Oktoberfest, The Memorable Party
This story takes place at different times and places. This is the first act:
We were three wine correspondents from France, Italy and the United States, touring the Palatinate region, led by Erika, who years back had been the German wine princess. She was an expert in Riesling and in facing up to writers who wanted to try everything and pronounced the labels on the German bottles poorly, even when reading them.
Would you like to see the largest wine cask in the world tomorrow?
Actually, no Erika. I’m sure it must be magnificent, but the three of us decided that we’re still in time for the Oktoberfest. and…
A visit to Munich hasn’t been programmed for you. Are you not wine correspondents? Oktoberfest is beer.
After half an hour negotiating, we convinced her to consult with the management. Another hour of explanations about the journalistic interest, commitments and promises, and the next day we left for the Bavarian region.
Erika was in charge; that saved us. She has an uncle who owns an inn on the city outskirts and agreed to house us for two days. Due to the Oktoberfest, there were no available rooms in Munich. 20% of the more than six million visitors are foreigners.
We knew what a tent was, for two, four, even eight people, but we had no idea what Oktoberfest tents were like. There were 14 huge, and 20 smaller tents. The smallest allowed for 2,500 people sitting. The largest can house almost 11,000. To be able to sit is important; if you’re standing you can’t drink or order food.
One is familiar with a quart of beer, but it’s impossible to imagine seven million quarts. It is factually, a river of beer. This is what is served during the two weeks of the festival in large heavy jugs. Beautiful, blue-eyed, smiling girls carry them in their hands, not on trays.
Normally, every visitor arrives with the idea of having three, four, six jugs that day, while they sing, dance, clap and knock on the long, huge, medieval tables where no hierarchy exists.
Renowned regional orchestras mark the rhythm. There are no soloists, or silences, no harp, or piano. The kings of the beat are the tuba, the horn, trombone, and the clarion after.
The framework of the musicians reveals their specialty. The tuba players are large men (but not so large that they don’t fit in the tuba), they’re not muscle-bound, but rather hefty. Those who play the clarinet are tall and slim; everyone knows and sings the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
No large or small salads are served; no tuna fish sandwiches, no vegan dishes.
You eat like in medieval times. During the two weeks of the festival, the visitors gorge on three hundred thousand pork sausages, sixty calves, one hundred and twenty oxen, more than half a million roasted chickens, almost eighty thousand simmered pork legs, smoked fish (some 40 thousand kilos), and tons of potatoes, cabbages and stewed vegetables.
Likewise, a million liters of mineral water and lemonade are consumed, and some one hundred and seventy thousand liters of non-alcoholic drinks. Almost one hundred and thirty thousand liters of wine, sparkling and otherwise, are consumed, and coffee or tea fans, drink some three hundred thousand liters at the culmination of the gargantuan feast.
As it should be, all is in perfect, Germanic order. The police (those who are visible are men and women dressed in a green uniform, those not seen, are disguised in regional clothing) fall on anyone attempting to cause trouble in less than 28 seconds. One hundred and twenty thousand attempts have been detected and frustrated during recent years, and some twenty visitors have been evicted from the tents for angrily demanding French wine.
Due to its huge success and originality, Oktoberfest is replicated and celebrated worldwide, wherever a German colony exists.
The dates depend on the countries, but it always lasts two weeks, between mid-September and October.
The first Oktoberfest was celebrated from October 12 to 17 in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Prince Louis First of Bavaria to Princess Teresa of Saxony. The celebration consisted of a horse race, and after the success of the first one, it continued to be celebrated yearly; the date was set earlier in September because of the milder climate in Munich during that month.
We asked Erika if the thirst for beer had dwindled with time.
No, she assured us with a smile. In 1910 during the first centennial, one million two hundred liters of beer were served. During the second centennial, we almost arrived at seven million, and now, we’ve exceeded that number.
There’s no other drinking festival in the world like the Oktoberfest.
You’re right, the three wine correspondents answered in chorus; and then we ordered the last round.
Professor Alberto Soria