Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



Yesterday, the mightiest of German festivals, OKTOBERFEST, officially came to a close. And this year's fest set some pretty impressive accomplishments. As always, those meticulous Germans love to make annual announcements about each year's OKTOBERFEST. And, as always, the figures are amazingly accurate. In 2010, 66,436 hectolitres (what is that?) of beer were drank, 116,923 sausages were eaten...and...488,137 chickens were consumed. A NEW RECORD!

Having attended this esteemed event, I thought it might be helpful for DUNER to share some brief items about OKTOBERFEST. Read them, laugh at them, then file them away in a corner of your brain. Next time you're at a restaurant and some one's friend's boyfriend is visiting from Stuttgart and you end up stuck talking with him while waiting for your table, you can throw out some of these fascinating tidbits. Because...love it or hate it...EVERY GERMAN PERSON has an opinion on OKTOBERFEST. And...love it or hate it...EVERY GERMAN PERSON... absolutely believes that their opinion on the matter is, in fact, the correct one!

First thing: This year's OKTOBERFEST was an import milestone for the festival, as it marked the 200th anniversary of the initial event. Indeed, the exact date was October 12, 1810. At the time, there was no united "Germany," just an enormous patchwork of Royal Kingdoms, Church-owned Principalities and 'free' trading cities. One of largest such states was the proud Kingdom of Bavaria, where King Ludwig the First was about to be wed to Princess Therese of Saxony. To celebrate such a momentous event, two weeks worth of pre-wedding festivities were being held in the capital, Munich. On the 12th, to the delight of the citizenry, the two royals raced each other on horseback around a lush meadow. What a stupendous October fest!

Since everyone had such a great time, it was decided to repeat the two week celebration every October. In 1835 the first inaugural parade was held. The parade was led the Munchen Kindl, which were dozens of boys dressed by a local monastery. They would serve as the inspiration for the Munchkins in Frank Baum's novel THE WIZARD OF OZ. In 1880, electric lights were installed for the first time. And guess who screwed them in? ALBERT EINSTEIN, of course! He was twenty at the time and worked for his uncle's hardware store. But not all Oktoberfest times are good. The festival has been cancelled 23 times for wars. The longest such stoppage was for the Prussian war, which would eventually result in the end of the Bavarian Kingdom. And there was that awful time in 1854 when a nasty outbreak of cholera killed 4,000 people in Munich. No celebrating that year!

Finally, here are three personal DUNER OKTOBERFEST TIPS: 1. Eat the chicken. They will serve you an entire bird. Eat it all; you'll need the base in your stomach and it's easier to digest than sausage. 2. Watch out for the steins. These large glasses hold a liter of beer and weigh a hefty 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs). While thefts are down, stein assaults are up. 3. Avoid the meadow. Since 1960, the famous site of the horse races is now a grassy meadow. At night, it becomes a very shady place, with amazingly drunk people stumbling around in varying states of consciousness. Even though the bathroom line may be long, don't pee on the tree!!

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