Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oktoberfest Part III: The Awkward Morning After

Click here for the album that illustrates many of the adventures here detailed.

The morning dawned cold. I had my 20 degree (Fahrenheit) mummy bag. Lindsay did not. I was a little warm when I woke up. Tylan was not. Despite these discrepancies, everyone slept through the night and wanted to continue snoozing. Please remember I was running on all of three hours. Lindsay was running on one. I can't speak for the others, but none of us were fully prepared for the previous day.

Eventually we had to get up to check out, leaving the tents and trailers to the next wave of young tourists. It should be noted that no one over the age of thirty seemed to be staying in the campground. Also, it was an incredibly male-dominated place. In fact, Oktoberfest is a very guy-oriented thing. I know it really shouldn't surprise me, considering it's a beerfest and stereotypically that's not a drink women go in for (go ahead, ask me about the evolutionary implications of female bitterness intolerance). The combination of camping and Oktoberfest meant the men's showers and bathrooms were a wreck simply from being over-used. As always, the women's facilities were pristine as the cleaning-lady attended to the girls stalls. I wouldn't have been phased to here the women had a Jacuzzi to boot.

Burdened with our packs, we had to spend a lot of time waiting for the train, dodging vomit puddles, and finally wending our way to the main train station where there were lockers beefy enough to handle our gear. By this point it was past noon. We wandered around the city center again, this time crammed with bodies on a Saturday, the combination of Oktoberfest revelers and Saturday bargain-hunters straining the alleys and streets like an Oktoberfester's bladder.

Eventually we found Donisl, a traditional Bavarian place with a fast moving line. It moved quickly because it's the only place in Germany where the waiter has ever brought the bill before it was requested. I ate a bunch of roasted meat right off the bone. I was good to go for the rest of the day.

Then the shopping began. To be perfectly honest I've always been a little confused during this conversation:

Me: Where'd you go this weekend?
Them: We went to Chicago!
Me: Really? Did you go to the Field Museum to see Sue the T. rex?
Them: No...
Me: Did you go to the art museum to see George Seurat, or Wrigley to see the Cubbies?
Them:, actually we did a lot of shopping. I went to __ and got ___...(and so on)

I don't know what to do in a city besides go to museums, shows, or maybe sporting events. I've always been skeptical and reluctant to spend vacation shopping, but this trip was different. This trip would be to C&A in downtown Munich, the one department store in Germany that carries racks of traditional Bavarian costumes. They have mannequins decked out in lederhosen and the same model who was photographed in her lingerie in the women's section, laughing as only a clothing model can while wearing the latest in dirndl design (This Year With More Lift!).

After puzzling over the sizes for a few minutes - is that number the waist in centimeters? That doesn't seem right. Maybe it's - we picked out our favorite floral/leather combos. Here's the result:
It was actually pretty comfy. And pretty expensive which means my poor traveling student budget said this would be a bad purchase. But know that next time I head to Oktoberfest I will both have a pair of these on and a reservation in the Lowenbrau tent. Take that for what you will oh family-or-friend-most-likely-to-be-with-me-on-such-an-outing.

I was most temped by the shirts, linen affairs with loose open collars and lacing up the chest with just a little metal and filigree as accents. If only this was still the get-up of your average Bavarian. I like to think my ancestors wandered around the Alps looking a bit like I do in this picture, but for all I know, they came from Hamburg or Belgium...

Then we didn't know where to head next, so, like moths to a zapper, we went back to Oktoberfest. This time the sky was blue and the crowds were friendlier. If I had a few hours to kill, I would have waited to finally see inside a tent. Instead we ambled the Fair a bit, casting idly for a place to sit to have a final drink and chat before catching our respective trains out of town.

Miraculously I saw an open table outside the Paulaner tent with room for our entire party. I couldn't believe my eyes and hurried back to round up the others (which took some time and effort. If it seems like not a lot actually happened while I was in Munich and there was plenty of time for everything, you're forgetting that as a group increases in size linearly, it reduces its average velocity exponentially). I expected to find three other groups warring over my table when I finally rallied the troops, but there it stood, ready for us.

Then I got a good look at the table. Before I had just seen empty spots. Upon closer inspection I saw the standing puddles of water on parts of the benches and an eruption of spicy mustard in the middle of the table. Hyenas have been known to defecate on their kills to drive away scavengers that might think about taking a bite of the hyenas' meal. As we used cardboard and plastic bags to make the place sittable, I expected a pack of 'Festians that went to the bathroom en mass to come charging back, expecting their mess to leave the table free of scavengers like us. Fortunatly no one else appeared, predator or otherwise.

On the way out I bought a green hat, a traditional style for Bavaria. If I couldn't have lederhosen, I would at least have the hat. At the station a drunken German pointed at me and I heard, "Du bist Roman!" Well I've been called a lot of things - a dork, a twelve-year-old, a mess, late - but I've never been called Roman. I stared blankly. He repeated. Then Juliane nodded and said, "With the hair and the green jacket, you really do look like Robin Hood." Gotcha. Well, now I have next year's Halloween costume sorted out, I just need to figure out where I can get green tights...

The train out of Munich was packed with exhausted Oktoberfesters. We (Lindsay and I) hadn't bothered to reserve seats - that costs extra dough - so we sat between the doors of the car on our packs and chatted while watching a group of young men gather into a knot in the middle of the car next to us. They started singing and chanting. Here's a brief sample.

Eventually their racket became part of the background noise of the train shifting and children crying. Suddenly I looked back over my shoulder and saw all of them standing, doing a kind of Simon Says in English. I couldn't make it all out, but the leader would say something and everyone else would repeat it and do it. For instance they chanted, "Take-off your shirt!" and this happened: By this point they had the full attention of the train. It isn't everyday you see half-naked people on the train chanting together and when you do, it's usually a good idea to pay attention. They would repeat everything they had said before, the chant building on itself. Everyone on the train was keen to hear what the next command would be. They all chanted, "Point at Coach!" and they indicated someone in their midst. Yet another team, much like the one we started our journey with.

After they pointed they repeated everything ending with "Drop you Pants!" and every one's jeans went to their ankles, a bunch of Germans standing in second class in their underwear. The next chant was inevitable. I don't actually know what they said, but everyone on that train knew there would be about twenty butt-naked Germans in about three seconds. Some averted their eyes, some glared angrily, some looked like they were watching a train-wreck.

And there they stood, everything around their ankles drunkenly chanting. That's a moment I will never forget. In fact I think it's burned into my brain, even if I wanted to forget it. There are some people in this world who should never parade themselves around in public without their shirts off, let alone their underwear. Some of these people were on this team.

And that is how my Oktoberfest experience came to a drunken, rowdy end.

I hope your weekend was exiting, even if it didn't involve naked soccer teams, massive carnival rides or liters of beer (that's probably for the better)!


Deutsche Heutewort: ausgepowert - exhausted, worn out (adj.)

Nach dies Wochenende ich bin ausgepowert und ich muss viele Wasser trinken.
After this weekend I am exhausted and I must drink a lot of water.

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