Prost. Schnitzel. Lederhosen. Oompah. Ziggy zaggy ziggy zaggy, oy oy oy. If these words confuse you, odds are you’ve never been to Oktoberfest. As a resident of the Kitchener-Waterloo area in Ontario for many years, I’ve attended my fair share of Oktoberfest events. If you do go, prepare to have your fill of sausage, sauerkraut, polka music… I feel like I’m forgetting something here…
Oh, that’s right: beer. Lots and lots and lots of beer.
At many Oktoberfest events you’ll also find carnival-style games that for some strange reason get progressively more difficult with every pint of Löwenbräu you drink. One of my personal favourites has to be the crossbow range where drunken, stumbling patrons are handed a loaded weapon and invited to fire deadly bolts at balloons. How one of those bolts hasn’t found its way into someone’s shoulder or buttocks is beyond me.
A Bavarian tradition
While Kitchener, with its strong German roots, puts on a pretty fantastic Oktoberfest, you need to travel to Bavaria for the real deal. The 16-day annual festival is held in Munich, Germany and runs from late September to the first weekend of October. It’s boasted as the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people attending and quite literally millions of litres of beer consumed each year.
The first festival was held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Apparently people had such an awesome time they decided to do it again the next year… and the year after that… and every year for the next 200 years, pausing only for the occasional world war or cholera outbreak (nothing kills a buzz like a cholera outbreak).
Janele Buller had the chance to attend Oktoberfest in Germany a few years back. Here’s her reflection on the event:
“No where else in the world can you be surrounded by highly intoxicated German’s wearing authentic German garb dancing on tables and singing along to a Bryan Adams cover band 😉 All this while being chastised by elderly German ladies in dirndl’s with massive biceps hauling three massive glasses of beer in each hand. And I do mean massive – no red solo cups here! The bathrooms in the fest halls were very well equipped as well – the German’s were prepared for projectile vomit, all the toilets had mechanical hands that wiped the surfaces after you flush. Pure genius.”
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