Oktoberfest post #1

Petri left today back home to Finland, which means I can get back to this blog after a couple of days’ radio-silence.

As you all know, of course, the Oktoberfest is the biggest fair in the world, held annually here in Munich. You probably won’t get the precise wikipedia-info from this post, but I’ll try to share what I (think I) know, and what I’ve heard about the over-5-million-visitor festival:

At the moment, we are celebrating the 179th Oktoberfest. Back in the day, the festival was said to have gotten it’s beginning, when a local king/ruler/etc. decided to boost his favour with the common folk, by offering them heaps of free beer. Concequently, the common folk liked free beer so much, that they started demanding free beer every year. Today, the Oktoberfest is a big festival/carnival organized mainly by the six great breweries from Münich. Most of the participants dress in traditional clothing, where men use Lederhosen (leather pants) and women have a Dirndl-dress (see photos for examples).  Each of the bigger breweries have their own ‘tent’ on the fairgrounds, which are filled with tables and decorated rather festively. To reserve a table from a tent, you have to make the reservation 18 months ahead (<- yes, eighteen months!), book a full 10 person table, and buy food/drink vouchers with at least 1000 euros. Sounds kind of ridiculous, but the atmosphere within the tent is completely worth it. I’ll get back to that later on.

In the beginning of the festival, the breweries organize a parade through the city with traditional horse carriages meant for beer transportation. Of course, we (me and petri) wanted to see the beginning parade, so we headed out on Saturday to the city center with my camera. The plan for the day was to take a couple of photos and otherwise take it quite easy, since we’d agreed to go out with my friends (the locals) to the Oktoberfest the following day. We made our way through the extremely tourist-packed city center (I had noticed the amount of tourists had been steadily increasing for at least a couple of days already) towards the fair area. As we were approaching our destination on our bikes, it began to rain so hard that we had to seek shelter under a canopy of some random house on the street. Sadly, the parade didn’t pass before us, so we missed out on that during our 40 minute sheltering. I did, however, manage to get a couple of photos from the stream of people struggling through the rain to the festival grounds.

After being unable to decide whether it was going to rain or not, we decided to have one quick beer at a Hacker-Pschorr -restaurant/bier garten just outside of the fair grounds. It turned out, that the only size of beer that you can order during Oktoberfest is a one-liter-Mass. So, we ended up drinking a beer and eating a Pretzel in a small corner next to the restaurant (that was full..), where it didn’t rain..

The following day, Sunday, was luckily quite sunny and warm! We left at about 1 p.m. with a bunch of my roommates to the festival. Almost everyone had their traditional outfits on, so we were awesome! As I mentioned before, the places in the tents are quite desired. However, the reservations are normally only for after 17 (5 pm.), so if you arrive earlier than that, it’s possible to get a place for a while. We went through (i think) there big tents, unable to find seats for us. Later though, we managed to get a nice table outside of Spaten’s tent, on their biergarten/patio-area. We were starving, so we ordered traditional Wiezn-Hendl (½ crispy grilled chicken) with potato salad. After about 3-6 hours, and a couple of biers (remember the only size of beer available..), we headed into the Spaten tent!

Like I said before, all the places had been sold out 18 months before, so we totally relied on our local friends. And, as always, we got lucky and ultimately found a table we could join. There was a band, everyone knew all the words of the songs (except me and petri..) and everyone was dancing on the chairs (since dancing on the tables was prohibited, but chairs were OK). This definitely was something worthy of waiting 18 months for.

But I would like to point out a couple of things: Everyone was dancing on the chairs, quite high from the ground. Everyone had, presumably, been drinking pretty much for the whole day. The chairs, though long and planky, did not cover the entire 2-dimensional space people were standing on, meaning that if you took a wrong step you were.. screwed. You could also see broken Masses (1 Litre glasses) on the floor, so any fall would be most likely ruin your day (or night).

As if this post wasn’t already long enough, the evening turned out to be quite eventful. My friend Luise had gotten hit by a broken beer glass (still the heavy 1-liter one) and gotten a somewhat blood-spewing cut on her leg. Since at the moment I was chatting with her boyfriend (which was good, since we were two guys who could ,even at the moment, walk in a rather-straight line) we carried her from the table to the hospital located IN the Oktoberfest-area. As you can imagine, if you have +5M people drinking unusually big (and strong) beers, it’s possible that some of them might need medical attention. Anyhow Luise and her boyfriend stayed in the fair-hospital and were later on ambulanced to a normal hospital for stitching (4-5 stitches, I recall her saying today) and I stayed outside of the hospital tent with Luise’s friend, who had been with us during the day (who’s name I most certainly heard at some point, but most certainly forgot. Let’s call her Heidi. (this happens a lot to me at the moment, since I meet about 15 new people every day)). Heidi asked me where my brother was. Goooood question.

Petri had left our table about an hour ago to buy a beer. Turned out, that at the oktoberfest, you can only buy a beer if you have a place to sit at. And like I mentioned before, getting a place to sit at was quite difficult. I had tried to call petri a couple of times, but when he hadn’t answered I had concluded that he was unreachable (I should have sent him a text-message, but it didn’t cross my mind then..). Anyhow, although I knew he was OK (but partly because Heidi had insisted that we do so), we asked all around for him from the fair-hospital to the fair-police-station (and there actually was one, a complete police HQ within the grounds..). When I was spelling his name to the police officer, he texted me that he was on his way to our meeting spot and everything was OK. 😀

So. All was well. Of course.

We walked our bikes away from the most hazardous drunky-streets (streets with lots of drunks wandering around..) and from there on pedaled safely back home. We were at bed before midnight.

Sorry this post got a little out of hand.

And now, for the pictures:

I’ve posted more new photos to the old photosite, which you can find at http://sonkeri.1g.fi/kuvat/Timo+Kerola/