Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2013

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Friday, September 23, 2011


   One of the sites I really wanted to see when visiting Europe was Oktoberfest.  Randy had several stories of adventures in pursuing his 3rd passion (after golf and photography) -- Beer.  I wanted a glimpse into his previous experiences.

    Since arriving in Europe I've really developed a sense of the relationship Randy has with beer.  Have you seen the movie Up?  You know the one where the guy ties all the balloons to his house to visit the secret waterfalls?  There the adventurer has fitted his companion dogs with collars so they can "speak English".  Still they act like dogs and are easily distracted.  Anytime they see a squirrel they have to remark upon it and run after it.  It’s like that shiny thing that just grabs your attention.  Our standing joke is, for me, my “squirrel” is a weed in the yard.  We have confirmed, for Randy its beer.  Usually all it takes is the word on a sign.  So you can imagine the overload on his brain as we headed from Garmisch to Oktoberfest in Munich.

    Our morning started with one young couple joining the crowd on the bus in a local “costume”, a dirndl dress for the wife, lederhosen for the young officer.  They stood out amongst the rest of us Americans, but would soon blend into the crowd as we arrived at the fairgrounds.  This would become an interesting element at the end of the day.

    As we rode towards Munich, about an hour away from Garmisch, groups of people were rolling along with us, cars, vans, minibuses, other large buses.  All of us seeming to head towards the same event.  And most of those people were in lederhosen.  We even saw women in lederhosen.

    The bus parked about a 15 minute walk from the grounds, and we strolled towards them, following a series of posters plastered to the walls advertising the adult show offered at some place in Munich.  Bus after bus pulled into the area disgorging their cheery groups, looking to enjoy the fair.  The grounds of Oktoberfest look like a large state fairgrounds without the prize tents.  No 4-H ribbon winning hogs, sheep, pies, pumpkins, tomatoes, or best knitted whatever.  There is just booth after booth of food, mostly some form of “—wurst” or rides, rides, rides, so it is a big family event. Then there are the 16 “beer tents”.  Tent is a loosely interpreted word here because the buildings seem to have more structure than a fabric yurt (a new word I learned here).  There are walls of plywood, and some water closet facilities parked in the corners, also of plywood, so yes there is indoor plumbing.

    After wandering the fair grounds for about 45 minutes, Randy heard the German beer calling his name…”Raaaaandy. Raaaaandy.” It was a lost cause, he couldn’t resist.  The only question was, hmmmm, which tent?  We started toward the Paulaner, but there was a bit of a line to get in.  So we walked a little further, until we reached the HB Meister tent.  Inside we wandered down the row of tables.  Some had “reserved” signs taped to them.  We finally found one without a sign and room for two more people.  We just plopped down across from each other.  The beer maiden (sorry, I just made that one up) takes our order; you can only order beer if you are sitting down, and we smile and nod at our other 5 table mates.  They all look to be in their late 20’s and the 3 guys are wearing traditional hats.  Within 3 minutes we find out surrounded by oh, probably 4000 singing, drinking, eating and laughing folks of many nations, ages, and languages, we have managed to sit down next to 5 people from Virginia that work for the State Department out of Bucharest.  Within 30 minutes we’re giving the guys a hard time about not wearing lederhosen since they had arrived in Munich the day before.  Ten minutes later, 2 of the three disappear returning an hour later in new garb.  Their pants were shorter, made of more substantial material, and their pockets a whole lot lighter – them there lederhosen are NOT cheap.  We whiled away the hours eating and drinking, drinking and eating, singing, meeting new friends, and verifying that Busch Gardens the amusement park has it pretty close. 

    I managed to drink my entire litre of beer.  Randy is now fond of quoting are established ratio – 5 to 1.  Within the same timeframe, he downed 5 litres to my one.  I had hoped to see a little more of Munich, but was not observant enough to keep count of his ratio.  I really did not know he had gone through 5, so as we attempted to wander through more of the park, along with the other 500,000 (nope, I’m not exaggerating) attendees, we didn’t get far, and didn’t last long on our feet.

    Then the next phase of the show occurred.  We settled into waiting for the rest of our crowd at the designated site before heading for the bus.  It was a grassy hill near one end of the fair grounds, close to an entrance.  There the reserved Germans, or they could have been Italians since that weekend was known for visitors, demonstrated their individual and collective bad judgment, inability to hold their beer, or a number of other character defects.  Here is a short sampling of representative “That Guys”:

The guy that just unbuttoned his lederhosen and proceeded to pee in sweeping arcs, including on a woman’s handbag lying nearby.

The teenager couldn’t have been more than 14, dragged out by 5 friends who then kept checking his pulse.  They turned his head to one side so he wouldn’t drown himself.

There were a few people that just stumbled and fell flat on their faces on the concrete in front of the hill.

Then there was our own personal representative.  Remember the young couple that dressed like all the other locals from the morning bus?  Well we waited for the crowd for about an hour – since Randy had finished walking for the day a little earlier than anticipated.  The young wife was at the meeting point the entire hour.  Seems that another couple had befriended the young officer and his wife and sometime during the day the group of 4 had split into two pairs; girl/boy.  Or so she thought.  With just about 15 minutes to go before we left for the hour bus ride back to the hotel the other guy of the 4-some strolled up.  When asked where the young officer was, he replied he didn’t know and hadn’t seen him for hours.  Well, neither had the young wife.  She had strolled around the grounds with no money, no ID, and no cell phone since he had disappeared in the beer tent about 5 hours earlier.  When the wife and tour assistant approached a police officer about the missing young man, he seemed uninterested, stating he was an adult and since he had not been missing for long there was no cause for alarm.  Plus how would you describe him, young man, drunk, 5’10” short hair wearing lederhosen?  You just described 400,000 of the attendees at the festival.  

    The entire hour ride back to the hotel we were regaled with running commentary on whether  the young woman should have stayed behind trying to locate her lost husband knowing that she had no money, no phone and no ID, or should she have joined the rest of the group on the bus?  Lots of conversations between couples – support your spouse, look after yourself?  What would you do?

    Randy and I too had a quiet conversation about the issue, and the 4 people involved in the drama – the wife, the missing husband, the second wife who stayed as part of the girl pair, and the 4th buddy.  Maybe I should have tried a second litre because I couldn’t tune out any of the three That Guys on the bus, and was definitely worried about the 4th, the missing young officer.  Mostly I wanted to slap the other guy who had not maintained the buddy-system, and the young woman who left herself so vulnerable.  Luckily the young officer rejoined us the next day having woken up from the floor of the bathroom stall in time to miss the bus, but find a train back to the hotel.  And Randy restrained me from actually slapping them.

Oktoberfest – an experience on many levels.  When I reminded Randy that we only have one more October here, he’s already declared he wants to go back.  Maybe I need to try it again and plan for a lot less experience?
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