually could understand each other better than if a true German was speaking to us…

I checked the maps online of the zelten – tents – at the Oktoberfest, and Ciocia had the weather channel on, which displayed the Celsius degrees over a backdrop of Bavarian fields and accordion music. My introduction to this weekend taste of Bavarian Germany was just beginning.

In fact, as we hopped on the Metro to go to the station that led to the festival, I was quite surprised to see men in Lederhosen, and women that squeezed their torsos into tight Dirndl. I was anticipating seeing waiting staff at the bier tents and restaurants wearing these quintessential south-German outfits, but I was not expecting to see regular people wearing them around town. And wow was my assumption incredibly wrong.

I was not even AT the festival yet, and the stations underground had crowds of people all dressed up for the equation. I actually had to stop and snap a photo of the crowds of young Germans in line at McDonalds all dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls grabbing a quick breakfast before a probable long day of cheering, celebrating and beer drinking. Once Ciocia and I made it to the stop leading to the festival, it was actually impossible to get lost at that point – just follow the huge crowds [ and lines of beer bottles already on the bridge ] – all at 7 in the morning – and you would have made it to the entrance of the festival.

Past the huge gate of the fest, it is hard to capture what the large strip actually was like. I never really gave thought to what the Oktoberfest actually was, other than the images of huge, busty waitresses carrying several huge beers to screaming patrons. Walking in, it feels like you are walking into Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. It is just a straightaway, seemingly unending with stands of souvenirs, snacks, huge signs and mascots and large carnival rides in that background [even a few roller coasters].

With that feeling of excitement that you have entering an amusement park [ what first? Where first?!] mix it with the giddy anticipation of Halloween you have as a kid with everyone dressed up around you in German outfits and then the smells hit you as well – sweet roasting almonds and walnuts, rotisserie chickens smelling like Thanksgiving, and then other smells of pastries and Bretzeln being sold about as well. Only yards into the festival I was already hooked. It was admittedly touristy, but it lived up to my high hopes that it would capture everything I love about my favorite season of the year and my endearing memories of cider mills, pumpkin patches and leave piles.

This was the 176th Oktoberfest in Munich making it a tradition almost two centuries old. Over the weekend I learned a little about the traditions that date far back with the festivities. Most important to clarify, and something I was very interested in as an American, was the fact that Oktoberfest is really not exclusively in October. It actually is mainly in September [which is part of the reason why I had to pull together the semi-spontaneous trip since I didn’t realize that the festivities would largely be done by the time October came]. I came to learn that the Oktoberfest is a harvest festival and celebrated the 3 weeks that led up to the first Sunday of October – hence the festival name. This means, however, that the festival can realistically only fall on a few short days in that month and be an event almost completely in September.

The festival began this Saturday, and would be officially opened by the calling of “O’zapft is” which is a Bavarian dialect of “its tapped!” by the mayor of Munich at exactly 12 noon tapping the first keg. Apparently tradition has it that no alcohol was supposed to be served or drunken before this official opening statement – but by the looks of the crowds – even near 8 AM now, there didn’t seem to be too many purists out there.

I don’t even think the Americans realized they were even breaking a tradition – I think they were just completely clueless and overly excited. After all, groups of students from all three CBYX cities – Saarbrücken, Köln, and Radolfzel - all came and met together this particular morning. I was actually lucky to have found them and when I did, bottles of champagne were being popped open in celebration of everyone coming together and meeting successfully that morning [ and to kick off the festival as well – this was Oktoberfest! ].

Speed walking with Ciocia Zosia through the decorated streets, she was asking me what tent I needed to get to. I knew it started with an ‘S’, and that it was the most famous of the area, but I forgot the name. After a very muffled phone call, I made out “Come ….. Schottenhammel….. Polizei Station….”.

I walked around that tent, and in the back there was definitely a police station, and then I heard my name being yelled. Through a back door a friend of mine was flagging me in quickly, and I gave Ciocia a big hug and kiss and she said she would see me later at our meeting place. Luckily the back entrance allowed me to bypass a lot of the crowd and make it to the door that my friends were all cueing at amongst a lot of already drunk Germans and tourists.

The reason that this tent was so well know was because it was the main tent that the mayor would officially open the festival. We stood there in the very cramped back entrance for nearly 2 hours waiting to get in with high hopes to get a table [ once the tent is full, no one else is in]. We should have been realistic about our plans since many reservations were made there months in advance, but who could blame almost 40 Americans that wanted to witness the tradition taking place. We actually never got into that tent – the doors were open at 10 – and then the people that actually did get in had to wait two more hours till noon. Some were bummed, but the laughs and funny characters of the tipsy lederhosen clad German-guys around us made the waiting eventful.

After 10, even though I didn’t get in, I still had a lot to see, so a friend and I decided to break away from the bunch still hoping to squeeze in and check out the rest of the huge festival ourselves. I am so glad that I did, because there really was a lot more going on.

1 comment:

  1. Cool...thanks for the explaination as to why Octoberfest begins in September ;)

    Maria K.