Ein Prosit!

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit

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My friend Angie (right) and Me

Every 20 or so minutes this anthem rings out from the band, gathering cheer as it reverberates around the tent, the crowd enthusiastically singing along with the musicians. The band is our guide to Gemütlichkeit, an all-encompassing sense of belonging, and coziness, allowing for the setting aside of daily troubles and the contentment of just being with companions and beer. This is the quintessential hoped for experience at an Oktoberfest. As the day wears on people become exuberant in their dancing on the benches and toasting with liters of beer as the noise in the tent creeps ever louder until it reaches a crescendo that never recedes. The beerhall food is delivered to the long tables on enormous trays and waiters in Lederhosen or Dirndls carry an impossible amount of giant beer mugs.

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“Traditional” German decor

Ryan and I have never braved the Munich fest, which started the whole tradition back in 1810, as a marriage party for the future King Ludwig I. Two centuries later you can find Octokerfests all over Germany, and even in other countries. This year we attended the Stuttgart Oktoberfest, and while it may not have the 7.2 million visitors that Munich gets, it has a decent showing of feisty beer swillers. We went with some of Ryan’s coworkers and we each had vouchers for 3 LITERS of beer and a chicken lunch. I am not a beer drinker, but I did my very best. I couldn’t make it through my first liter, while others had moved on to their second or even final one! I struggle each day to drink my 2 ½- 3 liters of water to stay properly hydrated, I cannot imagine actually guzzling 3 liters of beer!

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Beer bringing friends together

It was fun to watch the constrained rowdiness of a German fest. Everyone is in full party mode, laughing, splashing beer, roaring ever louder than the person next to them, yet the moment someone crosses the line, the handlers are on them. Somehow, the servers find the one person among the hoard who jumps from the bench to the table, and is shrilly whistled down. At the spring beer fest in Stuttgart years ago one man jumped from one table to another and was promptly taken outside. It is truly organized chaos. People are free to let go… as long as they remember the rules. At both of these fests I couldn’t help but think about if this was a fest in the U.S. there would be brawls and vomit everywhere. I prefer the fun joviality to the raucous violence that breaks out in other places.

I was enjoying myself immensely until about 3 hours in. After being elbowed in the back of the head, and then in the mid-back, I was done. The noise had become overwhelming and there was beer everywhere, and it just wasn’t fun anymore. We made our escape with some friends and walked a bit around the fair outside the tent. There were rides and game booths and little shops. We walked until we found a quiet wine booth, and then we drank wine and ate bretzeln and zwiebelkuchen (pretzels, and onion cake) until it was time for our train. For us, the Bierfest had turned into a mini- Weinfest.

I must say, the Bierfests are raucous and fun, but the Weinfests are where it’s at.


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