At Oktoberfest… Eins, zwei, drei litres of beer
Visualise a kick-ass fairground in the heart of Munich and a bunch of breweries pitching dozens of tents there for a fortnight. Not dingy camping-style tents mind you — humongous, circus-size tents. The smaller ones hold a couple of hundred people, the larger ones can go up to as many as 6,000 guests. So at any point, there can be close to a lakh people at the fair. Ek lakh. Ein hundert tausend.
The gaily-decorated tents are packed with communal tables, each seating 10 happy people. The OCD-type visitors book tables in their preferred tents months in advance. Me and my buddies (public shout out here to Goo, Blue, Nik and Shroffy) — we just showed up at the ground each morning and went from tent to tent, squeezing in wherever we could find some space.
The thousands of people in each of the tents are all essentially doing the same thing — drinking buckets of beer, eating buckets of food and getting drunk. It’s awesome; how else do I describe it? Beer is only served in one-litre beer steins or mugs. One has two choices. Take it or take it. A fantastic brass band belts out local drinking songs and popular numbers in the background, and every few minutes, someone gets onto the table and drinks the litre, bottoms up, to the raucous cheering of the crowd. Over seven million litres of beers and 5,00,000 chickens are consumed during the festival. It’s a calorie orgy.
Outside the tent, one can amuse oneself with carnival-style games — hoops, shooting, lucky draws, etc. The tipsier folks brave some of the many gravity-defying amusement park rides around the fairground. The tipsiest pass out drunk for a few hours or more, on the sidelines — there were over 600 such bierliechen (beer corpses) at the fest this year.
And how can one round up this grand display of booze, food, music and adrenalin without the mandatory sex appeal? So you have the waiters, waitresses and most of the visitors dressed in traditionally alluring Bavarian costumes. Men strut their stuff in lederhosen (leather breeches) and red or blue shirts with suspenders; traditional hats and shoes round up the smart slim-fitted look. Women wear an extremely tight fitting dress, a dirndl, with an apron tied around it. The blouse of the dirndl is frilly and white and is usually cut extremely low. Which was all taken in good stride by the six million plus visitors who attended. Other than an annoying group of Indian reporters who kept clicking their cameras and going “OMG! Cleavage!” every time they were served a beer.
Oktoberfest 2015. Book your tickets now. Prost!