Sunday, October 2, 2011
Celebrating Oktoberfest The German Way
Being so so lucky to be in Munich during Oktoberfest, my co-workers and I of course took advantage of this fortuitous opportunity. Our German colleagues were kind and hospitable to take us out and show us the ropes of this cultural phenomenon from a local perspective. I just loved this, and for us it meant getting into the good German tents, ordering the right beers, singing festive German songs and eating the proper German essen.
Situated in Theresienwiese, the central part of Munich, Oktoberfest celebrations go on in a large outdoor open space that looks as if it’s also used for carnivals and other likely outdoor festivities. There are rides, street vendors, music and lots and lots of people walking, dancing around, some of them inadvertently making fools of themselves – but all in great fun.
After you enter this main area, you begin to notice the gargantuan tents set up along the main passageway. As our colleagues Tanja and Kathrein explained, there are many types of tents. You have your German youngsters tent, there’s a family tent, a foreigners tent, an American tent (where apparently naughty things happen) and even a wine tent. I had no idea about this and was impressed by the immense scale of this celebration.
Ending up in one of the German tents, we let the wild and joyous atmosphere envelop us. The first thing you see is loads and loads of people enjoying themselves and looking really festive in traditional Bavarian clothes – the men wearing lederhosen and the women sporting the ever-provocative dirndl. We didn’t have them on and although managed to have an amazing time, next year (and there will be next year), I’m not leaving home without ‘em.
Once situated in the tent, we ended up upstairs, snagging a great table overlooking the whole shin-dig. The festivities were continuous, allowing us to enjoy the live band, sing songs, toast to basically any and every opportunity that presented itself and then of course trying the traditional Bavarian food that let us sustain all that beer.
Food & Drink:
Letting our colleagues take charge of the situation, we ordered a massive amount of food including 3 colossal pretzels, a plate of mixed meats, veggies, bread and butter and also a plate of roasted chicken. Can we say meatfest?!
Pretzel – Once I got sight of these beautiful things, I just had to have one. Literally the size of one’s head (picture above proves it), they were ever-so impressive and slightly daunting. “How are we going to finish these?” I thought. It wasn’t as hard as it looked, as we each kept taking generous tears out of these bready things. I love that they were super crunchy and crackly on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Although I wasn’t crazy about the huge salt grains on top, everything else about this pretzel was divine.
Mixed Meat Plate – This was a beauty, I tell ya, filled with a plethora of meat delicacies including roasted duck, chicken patee, ground pork patties, sausage and more. The pork patties reminded me of my mom’s fasirky (a Slovak mini-burger of sorts) except that they were served chilled. I didn’t mind but think they would’ve been divine piping hot. The chicken patee was wonderful and perfectly spreadable on the hearty and somewhat tough German bread. I liked it, as you needed something robust to stand up to all that meat.
Additionally to the testosterone on this plate, there were also veggies such as two types of radishes, onions and pickles that added freshness. I loved chewing on the radishes especially, which helped to cleanse the palate.
Roasted Chicken – Although not necessary, in hindsight I’m glad we got it, as it was the only hot dish of the night. Juicy, flavorful and decked with a beautifully golden skin, the chicken represented a more delicate gastronomic aspect of this evening, when comparing it to the primal dish I just described.
Beer – Of course we can’t forget about the #1 reason people flock to Oktoberfest, which is the generous amount of good quality beer. Even though each tent has a different beer variety (the American tent apparently having an inferior type), the quantity you receive is quite astounding. The steins are a full liter and the beer is three times as strong as what you get in the States, therefore very well explaining why the food offering is so substantial. I enjoyed the beer at our tent, which was lighter in color, hoppy in flavor and heavy on substance.
Spiced Nuts – As is tradition, Tanja and Kathrein explained, that men are supposed to fetch the women something sweet after the beer mania concludes. But seeing as we were four females, we did what all empowered women would do and got our own dessert, the sweetly spiced nuts they sell outside the tents. Tantalized by in their smell, we just couldn’t refuse and got ourselves a bag full of candied almonds. Loving their cinnamon coating and the crunchy candy shell, they were the perfect end to a very successful evening. Mission accomplished.
Service and Cost:
For such a crowded event, visited by people from all over the world, I was surprised by just how organized it was. The waiters and waitresses at the tents were quick to approach us and it never took long to get anything, including the check. I think it helped that we were with our German friends, but still, the whole operation seemed orderly.
Since this is a “$2 million dollar businesses,” as my co-worker Christian mentioned, prices are expensive, ranging at about 10 Euro for each beer and about 30 Euro for the food. I didn’t regret it for a second. Just next year, in dirndl!