Oktoberfest is the world’s largest fest – over 6 million people visited this year. The fest is spread over a vast ground that houses beer houses which serve the traditional Bavarian beer and eataries and fun rides outside.
I walked in a little after 9am, when I could get into a beer house without a reservation.It was like a huge barn, with lines of benches within. Though early, our beer house already had around 5000 people in it, merrily quaffing their beer.
I walked between lines of benches, approached a barmaid and bought my first beer. It was a huge 1 liter beer mug, priced at EUR9.10.
A few students enjoying their drink at a table nearby welcomed me to join them. Everyone was curious where I came from, what was I doing at Oktoberfest with a camera – no, I don’t work at a press! was my answer – and happy to share what the fest was all about.
You can start drinking at the Oktoberfest when you turn 16, though some 15 year olds tried getting in too. There were regular rounds of policing to check for these, and anyone suspect was asked to show their id.
The environment was entirely unlike what I have seen at Germany so far. Everyone was rambunctious, and had forsaken the traditional German dry humour. There was much cheering and shouting, and once in a while, someone stood on top of the table announcing that he or she would try a bottoms up with a full beer mug, only to be egged on enthusiastically by the crowd. Considering it is a 1 liter strong Bavarian beer we are talking about, not too many finished it, but all got applauded for trying anyway.
Almost everyone was dressed in the traditional Bavarian costume. For guys, this is a checked or a plain shirt, with a suede leather pant with suspenders – called Lederhosen. The ladies were in Dirndl, historical costume of the peasants.
The amazing spectacle is that almost everyone is in the traditional attire, making it a huge costume ball.
It was also a time for many flirtations, with many young romantics cozying up after a drink or two.
As I finished my first beer, a guy from the neighbouring table walked up, introduced himself as Sebastian and asked if I could join him and his friends. I went down to much merriement on their part to have a drink with me. In many parts of India, a white man is a curiousity, and folks jostle to get to see him and learn more about him. Deep in Rhineland, I, the brown skinned man, was the curiousity, and many folks were immensely pleased that I had made it to their traditional function.
A band started playing up, and everyone clambered on the benches to stomp, sing and sway.
After almost 5 hours and 2 beers later, I staggered out, unsteady but extremely happy. In the spirit of the Oktoberfest chant – Ale! Ale ale ale!