October 03, 2010

Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen - thank you for marrying Ludwig & giving us Oktoberfest!

Going a bit out of order, I'm going to start with the most recent stop on our two-week holiday -  München for the 200th year of Oktoberfest! I admit, I was skeptical about making the four-hour drive all the way to a beer-drinking festival (which admittedly, is not my favorite way to imbibe) without any tent reservations, not even knowing if we'd make it in anywhere to taste the special brew. Since we lucked out on a nice, last-minute hotel only a 10 minute walk from Weisn, I said why not!

The Ochsenbraterei tent - our decided target for the morning wait

We decided to scope out the fest the night before to get an idea of the layout, where we should line up in the morning, etc. (after our four-hour drive there, after our angst-filled flight from Barcelona through a thunder & lightning storm). Upon seeing the amazing 'tent' structures - which were not tents at all, but massive structures with Disneyland-like animatronics on them - I started to get really excited about the whole experience.

Tent filling up quickly as people claim their tables

While my enthusiasm waned slightly as we stood in a smoke-filled line, packed like sardines, waiting to be let into the tent for a chance to claim a table, when we ran in and secured a table (in a non-smoking tent, thank goodness!), I felt my anticipation return. The wait was long (hours & hours) and cold (hence why they're called 'tents' - no insulation), so we decided to fill our bellies with something warm from the pre-beer service menu: Weißwurst, traditional Bavarian breakfast sausage. If only we had brought some cards, like everyone around us had...

Our waitress had guns of steel!

Luckily, noon finally came and the mayor finally tapped the first barrel and beer was finally served! The servers running around the tent carrying liters and liters (and liters!) to serve entire tables at once blew my mind. I tried picking up three glasses we had at one time (see below) just to see and could only hold them up for a minute. These people deserve the 30K they earn during the fest!

Me lagging in beer consumption...

The next few hours went rather quickly after we finished our first liters . . . and things got a bit fuzzier. Being the 200th anniversary of the fest, the special brew made this year had an even higher alcohol content than previous years. And while I had been in 'training' at home with pints, liters became a whole other ballgame. 

I can't say I entirely remember getting from our table back to our hotel that evening (that's right - we didn't even last all day), but I do remember being appalled during one trip to the toilet at the fact they were down from four - to one! One toilet for 2,500 people?! If I didn't already know the men's only had a trough for relieving themselves, I would've stormed the little boys room and gone there. But, I wasn't drunk enough for that. 

Parades, rides, food - so much more to Oktoberfest than just beer

After more than 12 hours of sleep, we awoke the following day ready, if not a little queasy, to check out the rest of the Oktoberfest celebration. We were greeted by a massive parade going by our hotel as we walked to Weisn, complete with bands, horse-drawn carriages and acrobats. Unfortunately, we were also greeted by the horribly-situated roasted fish tent as soon as walked into the fest, which was the worst on a hungover stomach. Taking it easy for the day meant we could just meander the fest and see all the things we missed from being tent-bound the previous day. 

While rides were out of the question, souvenir shopping, visiting other tents and just people watching was plenty to fill the day. It was adorable to see families in which every member was decked out in traditional dirndls and lederhosen. We swore when we return in the coming years, we must invest in the appropriate, festive attire - Germans take this very seriously!

Glazed and chocolate fruit - one of the many fest food wonders

After enjoying Hendl (half a roasted chicken), chocolate-covered fruit, flavored nuts, a half-meter sausage and a wonderful new discovery called a Dampfnudeln, - a large, warm bread dumpling smothered in vanilla sauce and cinnamon - we were officially psyched to come back next year (as if the tent experience hadn't already sealed the deal!). The cherry on the sundae was the late-night people-watching. I have never seen so many girls on the ground crying or young men stumbling about in a complicated dance to stay upright. The entertainment value of people-watching alone is worth attending Oktoberfest!

Chandeliers in the Hofbrau tent

So until next year, thanks for a great time Oktoberfest! 

Stay tuned for more posts on our September holiday. Next up...Mallorca!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische