Not only is the Oktoberfest a big draw for many young travelling Kiwis and Aussies determined to reduce the number of brains cells crowding their heads, but for Munich residents and other Bavarians as well. Of the just over 6.3 million that attended the Oktoberfest last year, over 30% were Bavarian. The Bavarians, not being ones to waste a social opportunity, pull their Lederhosen (for the men) and Dirndls (for the women) from the recesses of their closets and dressed in their traditional finery proceed to add colour to their cheeks and strength to their singing voices aided only by the consumption of vast amounts of beer.
This celebration of German drunkenness, which overall seems more friendly than the New Zealand variety, requires every major company and many minor ones, in Munich to reserve tables in one of the many different brewery ”tents” available, months in advance. These tents are not quite the sort you would want to try stuffing into your backpack for a weekend tramp however, as they are over 50 metres long and two storeys high with massive steel and wood frames. Tables and benches are set out in rows, usually running from the front to the rear of the tent allowing as many revellers to be packed in as possible. Most of the tents open at 10am and continue on until 11pm. Forget trying to get a seat in a one of the more popular tents after 2pm without a reservation though as like the people in them, they will already be full.
Each of the major breweries in Munich is represented in one of the 14 tents present, with the most popular amoungest Kiwi and Aussie travellers being the Hofbrauhaus, where cries of: “Kiwi, Kiwi” and “Aussie, Aussie” can be heard even over the Bavarian singing in the neighbouring tents. Unfortunately I missed this demonstration of the best of Down Under culture last year due to the preference of my German friends for the Hacker-Pschorr tent. However from what I can remember I had a good time at the Oktoberfest anyway, managing to down a respectable (so I’m assured by Bavarians in the know) four Mass, one half chicken and one whole Breze in six hours. In addition to trialling for the Capable of Anything Choir, I made made many new life long friendships. As I’ve not seen one of them since maybe the friendships were a bit more liquid than I thought at the time.
Problems came only after I’d decided to leave, when for the life of me I couldn’t find the underground train station, in spite of the big blue U signs pointing the way. The MVV, the Munich government department that runs public transport, recognises that many people suffer some degree of cognitive impairment before and after the festival, and employs extra staff to help passengers find their way. At last year's Oktoberfest, arriving at the Theresienwiese U-Bahn station, I heard the following announcement in German:
"To the right is the exit, go to the stairs, and not to the other platform. That is the going home platform. You don't want to go there yet”.
Returning from the Oktoberfest to the Hauptbahnhof, the Munich central railway station, the MVV was again in good form with:
"Here is the main railway station, here is the main railway station, in case anyone might be interested“.
And who said that Germans don't have a sense of humour?