7 posts categorized "Oktoberfest"

Better in Boarisch

Boarisch cash machine

Christmas season is almost upon us.  In Munich, that means Oktoberfest season is finally off our backs.

Oktoberfest brings the same cheese-level as Christmas, but with a different subject matter.  Bavarian cheer becomes almost as unavoidable as Christmas cheer.   Everybody dons lederhosen, sings corny songs, eats wild game until he grows antlers, and drinks super-proof beer brewed to make you extra gemütlich.

The local dialect gets laid on thick, too—it calls itself Boarisch, though standard German would call it Bayerisch.  You hear Yaw instead of JaNayn instead of neinHod instead of hat.  And a simple d' instead of the more precise der, die or das.  I still have trouble with the last of those, even after all these years, so the season is a godsend. 

Stadtsparkasse (city savings banks) around Bavaria allowed you to conduct your ATM transaction in Boarisch, as you can see from the screen above.  I tried it, and liked it.  Boarisch grammar is much more devil-may-care than standard German, which sounds a bit prissy by comparison.

The producers of the summer-comedy Ted even released a special version of the movie to coincide with Oktoberfest.  (For those of you who don't know, it's a movie about a boy's teddy bear which gains the gift of speech. As his owner grows, the two pick up some bad-boy habits, until true love puts a stop to it.)  The movie would be released with the bear speaking Bavarian, instead of Hochdeutsch.  Here's a scene of the stars bloking out on the couch; I cannot understand a word of what the bear is saying, but I guess that's the point. 

In German culture, Boarisch is a byword for unintelligible.  When translators faced the testy problem of dubbing the jive scene in the Zucker Brothers movie Airplane!, they chose to make the two jive-speakers speak Boarisch, with German subtitles.

(The jive scene wasn't the only challenge the translators faced—as I've written before.) 

One can also find a version of Ted in Berlin yoof slang—or as they say, the bear Berliniert.  (Those who would like to compare the two, can do so here). 

I would call the Berlin version krasser (groovier), but that wouldn't be very toll (groovy) of me.



Fest Fatigue

Wies'n under construction, August 2011

This is our fifth Oktoberfest in Munich.  It's a light one.  Only two lots of visitors from abroad.  In the past, our poor spare room scarcely had time to draw breath before getting stuffed to its rafters with the next mob of thirsty AusländerMany a foreigner who lives in Munich knows the feeling.

On the other hand, 2011 has thrown up a punishing schedule of work events on the Wies'n.  It's impossible to do business in Munich without schmoozing away much of September.   Our office lies, literally, across the street from the festival grounds; both clients and colleagues from out-of-town take good advantage of this.   As it sits on my desk, my phone buzzes with faceboock check-ins over the road.  

I don't want to sound like a wet blanket, but frankly, Oktoberfest is hard work.  You need energy and stamina.  Beer provides both of these, but takes its toll on brain-cells, waistlines and the social reputation of the drinker.  

As I sit here at my desk, I can tell you that I'm well-and-truly over it.  But put a beer in my hand, and I might just find some enthusiasm.   Beer...it's magic!

An Accurate Oktoberfest

It was our fourth Oktoberfest in Munich, and I have to confess that I felt a little jaded.

This year's party rocked more than ever, since the festival was celebrating its 200th birthday.  The ever-intrepid Zurika reports that the new Historisches Wies'n (Heritage Meadow) was so popular that it may be included in future years. Many seasoned Wies'ners judged Oktoberfest 2010 to be the best in living memory.

But for me, it felt a bit BTDT.   I mean, if you've seen one giant outrageous enormous flirty over-the-top binge-drinking extravaganza, you've seen them all.  Furthermore, the party takes place just across the street from my office; my colleagues and I get to see the less glamourous side.

So imagine my delight when one of our houseguests discovered a little Oktoberfest surprise, virtually on our doorstep.

On the first Sunday morning of Oktoberfest, brass bands and other folky sorts gather from all over Bavaria, and parade through the streets into the meadow where the festival is held.  This is known as the Trachten- & Schützenzug Procession, or the Costume and Riflemen's Parade. 

