Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wiesn and all that ...

  As I'm sure you have noticed, I said, in my post on Sammstag, that I was going to Oktoberfest on Sonnetag and there have been no posts since then. To tell you the truth, I've been avoiding writing one. The Oktoberfest is a huge rambling enormously crowded party that has no equal. It's hard to encapsulate one's experience there in a short set of paragraphs and the fact that one has rather fuzzy memories of about half ones time there doesn't really help matters at all.

  As I had my morning coffee on Sunday, with a bit of Leberwurst on toast, the morning fog broke and die Sonne broke through the chinks to bring a bit of brilliant color to the garden outside my window. The day would only get sunnier, warmer and more beautiful, till I stopped remembering things. I dressed up in my finest Coldplay T-shirt and jeans (at least the shirt was the color of Lederhosen) and caught a train to Piccistraße on the U6 line south of Marienplatz. From here, it was a short walk to the Wiesn and the fair. The crowd plugging the side entrance was only a taste of things to come. After fighting my way through and separating not a small number of couples from each other by crossing their T-s, I found myself on a crowded street surrounded by tents, fairground rides with crazy German barkers and a vast number of people, many of whom were dressed in their Bavarian best. I stopped to get some Kassewurst and fries, and finished this second breakfast with a coffee from, guess what, the San Francisco coffee company. Wasn't too good really and, at Euro 3.90, not worth it.

  I decided to walk down the street of Bier tents and scout out the landscape. Each is a sight to see, with ornate facades and funny clockwork decorations, as well as throngs of people walking in and out. After walking the length of the street, I entered the nearest one, which was Armbrustschützen, serving Paulaner. As I walked through the large entrance, the door engulfed me and I was surrounded by rustic German music and the roar of the crowd. I walked into the main hall and there were literally hundreds of tables and benches, one after the other in rows, surrounding a high stage, packed shoulder to shoulder with people. Serving girls in Dirndls carrying armloads of Masse, almost like magic. Big plates of roast chicken, knödel, pork knuckles and other bavarian treats were being ferried around on large trays at high speed, frequently with loud warnings of 'Vorsicht!' The place didn't smell as bad as I thought it would and it was well lit, with sunny beams streaming down from large skylights above.

  I spent all of 20 mins walking down most aisles trying to find a seat. No such luck. All the free-looking seats were being held by someone or the other for their friends, who were themselves at this moment emptying their overworked bladders. So I tried the next tent across the street: Spatenbräu-Festhalle. No luck. And on to Hacker (I skipped Hofbräu, cos I could). Rejected again. At this point, more than an hour of searching for a seat, I thought I'd never get a chance to drink some of the bier. I gave one last try: Bräurosl, serving Pschorr. I almost didn't make it, but then a bunch of Italians told me that the seat at their table was free. Turns out it wasn't, but these guys were so nice, they gave me one of their friends seats. When Willem, as he called himself, came back, I had to squeeze in really nice and tightlike with them. But it was a raucous mess and, even though they spoke very little English and I spoke no Italian, we were all brothers, singing 'Ein Prosich' or something similar, and lifting our huge mugs to Hans across the aisle - a stocky elderly Bavarian man, with a groomed and curled mustache, old-fashioned Lederhosen and a feathered cap. Apparently, he reminded several of my table of Heidi's grandfather from the old cartoons which, I think, had been quite popular on Italian TV.

The Italians in this group had been making the pilgrimage every year for 9 years to drink and make merry for a whole weekend. That's some sort of dedication there. Eventually, after about an hour, the Italians left to catch their bus to Milano and were replaced with a bunch of Ausssies, a bunch of girls and two guys. And Mario. Mario was one of the Italians who wasn't taking a bus that evening. Unfortunately, he spoke not a word of English and knew no German either. We connected on the simple fact that neither of us could understand a word the other was saying and hand gestures are useless when you have more than 2 litres of Bier in you (as I had had by that time). However, while the Aussies were friendly, they really were not as welcoming as the Italians had been. Now, I've heard many bad things about the annual Italian invasion of München at Oktoberfest and I'm sure some of it is very true. But, for all its worth, the Italian group there, with their almost instantaneous acceptance of a total stranger who didn't really fit into the Oktoberfest at all, was heart-warming in a very special way. After all, isn't that the modern view of Oktoberfest, a party for all? I bought one of the token picture keychains of Mario and I (Euro 8 - total rip-off) and it will be a good memory.

 At about 5:30 and after two more litres, I tottered out of the tent with the departing Aussies, hoping for perhaps some more company at one of the other tents. They looked like they were leaving instead, so I broke that off and headed over to get some food. My recollection is vague, but I ate a currywurst, a boar sausage in a bun, a bag of mixed nuts, some other sausagy thing and finally, walked out of the Wiesn, at about 7pm, with a paper cone filled with candied peanuts. I had, somehow, managed to smear mustard in large blotches on my shirt and I was still pretty drunk.

  The train ride back to Garching was loooong! So loooong! During the ride, I became sleepier and sleepier and when the U6 pulled into Garching station, I was ready for bed. As soon as I stumbled into the apartment, I hit the mattress hard and passed out for about 5 hours. I woke up at 1:30 in the night, with a massive hangover and a throat as parched as Bedouin hell. I finally went back to sleep again at 6 am, with 2 litres of water back in me and the hangover had mostly subsided by the next morning.

  Well, that's that. Hell of a day and I'll be sure to make it to the Wiesn next year. Maybe then, I could wear my own Lederhosen and speak to people in German. Also, I will pace myself, cos, goddamit, waking up at 2am with a headache is no fun at all.

  In other news, it's ON with the CA girl. How do I know? Lets say, I just know :) Bis dann! Tschuss!


  1. I'm so jealous - it sounds like a fantastic day of beer and sausage. Am I correct in counting 4 types of sausage between 2 meal? Post a pick of the keychain photo!

  2. Woohoo! I love Germany... I can't handle alcohol like you, so I usually quit after 1 beer and/or 1 wine (sometimes 1 glühwein because dammit it's so easy to drink too fast :x ).... but I know all about the stumbling around and eating lots of food part and shouting "Probst!!!!"

  3. Will do about the keychain, once I buy myself a camera! I just noticed that I had spelled 'Wiesn' wrong in the title. So much for my improving German. Still succumbing to the 'ei'-'ie' discombobulation.