27.09.2014 - 29.02.2016 21 °C
There’s no denying it, this blog is painfully overdue. It’s not like my travels since September 2014 have been unworthy of documenting, this huge gap can only be attributed to two things: my utter talent for procrastination, and general shock that anyone other than my Nana (hi, Nan) actually read my ramblings. However, there is no time like the present and my homework for creative writing class this week is to write about a memory, so here we are.
Trying to condense Oktoberfest into a single memory is difficult because the festival is a complete assault on the senses – but a very pleasant assault, apart from the people already vomiting at 10am. Our host for this time in Munich, Kilian, warned us that the area would soon be littered with Bierleiche, a rough German translation for ‘beer corpse’. On a side note, the exorbitant prices that accompany Oktoberfest led us to seek alternative accommodation, and through the magic of Airbnb we ended up sleeping in a campervan in Kilian’s driveway. I loved it, it was all the privacy of your own room, with a warm house full of friendly people only steps away.
The night we arrived, we talked about the tradition of Oktoberfest. I know the world is pretty familiar with it as an extravagant piss-up, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not. However, beyond its reputation for hop-induced bliss, Oktoberfest is actually the biggest folk festival in the world, and a long-standing monument to Bavarian tradition. Not just beer is celebrated, but steaming mountains of chicken, pretzels and potato dumplings as well. Many tents are dedicated to serving local wines, spirits and ciders. There are exhibitions dedicated to the festival’s beginnings, which my hazy memory recalls as some form of royal wedding. But yes, the beer is important, and exquisite, and damn strong. Being Germany, of course this standard is upheld by pretty stringent regulations. Only breweries which fall within Munich’s city limits can produce official Oktoberfestbier, which is normally aged for several months and reaches about 6% alcohol volume by the time it’s served. This probably explains why the roof of the campervan wouldn’t stop spinning while I was trying to sleep, because drowning myself in foreign beer is a wonderful idea before embarking on an international long-haul flight.
As I said, Oktoberfest is a joyride for your senses. Walking into the fairground is akin to a child entering Disneyland. You walk under the wonderful, garish entrance and immediately your ears are whirring with the screams from rollercoasters, your stomach rumbling for whatever salty goodness is floating in the air, your eyes swimming from the bold block colours of the dirndls and lederhosen. People talk about the politics of getting into a bier-tent when you arrive, and my regional Australian roots meant that I severely underestimated what this meant. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve camped, you have never seen a tent like this. They are glorious monstrosities, adorned with huge ceramic statues and themed to compete for the most customers. I think the largest holds around 10,000 people. So yes, I was pretty overwhelmed when I realised that this whole drinking affair was going to be much more complicated than visiting a winery or local market back home.
After realising that these enormous tents were essentially packed to capacity already, a couple took pity on us as we wandered through the outside area of the Lowenbrau tent and squished over so we could fit on their bench. It turns out that these lovely people, German and French respectively, would make our day a whole lot easier. There is serious skill involved in getting the attention of a waitress (I can’t bring myself to say wench) if you are not part of a huge group. They are impressive creatures, carrying huge trays of chicken and ten steins of at a time. Our new friends helped us to commandeer them to order drinks as we got acquainted, and artfully scooted us indoors when the real party started. Before we knew it, we were dancing on the long tables, pretending to know the words to Bavarian folk songs, and massaging our arms and bellies from the exertion of carrying (and drinking) from huge glass mugs.
I’ve run out of steam to explain our days here as anything other than just so much fun. Oktoberfest is such an intoxicating experience, like falling down a rabbit-hole to a bright, crazy party. It was such a fitting end to this trip, to our time away. The transit home from Munich was… long. Really, really long. Hodge and I are pretty much immune to the horrors of airports and planes now after that 52 hour crusade. We arrived home in one piece, despite scattering bits of our heart all over a different continent. There is so much to say about this adventure and its impact on our lives and relationship, most of which has only sunk in as the months have passed. We got under Europe’s skin, each other’s skin, our own skin.
I’ve made a promise to myself that I will finally give my writing more time and effort this year, and this travel blog will undoubtedly by impacted by the changes my soul undertakes on the way. I’m getting my wisdom teeth removed later this week, and I’m hoping that my swollen misery post-operation will provide space for me to keep churning out these entries. I have so much to record, to remember, to relive.
Thank you for laughing with us, and at us, throughout this journey. It’s beautiful to know that it doesn’t stop here.
So, until then – adieu, arrivederci, adios.