The (Drunken) Man Show

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, September 15, 2004 was originally posted on September 20, 2006.

DAY 22:  On October 12, 1810, Bavarian Prince-turned-King Ludwig the First got hitched to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in a huge fairy tale wedding that would make any Bridezilla green with envy.  The reception was such a blast that the king decreed it be celebrated again the following year — it’s good to be the king — with another huge festival of dancing, singing, horse races, good food, and above all, good beer — a beverage Bavaria prided itself on.  Over the centuries, this October festival, this Oktoberfest was celebrated annually, minus a couple of times lost to war.

Nowadays, Oktoberfest actually takes place the three weeks before the first Sunday of October, meaning it always starts in mid-September — for no real significant reason other than that the weather is better — and therefore it is, for the most part, a Septemberfest.  But seriously, with a festival dedicated to celebrate the Bavarian cultures of dancing, music, cuisine, beer consumption, and hot German chicks prancing around in corsets that accentuate their cleavage, why wait for October?

“EAT UP.  This is what you’re going to be vomiting later,” I told Terence, Paul, and Jack as we served ourselves at the Hotel Italia’s breakfast buffet.  We loaded up on food and then walked the fifteen minutes down Schwanthalerstrasse to where everyone else was headed, the Theresienwiese (named after the Princess Therese), the huge outdoor exhibition and fair space used for Oktoberfest (and other lesser-known exhibitions during the other parts of the year).  Once we got through the main entrance, we saw just what a guy’s paradise it was.

“It’s like Disney World,” was my first impression.  Previously I thought that the beer tents I’d heard of were simple circus-like tents of big tarps propped up on poles.  However, each beer tent, or festhalle, was an over-the-top pavilion, sort of like one at EPCOT Center — except instead of having a futuristic or country theme, it was an homage to Bavarian tradition, a virtual palace of beer.  Lowenbrau’s lion roared in intervals while Spaten’s mechanical figures spit roasted a plastic oxen.  Nearby there were many food stands selling everything from sausages to fish to pretzels to rotisserie chicken.  There were more than enough souvenir shops to go around and, to top off the theme park comparison, there were even carnival games, haunted houses, and thrill rides, including two big roller coasters to challenge those who wanted to see their vomit fly at high velocities.

“Now this is my Xanadu!” Terence proclaimed.

“You know the Holocaust?” I said, starting a quote from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  “This is the complete opposite.

Oktoberfest also felt like a Disney theme park because most people were in traditional costume, and not just the barmaids gearing up for a long day of serving beer; a lot of people of different races and ages were dressed up to get into the spirit of Bavaria.  Guys would wear the traditional lederhosen (literally “leather trousers”) with or without suspenders (or curled moustaches) and high knee socks, while girls would wear the dirndl, the traditional low-cut dress worn often with a cleavage-enhancing corset, which appeased every man’s intrinsic fetish.

“It’s like [Comedy Central’s guy-centric] The Man Show,” I pointed out, surrounded by the action, the beer, and the attractive German Juggies.  “I got a glockenspiel in my pants!”  I pointed out another voluptuous one walking by.  “Now that is two hours on a train from Rome,” I told Terence, continuing the Naples joke from the night before.

“So many hours, so little time,” he said.


JOINING THE FOUR of us were three more: another Erik (with a K, the correct way), a German-American friend of Jack, Paul, and their brother Nick who had worked with him in Miami; Erik’s girlfriend Inga; and her uncle Wilfred.  The three were living near Frankfurt, hours of kilometers away, but had made the pilgrimage to Oktoberfest — a first time for them.  The Other Erik had done his homework though, and was versed in the festival’s opening ceremonies.  He led us to the parade route down the main promenade of the Theresienwiese, where each brewery would symbolically parade to their respective festhalle, complete with their own horses, marching brass, piccolos, entourage, and beer wagon.  However we left before the parade really got started for The Other Erik knew that space was limited in every festhalle and you couldn’t get a beer served without a seat.  (The exception to this was the overcrowded Hofbrauhaus tent, where according to two Aussies I’d met on the ATM line, you could get a beer from a stand — although he warned me that it was the rowdiest of the tents, full of Aussies and Irish guys all prepared to give anyone in the “pig pen” a wedgie to the point that their underwear is taken off them.  Uh, nein.)