Lo and behold, the marshalling area lies just a couple of blocks from home, in front of the Maximilianeum. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer to see a parade all scrunched up at the beginning, rather than wait for the whole lot to march by.  It was a treat.

As far as possible, authorities keep the spectacle authentic to 1810, the date when the first Oktoberfest was held.  That means all travel is by foot, or by horse.  

All those horses waiting around in one spot raises an obvious logistical problem.  Brass bands need to march very carefully.

Costume rules are strict, too—read an English translation here.  You can't just show up in rags and call yourself a camp-follower or serving wench (that's what the word sutler means in the guidelines.)  Your historical character must rank yeoman or above. Munich is so bourgeois.

If you overlook the eyeglasses, zippers, rubber-soled shoes and musical instruments labelled Yamaha, the effect can be quite convincing.

If you're thinking of visiting Munich for Oktoberfest next year, you'll find this spectacle spread out on Maximilianstraße, Widenmayerstraße and Steindorfstraße, just to the west of point A on the map.  It starts punktlich at breakfast-time on Sunday, September 18. 

View Larger Map

When one gets to the festival proper, the costumes stray a little from the period.  Here is a member of the band at the Weinzelt, during a ZZ Top medley.  Kinda sums it all up.


Fake, But Sincere. Part Two.

Living in Japan taught me a fresh respect for the power of the human imagination.

My Japanese friends (and loved ones) need little encouragement to imagine, for the sheer pleasure of it.  Even a tiny cue—the picture of a palm tree, a postcard from Spain—can trigger a pleasurable journey, inside one's head. 

Concealing a Tokyo construction site

If the thing ain't real, so what?   In your mind—and that's where it counts—it's both perfect and true.  Real doesn't always mean better.  Dreary old real

That's why it gives me great pleasure, once again, to trace a web of imaginative tribute across the globe.  Let's start in Munich, before we travel to Tokyo.  In our minds, of course.

Fake #1: Gothic Noveau

Munich's most photographed building is a Gothic extravaganza: the Town Hall, or Rathaus.  Here, we see it decked out for Munich's annual Christopher Street Day

(By the way, does calling it Christopher Street Day seem more authentically homosexual than plain old Gay Pride, or its direct German translation, Schwulstolz?)


The Munich Town Hall oozes Gothic camp from every crumb of its aging mortar.  Gargoyles, serpents, witches, seraphs, demons and angels abound. 

They're all fraudulent, as well as fictitious.  The so-called Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) opened in 1901.

Let's not call it fake Gothic.  Let's call it Gothic Revival.

Fake #2: Fifties Refurb

Odd that the burghers should build a Gothic Town Hall, when the rest of the city was busy helping to invent art noveau.   Doubly odd, since Munich has a real Gothic town hall, dating back to the 16th century, right next door.  

Well, it's real-ish.   The original was severely damaged in WWII bombing, and Eisenhower ordered remains bulldozed so tanks could roll into the Marienplatz, the city's central square.

It was rebuilt, from scratch, in the 1950s.  So the old Gothic town hall is much newer than the new Gothic town hall.  And much less Gothic, if the truth be known.

Daryl & Cheeling Italy 016

Today, it houses the Munich Toy Museum, showcasing the collection of cartoonist Ivan Steiger.  Speaking of pretend, it just finished a Barbie exhibition

Back to the New Town Hall.  Taking pride of place in front, we see the famous Glockenspiel

The top deck reprises a famous jousting match staged for Duke Wilhelm V on his marriage to Renata of Lothringen.  The lower level shows a bunch of barrel-makers prancing about to celebrate the end of the plague.


Well, the jousting knights were knights errant.  They've been playing a discordant note for two years, and nobody noticed.  It wasn't fake, but it was wrong.

Fake #3.  Make mine a Nama.

You'll hear no discord from the Glockenspiel in the picture below.  It welcomes visitors to Yebisu Garden Place, a commercial and residental development in Tokyo's inner west—my office was in YGP Tower.  It plays a cheerful mp3 file of an accordion and metal xylophone, perfect every time.  And not a word about the plague.


