Say cheers to beers
There was dampness in the air, the entire city smelt of a revelry that was soon subsiding A group of youngsters passed by, singing to their hearts...
There was dampness in the air, the entire city smelt of a revelry that was soon subsiding. A group of youngsters passed by, singing to their heart's content in a drunken stupor. I had arrived in Munich for the Oktoberfest. A 14-hour bus journey from Prague had worn me down but I was ready to conquer the biggest ‘Beer Drinking Festival’ in the world.
Soon as I walked into my hotel, a befuddled Italian comes over to me and hands me a stuffed toy. “This is Patrick. He’s been my company for the three days that I’ve been here. Now I must leave for home. It’s upto you continue the legacy.” I did not know the man, neither did I get his name. But I was standing at the entrance of my hotel doors holding a pink stuffed elephant in hand who was supposedly named Patrick.
The hotel check-in wasn’t till 2 pm. The floors of the lobby spoke of tales of a night gone by. I looked at my friend and we both instantly thought the same, “Did we make a mistake coming to the Oktoberfest?’’ We placed our luggage in the cloakroom and set out for the Oktoberfest grounds.
It was 7 am with a chilly air blowing in our faces. Just the right time to forget my jacket back at the hotel. But that was the least of my worries. The excitement was building up as we saw lines of people making their way in the same direction. Going with the spirit of festival most of them donned the traditional Bavarian wear, Dirndls for the ladies and the men in Lederhosen leather shorts. The special open ground for the Oktoberfest is about a 15-minute walk from the Munich Hauptbahnhof! There are several entrances to get into the grounds.
The important point to remember about the Oktoberfest is to choose your tent wisely. With 14 of them sprawled across a massive ground, don’t let the word ‘tent’ fool you. Each of them can accommodate upto 10,000 or more people. At the stroke of 9 am when the Oktoberfest was declared officially open, I made my way to the Augustiner-Festhalle tent. It’d been raining out, soaked and shivering, I ordered for my first ‘Maß’ of the finest Bavarian lager.
This is where I shall have to add that there is another fine point to keep in mind before the beer works its magic. The special Oktoberfest beers are potent and the ABV (alcohol by volume) content is spiked up during the festival in the festbier. They are beautiful, crisp and go down like water. But we are here at the Oktoberfest not just for a single stein of the beer but a marathon. Pace the drinking to the last longer, know your way to the nearest washroom and enjoy. Also, a piece of advice would be to not jump tents often and stick to your chosen one as getting a seat becomes extremely difficult as the day progresses. You shall not be served beer unless seated.
What’s in it for the non-drinkers? Other than the bands and seeing people gulps litres and litres of beer, there are the fun rides. Think of it as a carnival with loads of Beer being passed around. Children line up for the various rides set up across the vast grounds. The food is fantastic and is a delight to savour so many German/Bavarian delicacies. The classic Würstl (sausages) and Brezen (pretzels) will be in stalls every few meters while you’ll also have vendors come over to your table to sell them. My favourite surprisingly turned out to be this vegetarian dish called Käsespätzle, a hearty, rich, cheesy noodles.
There is an unofficial Oktoberfest rumour, which can be heard around the grounds that a seasoned German drinker can finish upto three masses before hitting the maximum limit. I had hit about half of my fourth stein before giving up.
The vibrancy, the exhilaration and most importantly the celebratory nature which surrounds the fest is just addictive. It builds up slowly and before you know, the revelry would have seeped deep within. I made my way back to my Hotel just in time for the check-in after having one of the best experiences of a lifetime. Both of us friends looked at each other now, our doubts dispelled.
One needs to be at the Oktoberfest to feel it all. It isn’t the biggest drinking festival in the world for nothing. But we lost Patrick, the pink stuffed toy. He was our fallen warrior.