Anyway, the seven of us scrambled, going from festhalle to festhalle, looking for a place to sit amidst the thousands of people who’d been saving a spot for hours, or the groups that had made table reservations as far as a year in advance.  We ultimately found a space at a table in the outside seating area of Pschorr-Braurosl — but lost Jack and Paul in the scramble.  Whether or not they were still in one of the tents that were now closed off to new entrants due to being fulled to capacity we weren’t for sure.

We camped at the table, patiently hoping we’d run into them, until we heard the big boom cannons fire into the air at high noon, signifying what had just happened in a nearby tent full of newsmedia cameras and reporters:  the Mayor of Munich had tapped the first keg, officially kicking off the 2006 Oktoberfest.  Once his beer was flowing, the beer started flowing from the sixteen festhalles to serve the over 100,000 patrons in that day alone.  (Over the course of the entire three weeks, six million people attend Oktoberfest — the population of a small country.)  An estimated 1,600 barmaids and waiters got into single-file formation in an assembly line style to pick up as many beer steins as they could hold in two hands (picture above) — an incredible feat, I must say — and bring them to their assigned tables.  There is no choice of size or style of beer at the festhalles; beer is served in standard one-liter glass steins (for about seven euros), and it only comes as each brewery’s specially-made Oktoberfest brew.

In no time, our barmaid made her way to us and set beers on the table for the people we had accounted for — plus one lone guy we let scoot into the bench so he could get a beer served and move on.  We held up our beer steins and toasted our neighbors down the other side of our shared table in traditional German style:  “PROST!”  It was the first of many toasts.

“[You think Jack and Paul would have sense to go back to the main entrance?]” The Other Erik asked me.  “I mean, it was their idea.”  It was the emergency in-case-we-get-separated meeting place.

“[We can check,]” I said.  “Hold up.”  I chugged the rest of my beer, a little over half a liter, in about ten seconds like I was in some sort of fraternity contest.  “Okay, let’s go.”


THE OTHER ERIK (not to be confused with “The Other Erik” from Boracay, Philippines) was born in Munich, but had grown up in the States.  He had known Jack and Paul by working with their younger brother Nick, head chef of Miami’s famed Biltmore Hotel.  Taking advantage of his dual citizenship, The Other Erik had decided to relocate back to the Fatherland, working at an army base while his girlfriend finished school.  Walking towards the main entrance, he knew he made the right choice.  “It’s not a bad place to be,” he said as both are eyes gawked at the attractive ladies going by.  It truly was The Man Show.

“In the States, maybe one out of ten are hot,” The Other Erik said.  “But here, it’s like ninety percent!”

“I know!” I agreed.  “[And the dirndls,] they can make an average girl look ten times hotter!”

Jack and Paul were nowhere to be found, so we headed back to the table, searching some of the festhalles on the way.  Inside, I saw that people were already dancing to the German brass bands playing traditional Bavarian beer-drinking music.  (The brass renditions of mainstream drinking tunes could only be played after six, to preserve tradition and prevent rowdiness.)  Photographers went around to document the joy (for a fee), while walking pretzel vendors went around to satisfy those with the munchies (also for a fee). 

“Try to find them in here,” The Other Erik said with sarcasm.  “It’s only ten, fifteen thousand people.”  I concurred; it was like trying to find two needles in a big drunken haystack.  We gave up and went back to the table outside, where we were shortly joined by my cousin Hans-Georg, who was decked out in his own lederhosen sans suspenders — he found us via cell phone calls.  (Jack and Paul’s international numbers weren’t jiving on the Vodafone.de or E-plus networks.)  But then, as if on cue, Jack and Paul magically reappeared after wandering aimlessly for us, with beers already in hand from somewhere.

“Hey guys.”  It was so nonchalant, like it was meant to be.

And so, there was another reunification in Germany.  We were even joined by two other German guys we’d befriended, wearing matching Jagermeister shirts and crazy hats.  Everything came together by early afternoon, and then the binge drinking began…


THE NEXT THING I remember, I was by the beach.  If you look at a map, you’ll see that Munich is actually land-locked and realize that’s how hammered I was.  I was seriously convinced I had waken up next to the shore — perhaps I was having Greece flashbacks — and not some random Munich side street.  Thankfully, my camera and wallet were still with me (unlike that time I passed out on the beach in Valencia two years prior), but unfortunately, my eyeglasses were not — everything was blurry as I stumbled aimlessly around Munich.  Not since waking up from a blackout during a pub crawl in Berlin had I been so drunkenly frustrated at my condition:  I was confused and alone, I couldn’t see well, I didn’t know where I was.  Like in Berlin, I had a minor freak-out episode, mostly thinking about the cost of having to get a new pair of glasses.  I continued to stumble around town, not knowing if I was anywhere near Oktoberfest or the hotel or anything recognizable for that matter, but somehow the internal cyborg in me knew the way, as it always does.  I managed to find my way to the Hotel Italia where my glasses, to my surprise, were at my bedside table.  In the room, Jack, Paul, and Terence were passed out in their respective beds.  It was only about 5:30 in the afternoon.

