Munich Oktoberfest (aka “The Wiesn”): the bona fide, beer-dyed, Bavarian pride festival, clearly the more authentic prototype for all the American celebrations I’ve oommpa-pa-ed to before (…making pretzels for St. John’s in Hattiesburg; singing “Piano Man” in a huddle in Lacrosse, Wisconsin; doing the polka in a beer-sloshed train car in Alaska…)
The parade crowned German—pardon, Bavarian—as the culture of the craziest hats and silliest socks. So interesting to see centuries of history march by, reminding me what a baby America is. So interesting to see nearly as many people dressed in traditional clothes at the sidelines as in the parade. (I think I was just as fascinated with men in lederhosn in the McDonald’s line and women in drindles on bicycles as I was watching monks surf the internet in Laos.) The official site of Wiesn (akin to how Alaskans call Mt. Mckinley, “Denali”) was a colorful conglomeration of fair rides, food stalls, and 14 giant beer halls (easily holding a couple thousand people each). We stepped by the first passed-out person on the sidewalk at about 11:30am. We had our first “mass” at about noon. A maß is equal to about one liter of beer, the gargantuan thick-necked cousin of “the pint”. It is also not to be handled and sipped from carelessly. This is Germany; there are rules.
- Do not grasp the handle. This is for tourists. A proper hold is with full palm and a thumb hook. Recommended to occasionally switch hands to avoid shoulder injury.
- NEVER take a sip alone. Before any drink of beer must be the obligatory “Prost!” with everyone at your table. No worries though; SOMEONE will initiate the round of Clunks long before your lips are thirsty.
- Keep your ears perked; there are many sing-a-longs that require that rapid thumb hook, a little swaying, and toasts of the English equivalent: “1, 2, 3… drink it now!”
- When the drunken man boasts about “The Kingdom of Bavaria,” shows off his jacket buttons as proof of its excellence, and then states that Bavaria is to Germany as Canada is to the States (“Canada Good!” Fuck America!”) it is not necessary to inform him that Alaska is not actually Canadian. Good time to initiate your own “Prost!”
- By 6pm, don’t even think about sitting on a bench in the beer hall (or you’ll be looking at everyone’s silly-socked shins). Benches are for stepping; it’s the tables that are meant for standing and dancing to the Oompah band’s rendition of “Summer of 69″ and “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Needless to say, it was a fun day made dizzy with spinning rides and seasoned with salty pretzels. Also a great prologue to my “European vacation.” Now, as soon as Daniel and I recover from “The Wiesn Kretze” (Oktoberfest cooties), we will put our final bags, boards, and multi-seasonal clothing into the Volkswagen camper (our home for the next 6 weeks) and drive off……well, who knows exactly where, but somewhere.