A Toast to Prost

October 3, 2010

Two weeks and thousands of brain cells ago, I postponed penny-pinching, relinquished responsibility, and swore off sobriety in honor of Oktoberfest. The abrupt transition from Berlin alternative to Munich traditional was a shock to the system that only liter beers and face-sized pretzels could fix.

Oktoberfest Pretzels

Steins and oversized snacks, however, are merely accessories to the Bavarian wardrobe. On September 18th, the diapered and the dentured alike stepped into the streets of Munich dressed in their dirndled best.

Like most non-English vocabulary, it took countless tries before my mind registered “dirndl” as an actual word. After several slaps on the brain, I finally managed to keep myself from inserting words such as “dingle,” “dradel,” and “doodad” when referring to the traditionally German woman’s attire. Varying by age and cup size, a dirndl transforms its wearer into the unlikely lovechild of Dorothy and Lady Guenevere. With such characters appearing by the thousands, the streets of Munich took the form of a soft-core porn set featuring busty broads and laderhosen lads. Thanks to a fashion forward college friend, I arrived in Munich well aware of the existence of German overalls. Shin warmers and knee socks, however, were a pleasant surprise. Had I the money (traditional garb tends to run well into the $200 range) or the patience (think: dressing room mayhem magnified by a language barrier), I would have gladly jumped into a shiny new laderhosen – particularly after catching the Oktoberfest spirit in one of the many beer tents.

On the surface, Oktoberfest appears as little more than an adult amusement park fueled by the spontaneity of shattered beer steins and impulse buys.

Beer Tent and Street Scene

Underneath the keg-shaped hats and gingerbread hearts, however, lies an incredible amount of planning and strategy. Construction of the elaborate beer tents, for example, begins four months in advance. Double this time frame, and you may still have a shot at reserving a spot inside. Needless to say, Whitney and I did not have reservations. We did, however, have the good fortune of patience and persistence. Thanks to a side door and a determined hostess, we were sipping on nine Euro liters of beer with 1,500 booze-hounds in a matter of minutes.

It is at this point in the blog that I had hoped to insert a homemade video featuring a 360 degree panorama of clinking glasses, friendly strangers, and a live band. While the experience was undoubtedly priceless, posting videos on this website evidently require a monetary upgrade equaling 6.5 liters of Oktoberfest brew. So, instead, I offer you the image

Beer Tent

of green, yellow, and red streamers hanging from the rafters; hundreds of wooden tables crowded with the inebriated slurs and shouts of half a dozen languages; the smell of bratwurst and sweaty waitresses.* Like most white people jazzed up on booze and tradition, several enthusiastic attempts at starting the “party train” occurred almost hourly. Such efforts were thankfully hijacked by the distraction of pedestrian table dancers, poorly timed toasts, and Bavarian drinking songs. Unfortunately, also lost among this chaotic atmosphere is most of my memory of the evening. Oktoberfest now feels more like the disconnected pieces of a hazy dream featuring candied cashews, Australians with permanent marker mustaches, and excessively long bathroom lines. I woke up smiling at the thought of my misplaced memories and took comfort in knowing that my forgotten fun is out there somewhere, mingling with two hundred year’s worth of Oktoberfest mayhem in what must be one of the world’s largest mental ‘lost-and-found’ bins.

*Oktoberfest waitresses are rumored to make enough money during this two-week festival to live comfortably for the remainder of the year. Judging by the speed at which these ladies move, I do not doubt these claims.

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