Tuesday, October 27, 2009

September 29, 2009 (Oktoberfest)

I’m officially at Oktoberfest. I woke up this morning feeling slightly under the weather, as did my Irish roommates in the Wombat Hostel in downtown Munich. I arrived in the city yesterday at about 3 p.m. and dropped off my stuff quickly before heading over to the Theresienewiese, where the Oktoberfest grounds are. What struck me as odd was that there were military personnel everywhere stopping people and checking bags. I learned later that this was because of terrorist threats, so that means that I’m living dangerously. Plus two for man points!

Everyone here is in some sort of traditional German garb. In fact, I started seeing people in traditional garb as far down as Lake Lucerne in the Alps. In all of the little towns in Bavaria, there are stores that just sell Lederhosen and traditional garb. Some of them are multilevel and are stocked to the brim. However, the price for a man to get a full get-up is about $325-400, which is absolutely ridiculous. So, I settled for a $15 checkered green vest that I wore with jeans.

The festival itself, I’m sure, has been described by many, but the best way I can think to describe it is this: It is a drunkfest that lasts for about three weeks and about 7 million people visit Munich for it. There are a bunch of parts to it, the most famous of which are the beer tents from the different brewers around Munich. These include Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, and those are all I can think of right now. They basically all taste the same, especially after the first liter or two. There are also scads of big and little stands selling all sorts of German specialties. These include all sorts of fish sandwiches, pork legs, oxen burgers, pastries galore, toasted nuts, goulashes, liver everything, roasted ducks, roasted chickens, and fish on a stick (literally a whole fish on a stick that is roasted). And of course, there are more wieners than there are men in the city (it only takes one wiener, though, right?). On my first night, I sat in a tent with a bunch of Australians and made conversation over beer for about 4 hours until realizing that I hadn’t eaten dinner and I hadn’t stood up, woops. I went back to my hostel at that point. The most special part of the night was that I arm-wrestled the most archetypal Bavarian dude that you can imagine. He stood about 4 inches higher than me, had wispy blond hair laid flat against his forehead, was clean shaven with a structured jaw line, and was fully decked out in lederhosen with sleeves rolled up. The story goes like this:

After I had exited the bathroom, he said to me in this deep, thick-accented English, “where you from?” I, of course, cracked a huge grin because it just seemed too perfect. I told him New York and then he said, “You play hockey?” I said no. Then to my complete shock and much to my entertainment he said, “YOU ARE PUSSY!” That was too much for me…I laughed. He didn’t like that much and got a little angry, but was still interested in talking English. So I ended up talking with him in the most comic, macho way that you can imagine and he took a liking to me. He wanted me to come back to his table with him and his friends, but I said that I would only do it if he came back and arm-wrestled with me at my table with the Australian guys. He agreed only under the stipulation that I and the Aussies had to come back to his table if I lost…I agreed to it.

You should’ve seen the look on the guys faces when I brought this blonde behemoth back to the table. Looks of utter confusion. I told them the deal, though, and they accepted, so the Bavarian and I commenced arm-wrestling; however, he had to first put an unlit cigarette in his mouth. At first, he played the old game where you look like you’re not trying and you keep the other man’s arm dead center in the middle of the table. But, I wasn’t trying very hard, either. Finally, I let in with all my strength, at which point he put a grimace of effort on his face and started giving it all he had. I was winning for a good 30 seconds, during which I was screaming at him, “WHERE ARE YOU FROMMM?” He replied, “BAVAARRIIIIAAA!!” This happened a couple of times before he started to cheat by pulling me completely across the table and leveraging his arm with his body—beginner’s move. But it allowed him to get the upper ground. Seeing that Jurgend (that was his name, by the way—pronounced Yoor-gend) was cheating, one of the Aussies squared us up again, but I was just too tired at that point and he had gotten a chance to rest in his cheater’s position. My forearm slowly dipped to the table and I finally gave up, at which point the brute stood up in triumph and then gave me a double high-five. Haha! I guess I lost in the end, but the guy had about 40-50 lbs. on me. If only I hadn’t lost that 15 lbs. in Turkey…

The next day at Oktoberfest can be summed up with a Mastercard commercial.

3/4 roasted duck: $16
3 liters of beer: $42
2 salmon sandwiches: $12
1 oxen sandwich $8
1 bratwurst with kraut: $5
1 nut strudel: $5
1 sparkling water to end the night: $6

Smashing beer steins with men in lederhosen all night….priceless. There are some things in life that money can’t buy. For everything else there’s plasteredcard.

Ok, that’s enough about Oktoberfest. You can guess how I felt the following day with eighty pounds of roasted meat in my stomach. This all happened between the hours of 2 pm and 10 pm, by the way. Do you know how big ¾ of a roasted duck is? Ugh