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Thank God for Beer

Get a taste of German camaraderie at the 18-day party called Oktoberfest

travel Updated: Oct 09, 2010 09:29 IST

You haven't partied
until you've
attended
Oktoberfest. The
18-day-long
German celebration
of debauchery has happy
drunks from every nation
descending upon the
Bavarian province of Munich.


From the airport to the bus stations, you'll spot almost all the locals decked out in traditional Oktoberfest costumes women in cleavage- exposing 'dirndls' (a costume that includes a bodice, blouse, skirt and apron) and men in their 'lederhosen' (shorts and suspenders).

Celebrations at the grounds of Theresienwiese begin at 9 am, and if you want a seat at one of the tables, you'd better be there.

The entire ground spans out like a mini city filled with amusement rides, gaming stalls, and of course, the massive tents. These structures can each accommodate at least 7,000 people, though at maximum capacity, the real numbers are anybody's guess. You won't be served unless you find a seat, so beg, plead, flirt... do whatever it takes to make sure you can squeeze on to a table if you haven't booked one in advance.

Make a song and dance
The most popular tent among tourists is the Hofbrau-Festzelt. Teeming with Australians, Americans, Italians, Germans and the lone Indian, the tent has a band playing on a stage high up in the centre. The bands start playing around 6 pm, by which time everybody is drunk enough to cheer for every tune. It's strange how everybody knows all the songs, even if they're Italian and can't speak a word of German. Outside, benches are set up to accommodate the last minute arrivals who don't get a place inside. While nobody gets as excited as the crowd inside, it's not unusual to find an entire table break into a performance of the YMCA.

In good cheer
Once you've safely scored a seat, it's time to attract the attention of one of the hundred bar maids scouring the place. They're trained to lift about eight of the one-litre beer mugs (4.5 euros or Rs 277 a pop) at a time even when filled to the brim, without spilling a drop. Once this gravity-defying feat is accomplished, they'll wish you a merry 'prost', which is German for cheers.

Before taking that first sip, you must, without exception, wish everybody with a large cheers and banging of beer mugs. And if anybody in the vicinity decides to say 'prost', you're going to have to return the good wishes.

If you down four and a half litres of beer, like I did, you'd better back it up with a snack. The German version of 'chakna' is a pile of chicken, usually the whole bird, on your plate. At 8 euros (Rs 490) a plate, it's literally a meal for the entire table.

While Germany doesn't share the same sense of hospitality as India does, this is the one place where our sensibilities match. People whip out their wallets in a drunken excitement to order drinks for the entire table, an almost unheard of phenomenon in the rest of the country. And while you're loudly cheering with a motley crew from around the globe, be sure to look up to the sky and thank god for creating beer.