Lowenbrau tent, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
Even if you did not know how to get there you just have to follow the parade of costumed people, all dressed in Bavarian traditional clothes. Women in red skirts and tight corseted blouses that were pushing up their bust, in knitted long socks and also knitted pullovers having on their head hats decorated with feathers were walking hand in hand with men dressed in “lederhose”, the short leather pants, checkered shirts and traditional tunic. Starting from the airport you could see some of them in the train that crossed the city and the closer you got into the city the fuller the train became of party-goers and eventually all descended to Hackerburcke and started to walk towards Theresienwiese.
Hacker-Pschorr tent, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
Thirty years ago I was walking on the large expanse of grass that is Theresienwiese, the large meadow that hosted for many years the Oktoberfest, the Germany’ beer festival. At the time I could not be in Germany in the fall and I just heard stories about the happening; large tents, larger than anything you may encounter any other times, would cover the meadow and people were drinking beer, lots of beer and singing loudly at unison Bavarian and German songs. Some of the more critical of my German friends were commenting that this is the way Hitler came to power…Germany has a deep beer culture and is the only country that has in effect a purity law dating from 1516 promulgated by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, that allows for only hops, barley, water and, later, yeast in the beer. Also I could not live in Munich at the time without learning about the main six beer manufacturers that were emblems for the German beer: Lowenbrau, Hofbrauhaus, Augustinerbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten.
Paulaner Festzelt, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
I did not have the chance in so many years to visit Munich in the fall, in spite of several visits in Southern Germany, but finally this year I could stop and drink “ein mass” around a long table with a bunch of Germans. The tents are there, as they always have been, and the atmosphere is electric with all attendees standing and jumping on the benches around the tables with the “mass” in their hand singing enthusiastically all together a mix of German and international songs in an extremely joyful atmosphere under the accords of a large band located on a podium in the middle of the tent. Most of the tables inside are reserved way in advance and the one that are not are totally packed being almost impossible to get a seat, all visitors coming here for staying most of the day.
Chilling with “ein mass”
All tents are surrounded outside by rows of tables where hostesses with a large bunch of beer “mass” in their arms navigate deftly through the crowd and youngsters dressed in Bavarian clothes offer large soft “brezen” from weaved baskets. Outside of the tent area the entire Theresienwiese is covered like a Disneyland with all sorts of games, from ball throwing ranges decorated in American kitsch to the horror train, bumper cars, whirlwind games, huge wheels and high towers that bring the visitors high upon the meadow. Stands are selling long frankfurter that hang out generously off the sandwich bread, nuts and sweets of all kinds and traditional ginger bread hearts to declare your love to your sweetheart. “Bread and circus” was what the Romans were offering millenniums ago and the offer is still valid in the same joyful atmosphere at Oktoberfest.
Bavaria statue overlooking Theresienwiese, Munich, Germany