Now, why would the good burghers of Ebisu, which nestles in trendy Shibuya-ku, want to cheese it up with a fake Munich?  

It seems Yebisu Garden Place was built on the former site of the famous Yebisu Brewery, and the complex contains the world HQ of the Sapporo Brewing Group, as well as the splendid Yebisu Beer Museum

The buildings have been designed to feel beery and European, right down to the fake brick facades.  They used plastic tiles which look like terracotta, and draped them over a flexible steel frame.

Brick buildings spell danger in an earthquake-prone nation, and those few real brick buildings which survive in Japan get heavy structural reinforcement.

Fake #4.  Construction Controlleé

One might assume that all the buildings in Yebisu Garden Place are safely fake.  Not so.  The French château which houses Joël Robuchon's Restaurant is a real French château, dissembled block-by-block and reconstructed on the plaza level.  One hopes it's obtained seismic reinforcement, or the people shopping in the Mitsukoshi Department Store Food Hall beneath will be in for a surprise, someday. 

Toranosuke's image of Joel Robuchon's Tokyo Restaurant

Rumour has it that the food is so good, Ayumi Hamasaki keeps an apartment in YGP, just so she can pop across the street for a quick soufflé fromage.

Fake #5   Bavariental.

The East mimics the West more skillfully than the other way around. The story of  the Chinese Tower shows that the good burghers of Munich got a little confused about what they were actually faking.

Daryl & Cheeling Italy 318

The story starts with the birth of a Mr. Benjamin Thompson in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1753.  By a strange turn of events, he found himself an officer of the Wittlesbach court in Munich, earning the title Reichsgraf von Rumford, or Count Rumford to the likes of you and me.  He became the first scientist to properly understand the heat-producing effect of friction.  As well, has the distinction of introducing the potato to Bavaria, thus beginning a centuries-long culinary love affair.

He will remain best-known, though, as the founder of Munich's magnificent English Garden. The "English" part refers to a style of park created by landscape gardener Capability Brown, in which paths meander around free-form lakes, in contrast to the squared-off formality of most noble gardens of the day. 

The model for such a park was Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.  As you may know, Kew Gardens features a bloody great pagoda in the middle of it.  Muncheners felt, logically, for their garden to be a proper English one, it should feature one of those pagoda-thingys, too.  Except nobody knew that they were called pagodas, so they called it the Chinese Tower.  A Bavarian oompah band plays daily, on the second floor.

Fake #6.  Arrrr.  Or should that be allll?

You'd need to look long and hard to find such gauche fakery in the east.  But the Pirate Ships of Lake Ashi, near Hakone in Japan, come close.  These boats are really just commuter ferries that have been done up to look like pirate ships, as much as a commuter ferry ever can. The wrapped-up sail on the mast never unfurls; each is, in fact, but a plastic moulding of a furled-up sail. 


This particular Japanese pirate ship seems to bear the Australian flag.  Now, someone should point out that unless Australia has come adrift and floated into the Caribbean, one is unlikely to find an Australian pirate on the high seas.

No pirates. but plenty of thieves.  The convict stock which settled Australia had light fingers around many things, and none so much as British names.  Four Australian capital cities christened a suburb Cheltenham; three lifted Richmond; along with several Canterburys, Henleys, Hamptons, Hyde Parks and Darlingtons. 

Mark Twain, in his book Following the Equator, bemoaned the lack of originality in antipodean place names. He sighed whenever he passed through yet another spot named Victoria. 

(Interestingly, Twain's tour of Australia was entirely motivated by fraud.  In the days before photography was common, fake Twains would tour the globe, and make a pretty penny reading from his books.  Twain thought that he, too, should get in on the racket.)

However, like most fakes, the Australian places are better than the originals.  Except—South Australians will back me up on this—the Adelaide suburb of Southwark.

And on that note, let me conclude our homage to homages.  Echt is ugh.  


Oktoberfest Prep


9.00 am,18 September 2009.  Traffic restrictions in place around my office.  The neighbourhood braces itself for Oktoberfest, which opens across the street on September 19.

