Monday, October 5, 2009

Oktoberfest 2009

This weekend had been in preparation for quite some time and it was worth the wait. Have you ever been to a costume party with over 100,000 people where everyone wore the same costume? No? Well me neither, but that’s kind of what it seemed like at this year’s Oktoberfest. While Marisa, Jeff, Kendra, Ethan, and Kayce headed out on an early train Friday to catch the sites of Munich and experience the Hofbrau Haus, I finished out my teaching week and caught the 8:00 pm train.
On our way..

Our first stop the Hofbrauhaus

Chalk one up for Kendra for finishing first. Way to go girl! Much more to come.

The band at the Hofbrauhaus playing traditional bavarian music

So excited to be in Munich!

Hanging out with Ulli before all the madness on Saturday

The trip takes about 3 hours on the ICE (express train), which would’ve put me in by 11:00 pm if it weren’t for the hour delay, pushing me back to nearly 1 a.m. before I reached the hotel. Now that sounds unfortunate and it would’ve sucked pretty hard if it weren’t for the 20 or so Bavarians riding on my train that wanted to start the festivities on the train. They jammed some traditional German Schlager music, drank beer, took shots of a sweet liquor, sang songs, and sniffed ground up peppermint (yes, it sounds sketchy and it was, but I did try it and it really wakes you up – they promised me it wasn’t “Drogen”). I only wish that I had my camera with me to share the experience. Arriving at the train station after the Theresienwiese (main Oktoberfest area) closed down for the night (yep, it shuts down around 10:30 – 11:00 because it starts so early the next day) it honestly looked like a scene out of that Disney movie “Ever After”. There were girls running around this modern train station in traditional Dirndl’s with their boobs touching their chins, usually accompanied by guys with traditional Lederhosen (“leather pants”) and Bavarian style hats. The subways reaked of beer and I knew that I had arrived. 

Saturday came early, as we tried to get to the Oktoberfest tents by 9:00 a.m. We met up with our friend, Josh, who is living in Munich and he was sporting the traditional lederhosen with an American flare some Nike high tops. While we did get there by 9 and the beer isn’t actually served until 9:30, nearly every tent was absolutely full. Now when I say “tent” I mean a semi-permanent structure with solid sides and only the rooftop actually resembling a tent; and when I say “full” I mean over 6,000 people already in each tent – there were about 12 tents total. Time Out (Zach Morris style)!! Allow me a moment to explain how the festivities work at Oktoberfest. So, the festival began on October 12th 1810 to celebrate the marriage between King Kudwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghhausen. All of the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the royal event in a field at the gates of the city. These fields were later renamed Theresienwiese (“Therese’s Fields”) in honor of the princess. Basically the festival was so popular that it was decided to repeat the event every year. Today the festival runs from the third weekend in September to the first Sunday of October – it was supposedly moved back only to have better weather. On the same fairgrounds each year a huge carnival is set up with rides and food and vendors and most importantly………big ass tents representing each of the local Munich breweries. That’s right, you won’t find a “Beck’s” tent or “Warsteiner” or other popular beers from elsewhere in Germany. You’ve got to have some serious street cred’ to serve at this mutha’. So each tent is sponsored by one brewery and ONLY that beer is sold inside the tent. Not only that, but you can only have one type of beer inside the tents – the specially brewed Oktoberfest recipe! If you act early enough (like 8 months in advance) you can reserve a table at one of the tents for a certain part of the day. If you don’t have a reservation you must get to the tents early and hope to get in and secure a table. As long as you don’t leave, you can stay there all day. Each tent has live music and lots of crazy people…….Time In!!  

We had a frantic moment as we dashed from tent to tent to try to find an open table and none seemed to be found. We finally ended up at the Hacker-Pschorr tent, sitting at a reserved table. However, the reservation didn’t start until 11:00 am, so we had roughly and hour and a half to enjoy the tent experience. Pictures will follow, but we all had our two liters and left by 11:30. The whole experience was probably like being at a Georgia football game, but the beer wasn’t Busch Light, no one barked like a dog, and the people around us spoke decent English (even if it was their second language).  
Arriving at the Oktoberfest fair grounds (Wiesn)

One of the many "tents"

Our boy Josh rocking some lederhosen

Inside the Hacker-Pschorr tent - der Himmel der Bayern ("Heaven of Bayern")

First beer at 9:29 a.m. ....Prost! (german for "Cheers")

one size fits all - the Mass (or 1 liter glass) is the only size that can be ordered

How many Masses can your beer wench carry?  (here is 7, but here record is 17!)

Number 2 - 10:24 a.m.

11:30 - outside the tent, after 2 liters

11:47 - third liter outside of Augustiner tent (Kayce with new German Friend, Markus)

Next, we met up with our friend Ulli, who lives in Munich, and found a place next to some French, Germans, and Italians at a table outside of the Augustiner tent. There we downed our third liter and it was lights out shortly thereafter as we wandered back to our hotel while Jeff and Kendra stuck it out like true soldiers. The four of us woke up in our hotel after a solid 2-hour nap and went to meet Jeff and Kendra at the Hofbrau Haus as planned, but they didn’t show up because they’d had a longer afternoon, featuring five liters of Oktoberfest brew. Meanwhile the rest of us had a late evening dinner at the Chinesiche Turm (Chinese Tower) in the famous Englischer Garten park. Kayce discovered that she hates Leberkaese (“liver cheese” – kind of like SPAM) and Marisa caught some food poisoning from the Schnitzel. All in all it was a really eventful and memorable experience. Enjoy the highlighted pics.
Chinesischer Turm in Englischer Garten ("Chinese Tower in English Gardens")

End of the long day - enjoying Leberkaese (kind of like Spam) at outdoor beer garden

More commentary on the trip to follow from our guest correspondents along with pictures and personal testimonies.
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