Monday, September 30, 2013

The Tapping of the Keg

Written by Karen.
There was a feeling of jovial festivity that permeated the early morning air.  Even without our cup of coffee, we could sense the upcoming occasion, the anticipation, the expectation of good times ahead.  Today was the day - the opening day - of the annual celebration held in Munich, Germany: Oktoberfest.  

It was 9:00 am on this Saturday morning, and the downtown Munich hotel that we were staying at was bursting at its capacity with more than 1,000 paying guests.  Klaus, the breakfast gatekeeper, welcomed us with a big smile to the well-stocked breakfast area already full with enthusiastic festival goers with, "Are you English or American?"  When I asked him what was the giveaway, he laughed and said, "We just say 'Morgen' here in Munich - not Guten Morgen -  and you aren't wearing festival clothing!"  

We looked around.  He had a point.  Outside of our visit to the 2010 Oktoberfest (Click link back to read about Adam's perspective on Oktoberfest 2010.), I had not seen so many customized variants of the lederhosen and dirndl costumes in one place before.  This was, of course, before we arrived a few hours later at the opening ceremonies of Oktoberfest 2013. 

I know.  I know.  Oktoberfest is all about the beer, right?  Partly.  In 2012, there was almost 2 million gallons of beer consumed during the three weeks of Oktoberfest. But, if you extrapolate that amount of beer over the roughly 7 million people who visited Oktoberfest, the festival is much more than just drinking beer.  It's actually a very fun, family-friendly event, with endless people watching opportunities.

After breakfast, we wandered in through the designated Oktoberfest opening gate, just after the tapping of the beer keg by the mayor of Munich.  Boom, bang, huzzah. Oktoberfest had officially started.  

We walked slowly along with the immense throngs of good-natured crowds - most of them wearing some form of the Bavarian costume - as we posed in front of the beer keg wagons and highly-decorated horses.  Young women posed with each other taking pictures of themselves; couples strolled with big gingerbread-like decorated cookie hearts hanging around their necks; kids dragged their parents towards the amusement rides; and people headed for the massive beer halls or the many food stalls. 

I could hear the laughing from a block away.  What was so funny?  We could see a crowd - ten deep - standing in front of one of the many amusement attractions.  I stood on my tip-toes to try and get a closer look. 

It was an obstacle course - full of stepping stones that went up and down as people walked on them, a water feature that would indiscriminately squirt water at people, a pathway full of spinning plates, a bouncy bridge, steps that suddenly collapse, and surprise blasts of air guaranteed to blow dresses and shirts up - all designed to knock children and adults off-balance.  

At first, my natural inclination was, how crazy!  What if someone gets hurt?  But, no one else seemed to share my initial concerns.  In fact, both the audience and the obstacle course participants loved it. The laughter was good natured. I let myself go in the moment and began to enjoy the easy camaraderie of the spontaneous theatre that was unfolding before us.  

I laughed - along with everyone else - until I cried.  It was theatre - comic relief - and just plain silly.  I couldn't understand the language that was being spoken, but I could figure it out:  Watch out! Oops! Eeek! Let's try this...I'll step here, and help you there...and you go there and help me there - that should get us through this section!  Whoops!  Hang on!  Oh well.....!  

It seems rare to find the silly, laugh-until-you-cry spontaneous moments such as this one played out so openly in life theatre.  Where you go with the flow, dance as if no one is watching, and don't really put any other sense of importance on what you are doing except to enjoy the moment and laugh until you cry. 

And we all laughed together as we watched the expressions, the strategies,  and the reactions of each unscripted scene, and waited eagerly for the next batch of actors to enter on this interactive and spontaneous public theatre stage.  

After an hour - or so - I reluctantly walked away from the obstacle course.  There was so much more to do and see at Oktoberfest.  But I felt sated by the experience.  I couldn't remember when I had laughed so hard and when I was surrounded by strangers who were also laughing until they cried. We were all engaged in the moment - laughing with each other - and for those few moments, it didn't matter that I didn't speak German.  We all spoke the simple and shared universal language of good-natured camaraderie and laughter.  You can certainly raise a glass to that!

Highly decorated horses that brought the ceremonial kegs of beer to Oktoberfest.

Pictures of the beer wagons - festooned with flowers and crowns
Despite it being September, there were fresh flowers everywhere
From the obstacle course attraction....people stepping on the spinning plates and trying to make their way to the next obstacle without getting beeped at or sprayed with water or air.
A father helping his daughter through the up and down stepping stones...
A young man spinning around the spinning plates
A few of the other attractions that we stopped and watched for awhile....

The half-meter bratwurst!

These cookie-like hearts are everywhere.  Typically, we saw these worn on women or children.  
Oh, yeah...the beer was very good!


Jennifer Chase said...

Awesome photos! I didn't see either one of you on the that incredible slide :) Glad to see you two having a great time over there. Was the beer great or what?

Troy Fisher said...

Beautiful pictures. Looks looks ya are having a great time

Anonymous said...

great story and even better pictures. I can just taste that brew....zum Prosit, einz, zwei, suffa. THANKS for sharing, Gus & Cam

Observers of Life said...

Thanks Troy! Hope all is going well with you?!

Take care -

Observers of Life said...

Hi Gus and Cam -

We would have loved to "suffa" with you guys! Maybe next time?!


Observers of Life said...

Hey Jennifer! The beer was very good! :). As was the half meter bratwurst! It's a good thing we walked around for 7 hours to burn off those calories! No chance in waiting in the very loooong attraction lines....


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