Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Die Parade am Samstag

[ The parade on Saturday ]

Not getting into the very well known Schottenhammel Zelt was a little unfortunate since we didn’t get to witness the ‘official’ opening of the festival, but my friends Jennifer, Dominique and I soon came to realize that there was a LOT more going on to ‘officially’ open the Oktoberfest as well. By this point all of the tents were open – but no alcohol was being served yet due to the tradition of opening the first keg at noon. It was a little after 10 AM and all the tents were already jammed with people at tables – most likely with reservations dating back to February! – who were anxiously waiting for noon to strike.

I ventured through probably a half-dozen of these huge tents and really enjoyed how ornate each one was. Each tent at the Oktoberfest is set up and run by a particular brewery and serves their own brand of Bier. This makes each tent very different and uniquely decorated on the inside. Some tents specialized in huge chicken dishes, and others specialized and massive trays of typical Bavarian wursts and kraut.

The tents ranged from being draped in colorful ribbons and wreaths to others decorated as if they were from a log cabin village of Bavaria with many wood carved pieces hanging about. They may be called “tents” but these were fully constructed warehouses that were almost as ornate as if they were a fully functioning, year-round restaurant.

Walking and zig-zagging from tent to tent, and between tables of people inside, I was able to catch a lot of cool sights. There were open view kitchens with huge ovens with hundreds of chickens cooking rotisserie style, or side rooms with carts of seemingly endless glass mugs for the beer to be served for three weeks straight within a few hours. The building was so crowded that – try to imagine this here – security guards would yell “watch out, clear the way” in German, and literally push so that the following waitress, complete in a Dirndl dress and a HUGE tray of dense Bavarian delicacies could plow her way to her serving table. This was all like nothing I had ever seen before. I definitely could see what Frankemuth, MI based its theme off of [ a German town in Michigan known for tourism with traditional German dining and décor ], and this experience in Munich brought that experience to a realistic and traditional level.

Just outside the tents, a crowd of people began lining the streets along the now roped off street. Apparently an opening parade was about to start. We actually coincidentally were standing next to a very nice American couple enjoying a tour of Europe from Washington state, and we chatted about our experiences touring Germany, and our struggles as students grasping the language and the different dialects.

Once the parade began, the true essence of Oktoberfest was coming alive. There was just so much alcohol around that it really didn’t faze you anymore that it was only before 11 AM and some people were already swaying down the street, but the parade really captured the heart of Oktoberfest. For other festivities and holidays around the world, spirits and alcohol may be the perfect accompaniment to the event, but here at Oktoberfest it takes all the attention, and Beer IS the tradition.

In fact, this opening parade was a huge procession of barrels of beer being brought into the city as if it was the beginning of the festival a century ago, and the new batches of beer were being welcomed into the city with huge acclaim and applause. There were carriages with huge horses decorated with wreaths and symbols of the beer brand that they carted down the street, and behind them would follow large wagons of barrels, and more carriages of people that probably were, or represented very important figures of the community.

[look who caught a flower!]

All the people were dressed in traditional German attire and were tossing candies and flowers out to the crowd. The procession went on for quite a while – and there seemed to be SO many different types of beer and wine coming through – but then some huge cheers from the tents behind us caught our attention. It was a bit before noon and the commotion inside captured our curiosity and led us to the next crowded, exciting event of the Oktoberfest grand opening.

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