Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Munich (day two)

The big had finally arrived. O-Day. Containing my excitement was hard. No, not hard. Impossible.

We had a table reserved for 13:00 in the Hacker tent. No need to rush to breakfast. After a leisurely stroll along the Isar, we jumped on a Wies'n-bound U-Bahn. The atmosphere was starting to build, even on the platform. Families, all dressed up in traditional gear, jostled around us.

Even knowing the scale of the operation, walking through the gates of the festival was still a shock. Huge. No, bigger than huge. Effing enormous. Beer tents, fried pig stalls and funfair rides seemed to stretch to the horizon. Best not lose Andy. He'd got the tent tickets.

Still having plenty of time, we did a quick tour of the site. Well, the bit of it with the beer tents in. I photographed each and every one. And the drays. Most tents had a horse-drawn dray parked outside. An amusement park with a beer theme. That's what it felt like. Exactly my sort of place.

I was careful not to let any dirndls distract me too long from following Andy's back. Though there were plenty of very distracting dirndls. I wasn't so interested in the lederhosen. Can't think why.

Promptly at one we parked our bums at our table. The waiting staff came over and introduced themselves. This was much more like it, service-wise. The waiter even apologised for taking so long to serve us. All of two minutes. He clearly hadn't visited Hofbräuhaus much if he thought two minutes warranted an apology.

To reserve a table you need to buy vouchers for food and drink. Two litres of beer and one Hendl (half a roast chicken) per person. Fair enough. I planned on getting through more than two litres anyway. "You can use the chicken ticket to buy beer if you want." Andy helpfully pointed out. Sounded like a recipe for success: skip the food and concentrate on beer. What could possibly go wrong.

The beer. I bet you want to know how that tasted, don't you. It was the right colour: a full gold. Good to see they'd got the style right. A proper Helles Märzen, as is traditionally* sold at the festival. Full-bodied, malty and slightly sweet is how it tasted. Again, pretty much on the money. "Süffig" as the Germans would say. Dangerously drinkable is the English expression.

And both drinkable and dangerous it proved to be. I must have getting the hang of those big litre glasses. It was either that or the scandalously short measure. The first litre disappeared in around 15 minutes. The second didn't take much longer. I'd used up all my tokens in hour one.

I could try to describe the Hacker tent. The heaving sea of humanity below us (we were on the balcony). The noise. The oompah band on their podium trying to make themselves heard over it. The endless toing and froing of the waiters and waitresess, dashing from servery to customers and back again. But I'm rubbish at that sort of thing. Instead, here are some photos.

We were a bit on the sidelines upstairs. A wander around the downstairs soon put that right. People everywhere you looked, many the worse for wear. Yet not an angry glance or raised fist to be seen. It makes you realise that it's the drinker not the drink that causes trouble. We're such a violent lot, us British. You have to spend some time anmongst Germans to realise just how much so.

I awoke in my hotel bedroom at 20:00. With no recollection of having left the festival and walked back. Bag, camera - yes both had safely made it home. Unlike my memory. I fetched a kebab and watched some footie on the telly. But sobriety didn't come before sleep.

Next day, Andy was happy to fill in the missing bits. Seems like I'd made a schoolboy error: forgetting to eat. And here was me thinking I was a semi-pro pisshead. The five litres I'd drunk could explain the memory gaps. Especially with no food to soak it up. I'll know better next time. Like Andy, I'll have a roast pig sandwich on my way to the tent.

All that's left now is me and the debris. The debris where my brain was supposed to be and 8 or 9 hours wandering around Munich trying to fill the gaps in my Munich Pub Guide. You'll find out all about that tomorrow. In the last installment of this travel tale.

* "Traditional" in this case means "for the last 10 years or so".


mike004 said...

Good to read a positive review about the Oktoberfest. It often gets dismissed by some beer writers.
But it's a great occasion and the beer is perfectly quaffable and given the high turnover, it's certainly fresh.

Rod said...

"Even knowing the scale of the operation, walking through the gates of the festival was still a shock. Huge. No, bigger than huge. Effing enormous. Beer tents, fried pig stalls and funfair rides seemed to stretch to the horizon."

You're absolutely right here - NOTHING prepares you for the sheer scale of the Oktoberfest. I had been to many other festivals in Germany, and was totally familiar with the epic scale of Munich's beerhalls, kellars and gardens. but I was stunned at the vastness of the Oktoberfest.

Ron Pattinson said...

Mike004, I really enjoyed the festival. At least what I can remember of it. And the Hacker beer was more than decent.

Rod said...

"Good to read a positive review about the Oktoberfest. It often gets dismissed by some beer writers."

That's just snobbery - the beer is very good and the atmosphere amazing. It's expensive but worth it. The Oktoberfest is the greatest celebration of beer-drinking in the World, and every beer freak should go once (at least).

AEC said...

I've never been to Oktoberfest in Munich, but I have been to Frühlingsfest -- the spring equivilent. Some people I've talked to prefer it as it's about half the size of Oktoberfest and a lot easier to get a beer.

Ron Pattinson said...

AEC, I had no trouble getting a beer at the Oktoberfest. But we did have a table reservation.

mike004 said...

Back in the day, when I used to go to the Oktoberfest every year, we never used to bother with table reservations. And the Internet hadn't been invented yet, anyway.

On most of the downstairs tables in the tents, German families were always quite happy to "budge up" and let us sit with them. I remember being very impressed by their friendliness and good humour.
I don't know if that's still the case nowadays.