14 November 2009

Return to Oktoberfest

Back on October 3rd I traveled to Munich with my friends Steffi and Masashi to pay a visit to Oktoberfest. It marked my second time at the world-famous Volksfest of Munich; the first time was one year previous to the day. Steffi took the following picture of me and Masashi shortly after we arrived in the main train station. As last time, a lederhosen-clad man was caught in the shot.

Originally meant to celebrate the wedding of a Bavarian king, today's Oktoberfest boasts 14 overcrowded beer tents filled with roaring voices and the aromas of roasted chickens and freshly tapped beer. We arrived at the festival around noon, the precious last minutes in the day when one stands a chance of finding a seat inside a tent.

We wasted little time after exiting the subway station at the edge of the Theresienwiesen, the fairgrounds home to the annual festival, to find our way inside a tent. We were turned away at our first try because of a security guard unwilling to let me in with my backpack. Terrorist threats this year increased the security precautions. We had better luck with our next try at the Hippodrom tent, seen below, but it didn't last long. After nearly half an hour of searching for free seats we left for another tent.

By then, all tents were full and the doors were closed to new guests. Knowing it was too late to actually find a seat inside, we started to look for openings at the tents' outdoor seating. After a couple more tries we found some open benches and quickly took our seats. Shortly thereafter we realized that we had apparently sat down at the classy tent.

So our search continued. Along the way we passed a trash can that was, to put it mildly, in need of some attention.

Eventually we came across a back entrance to the outdoor seating of the Schottenhammel tent. With excellent timing, a customer at the tent, likely under the influence of a few drinks, slyly walked to the closed entrance and lifted the rope for waiting fest-goers to pass under. Most in the crowd, either Germans unwilling to break the rules or tourists unsure of what to do, simply stared at the man. Steffi, Masashi, and I swiftly slid through and onto the terrace as a displeased-looking waiter raced by the tables to stop the man. We yelled out a quick "danke" before blending into the crowd on the terrace. Minutes later we found a table and sat down. This would be our table for the rest of the day.

The only size available for any drink, whether beer or cola, at most of the tents is one liter. The prices for a glass of beer at the festival seem to be rising more and more every year. A beer-drinker should have been prepared to hand over between eight and nine euros this year, about twelve American dollars. On the bright side, there's no general entrance fee for the festival. At times the liter-glasses can resemble a hand-held trough. As we learned, one should also avoid from making an overly energetic toast

We left the festival sometime after eight o'clock that night. The train back to Eichstätt took longer than usual because of the dozens of visitors at the festival returning home. Not necessarily because of each returning visitor, mostly only those who were still inebriated. The train conductors had to wait a little longer at every scheduled stop in order to make sure that everyone exited the train safely, and that the confused had some time to board again.

Some weeks later, when I went to Munich to have the new pages added to my passport, I passed by the fairgrounds. Oktoberfest was long over, but not yet gone. The frames of the giant tents remained. Work crews were busy dismantling the beloved festival. The pieces would be carried away and put into storage until next year, or at least until the next Volksfest at the Theresienwiesen.

1 comment:

quererysipoder said...

Cool, I miss the Oktoberfest, I had a lot of fun with the Spanierinen. And we were just arrived to Germany, so everything was completely new and excited...although we didn't do so energetic toast as you:)

What are you doing in Xmas?