Do you know when Oktoberfest begins?
Trick question. It actually starts in mid- September and continues into the first weekend in October. Depending on what day of the week October 1st or 2nd falls on, it runs for either 17 or 18 days. October 3rd is German Unity Day, so they have it coincide with that. In Munich, where the biergartens as well as the beer is plenty, Oktoberfest is a special time for the people of Munich. Since its onset in 1810, the festival is a celebration of All Things German. In fact, only certain beers can be served during Oktoberfest. All of them must be made in Munich. This is the short list.
All of the aforementioned beers are served in the quintessential stein. (Yes, the waitresses REALLY do carry them by the dozen.) Even though the beers are HUGE, they are not always strong. During the year, some have a high alcohol content, but others are mixed with lemonade. During Oktoberfest, the beer must meet the 6% alcohol content, (13% according to the Bavarian Purity Law or “Reinheitsgebot.”) Food is always part of the biergarten, especially pretzels. It helps to offset the suds.
Do you know what they call Oktoberfest in Bavaria?
Another trick question….”die Wiesn.” This is the shortened version of the word, Theresienwiese (The Meadow of Therese.) This is one of the fields where the festival is actually held. Munich is peppered with “biergartens” that are very much a place for all people. Families with children, young couples, the elderly, they all go to the biergarten. There are some rules that are good to know….
One of the first rules is that really aren’t any rules other than you can’t bring your own beer in. The music, the food, the tables and the people are all in perfect harmony with one another. One concession I do know of is that in Hofbrau House in Munich, there are color coded table cloths. Tourists are allowed to sit anywhere they would like, unless it’s deemed a table for the locals. (The blue tablecloth is for locals, and the ones without a cloth are for tourists. No one tells you this…) These tables are “reserved” for the local townies. However, you may ask the locals at the table if you may join them. They invariably say yes, but they do like to be asked. (Certain times of the day, the week, or during a festival, it is very difficult to find a seat. People are seated family style, and you literally squish in where ever you can find a spot to sit.)
Whenever anyone at the table gets a fresh beer, EVERY SINGLE TIME , everyone clicks glasses. Everyone. It creates a feeling of connection. Strangers become friends. It is a convivial time to share food and drink with people. Even the language barrier does not interfere. A smile is universal, to quote probably one of the world’s cheesiest cliches.
It’s amazing how welcoming and….homey it is. People from literally all over the world are seated together to break bread, or bread dumplings, or pretzels….
So this September, as Oktoberfest begins, take some time and enjoy autumn, Bavarian style.