Oktoberfest: a Beer Theme Park for Grown Ups

Short version of Oktoberfest in Munich:

We drank a lot of beer.

Long version of Oktoberfest in Munich:

The team sat quietly on the train from Berlin to Munich, watching the German countryside rolling by as each contemplated the challenge that lay ahead: Oktoberfest. The goal was 100L of beer in four days among eight people. It was said that it couldn’t be done, but they were determined.

As early as the first excursion to Hofbrauhaus, the famous biergarten located in downtown Munich, their eyes were opened to their miscalculation as they became acquainted with the Bavarian norms of beer drinking. A full litre of 6.5 per cent alcohol specially brewed Oktoberfest beer (1 of 6 official beers) was plunked down before each of them by dirndl-sporting bar wenches, accompanied by fat crackled pork knuckle as appetizers. In the background, a lederhosen-clad oompah band was warming up the crowd with a rousing rendition of the beer drinking anthem, Ein Prosit, which ended with the entire hall standing on the benches hollering along and clanking litres together, beer sloshing everywhere.

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Beer wench.

The team rallied to put away some significant litres on Day Two at a table at the prestigious Augustiner beer tent on the Oktoberfest grounds at Theresienwiese, with stein after stein of beer being consumed, second hand smoke being waved out of their faces, confusing dance-a-longs breaking out and general merriment ensuing. The team had one casualty by 4pm, a gentleman who bowed out for the rest of the afternoon after getting sick but later rallied and rejoined the party for night drinking.

Day Three, the team ventured to a football/soccer match (depending on where you live) between Paderborn and Munich, where jeers, cheers and costumes were the order of the day. As none of the team spoke German, they could only pretend to shout alongside the voracious fans, guessing syllables that ended up sounding like “She needs a washcloth!” and “Bring the plaque over here!”.

Day Four, the final tally was due. A valiant effort had been made, but alas, the team of eight fell short of their goal. 78L were drank, with two teammates achieving a remarkable 15L each.

They had failed to meet their goal, but they had succeeded in spirit.

The spirit of teamwork.

And the spirit of Oktoberfest.

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The Silly and the Serious Sides of Berlin

And no, I’m not referring to the East and West sides of the wall.

Victims of War Memorial, Kathe Kollwitz

I had expected Berlin to be a dreadfully serious place. I was ready to take in many days of austere historical landmarks and grim war monuments. And there certainly was plenty of somber sightseeing to be had, from the Holocaust Tower and Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum to the Bebelplatz book burning plaque to the razed site of Hitler’s suicide to Checkpoint Charlie and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe

Berlin also boasts plenty of heavy-weight museum paraphernalia, like the Nefertiti Bust in the Neues Museum or Babylon’s Ishtar Gate or Mshatta towers at the Pergamon Museum. Which are serious both in historical significance and awesomeness for an ancient civilizations nerd like myself.

So I was taken completely by surprise by how much silliness I experienced in Berlin.

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4 Easy Day Trips from Madrid

Avila

Avila by night

Avila by night (photo c/o Mauro Nogueira)

For fans of the middle ages, the Town of Stones and Saints is your dream come true. Avila is surrounded by medieval walls complete with gates, watchtowers, and turrets and is filled with Gothic and Romanesque churches. It’s a UNESCO Heritage Site and getting there costs you less than 10 Euros and 1.5 hours by bus or train each way from Madrid.

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