Taking a break from my lover’s spat with London, I turn now to the real love of my life—Munich.
It’s Oktoberfest in “the biggest village in the world,” so naturally there’s a bit more vomit on the sidewalks; but there are also considerably more Japanese men in Lederhos'n with impressively embarrassing Gamsbart sprouting from their hats—so it all evens out in the end to the nauseating absurdity we’ve all come to love as Oktoberfest.
A bit of history. The first celebration of what would later become known as Oktoberfest was the bash (and horse race) after the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. Near the end of the nineteenth century, the festival was moved up a couple of weeks to take advantage of the warmer weather in September. Today, Oktoberfest—the largest gathering of drunk people in the world—begins on the second to the last Saturday in September and ends on the first Sunday in October. (You'll know global warming has hit Bavaria when the mayor or Munich moves Oktoberfest back to October.)
In Munich, we don’t usually refer to Oktoberfest as Oktoberfest. We call it “Die Wiesn” (pronounced D’Veesun). The grounds where the 16-day long binge is held is called Theresienwiesen and hosts around six million visitors annually.
A Few Wiesn Dos and Don’ts:
1. If you happen to be a Japanese man and you’ve rented or bought a Lederhos'n for the party, practice undoing those big, wooden buttons a few times before you go to the bathroom the first time. The buttons only get bigger and harder after three liters of beer.
2. Roller coasters first, then five liters of beer, a whole roasted chicken, two enormous pretzels and three shots of tequila. Reversing this isn’t pleasant for anyone.
3. Crucifix! Learn the Wiesn songs. Nothing is more boring than 4000 people yodeling songs you don’t know. Even if you’re not the type of person who must fit in, learn them. You’ll have more fun. If you don’t know D.J. Ötzi’s idiotic “Hey Baby,” you’ll be the only one. Here’s a list of the songs you should commit to your Lebkuchen heart HERE.
4. Don’t start taking off your clothes at the bumper cars just because they’re playing your favorite song. Don’t ask. You don’t have to. I’ll tell. When Chris (that’s me) has disappeared for longer than it usually takes him to undo those big, wooden buttons in his Lederhos'n, head for the bumper cars. The show has probably begun.
Some Wiesn Terminology:
1. “Oans, zwoa, gsuffa!” means “one, two, drink!” and is yelled as a toast after “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit”—a very easy song to learn since these are the only words to it.
2. “Uh hwalbee hayndell, bitch-shu!” Don’t worry. You’re not calling the waiter a bitch. You’ve just ordered a half of a roasted chicken in Bavarian, which I’ve transcribed for you in an adorably incorrect way.
3. “Uh Mass, bitch-shu!” The exclamation marks are necessary. It gets loud in the beer tents. Here again, you haven’t shouted anything rude, but you have ordered a liter of beer.
4. Now put the two together: “Uh Mass und Uh hwalbee hayndell, bitch-shu!”
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is a freelance editor, translator and business ESL coach. His is also the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins and the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.