10.00 am., 18 September 2009. Supermarket near my office puts buckets of sand near front door.  The store is on the path between the Oktoberfest meadow and the local subway station.  It helps to clean up any alcohol-induced unpleasantness.  They have also employed security guards.


12.00 noon, 18 September 2009.  Facebook message from expatriate neighbour:

Uh, oh.  Dirndl appears to have shrunk in closet since last year. 

1.15 pm,18 September 2009.  Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8:

Do you guys own a sewing machine?  My dirndl needs emergency surgery. Thx.

1.30 pm, 18 September 2009.  Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal:

We're not THAT gay.  Too much of the good life, my dear?

1.45 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

The good life went straight to my bustline.  Have you bought lederhosen yet?

1.45 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal.

They're still fattening the cow, I'm afraid. 

2.07 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

BTW, no pictures of my boobs this year.  Or else. 

2.09 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal

Awww.  Your boobs are my most Googled picture.

2.26 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

You mean I'm being Google-ogled?

4.30, 18 September 2009.  Facebook message from two buddies abroad.

We are sooo looking forward to visiting Germany next week.  We'll be happy if we can have lots of food and drink.  Will that be OK?

4.35 18 September 2009.  Headbang8 replies.

I think that can be managed. 

Ah, Oktoberfest!

Photo Friday: Best of 2008

Silvester+179a.jpgEDIT: On reflection, the best picture of 2008 goes back to January 1st. I was lucky and caught this picture of the free-for-all fireworks celebrations at just the right moment. The woman was, no doubt, dealing with a flood of Happy New Year texts.

The people at Photo Friday have challenged followers to choose their best photo of 2008. Not sure if this is the best, but it's one I like, and haven't used before. That's a candy stand at Oktoberfest. Enjoy!

Beer is Hell

There's a special kind of Hell. A Hell which preys on your mind and messes with your brain. A Hell in which everything is bright, sharp and clear. In Munich, I practically swim in such a Hell.

Of course, hell is exactly that: the German word for bright or clear. The estate agent said my apartment was hell. People who sit through my PowerPoint presentations proclaim them, loudly, to be hell. Over my first few months in Germany, I've had day upon day of pure, sheer, constant hell.

Mostly, though, we apply this all-too-fitting word to beer. Helles Bier is the most popular Bavarian brew, outselling dunkel (dark), and hefe-weiß (yeast-wheat) by a considerable margin. In the most profound way, Munich is a hell of a town.

Given the high Nebenkosten (water rates), beer is actually cheaper than water. If I were on Bavarian food stamps, I'd make Helles my staple source of nourishment.

"We drink always Helles," said Zero, the office fixer, "because you can't get drunk on it."

"The stuff is 5% alcohol. Of course you can get drunk on it..." I noted.

"Impossible!" he countered. "You would need to drink so much of it, you'd exschplode!"

Briefing for a Descent into Helles*

Over the coming weeks, many would come in clear danger of explosion, tortured by their own self-inflicted hell. The drunkest city on the planet would reach a tipsy zenith. Oktoberfest.

Bavarian Beer Purity Laws set the alcohol content of festival beer at 6%, so the forces that fuel hell grow strong.

As Oktoberfest drew close, a total of six adult guests from loomed from abroad, all expecting a berth in my modest apartment. Strangely, none drank beer, but that didn't blunt their resove.

Further, my clients from the Large German Car Maker that Shall Remain Nameless, fell over themselves to schedule meetings in Munich that fortnight, rather than making us travel to Stuttgart as usual.

Even without these freeloaders, hell was inescapable. My office faces Theresienhöhe, which forms the western border of the Wies'n (meadow) on which the festival is held.

Of course, when I say meadow, I refer to a ghastly asphalt lot the size of five football fields, vacant save for these three weeks in autumn. That's when 40% of the annual beer production of Bavaria is consumed, along with half a million BBQ chickens, 88 spit roasted oxen, four million pretzels, and a relatively modest 200,000 pairs of sausages. Seven million visitors would drink, eat, stagger, flirt, snog, puke and/or queue for the lav.

I would visit a total of three times. It was hell. Approximmately eight litres of it, in total.

To be continued...

* With apologies to freshly-minted Nobel laureate Doris Lessing.