“Holy shit, man,” I blathered, sharing my freak-out episode with the guys.  “I thought I was by the beach, man — and we’re in a landlocked area!”

We sobered up over the next two hours and slowly pieced what had happened to me and everyone else.  Apparently I had gone off to find the bathroom at the festhalle, never to be seen again.  I must have been turned off by the long lines to the men’s room (not to be confused with “damens” room, for women), and stumbled off to find a place to pee.  Incredibly I managed to walk all the way back to our hotel with my internal cyborg instincts, only to pass out on my bed and piss myself.  (To be fair, I must have not been too too bad, since I knew where I was going; as a contingency, Oktoberfest employs enough police and EMTs wandering around to keep things in order — there’s even a medical tent for drunks to recuperate.)

And so the story went:  Hans-Georg had gotten pretty drunk pretty fast since he hadn’t eaten anything that morning, and called it quits.  The Other Erik and Co. called it quits to head back towards Frankfurt.  And Jack, Paul, and Terence had continued drinking beer, taking pictures with more and more dirndl-wearing girls along the way.  Paul reported that Terence had gotten drunk to the point that he passed out in such a spectacle that tourists wanted to take their pictures next to him.

Wasted, the three of them had gone back to the Hotel Italia to pass out, only to finally find me there, comatose on the bed.  I was still so drunk when I woke up that I didn’t even notice they were in the room with me, and went off, sans glasses, to go find them back at Oktoberfest — only to end up lost on some random street where I’m convinced I heard ocean waves in my ears.

“Man, I was already [satisfied with Oktoberfest] by three o’clock,” Terence raved.  “And you were even at the beach by 5:30.”


IT WAS ONLY a couple of hours later that we were sobered up and ready for more.  (Amazing, isn’t it?)  Heading back to the Theresienwiese that evening, we found a place at a table at another festhalle, where the drunken merriment of drinking and dancing was well underway.  Our barmaid served us beers and it was Go Time againOnce it hits your lips, it’s so good!  Our barmaid, knowing it was nearing the end of her shift, shrugged her shoulders and drank a beer with us, as if to say, “Eh, what the hell, why not?”

We were fortunate to sit with some local Germans, one named Christian who was already pretty hammered, ranting to us about how his American supervisors at work drill him to work harder, when all he wants to do is just chill out and drink beer.  Next to him was his friend who worked for BMW, who had just come back from spending a month at the BMW plant in Montvale, New Jersey of all places — coincidentally in the same county Terence, Jack, Paul and I grew up.  There was one truth that we all agreed upon that night — a night of dirndl girls, toasts, beer, and sausages with sauerkraut and mustard:

“This is so much better than New Jersey,” Terence said.

Continuing to be the entertainer of this German version of The Man Show, Terence later had a funny episode at the festhalle exit, when he tried to sneak out some beer steins — a big no-no with multiple security guards stopping anyone trying to do so.  Terence, conscious enough to know he was just making jokes, made obvious attempts to conceal steins under his clothes:  in his pants and in his shirt (only to be fondle by security).  We weren’t sure if on-lookers got the joke when they looked at him curiously, but in the end, it was all in good fun.  (Besides, Terence, Jack, and Paul had already managed to sneak out some steins earlier when I was busy at “the beach.”)

I don’t know how many beers we had that night, but somehow we managed to stumbled our way back home to our hotel room — although at some point along the way, Jack and Paul had gotten separated from us yet again.


THE NEXT MORNING, we woke up wondering what had happened.  “Man, I’m so wasted,” Jack said, stating the obvious — the beer was still flowing through all of us.  Opening my zippered pocket to get my notepad out, I saw that sometime the night before I had stuffed a bunch of french fries in there, like Napoleon Dynamite did with tater tots — although I have no memory of ever having gone to a restaurant.  On the table was a hunk of feta cheese and some bitten pieces of bread.  Paul said that Jack, starving for food, had somehow managed to sneak into the hotel’s kitchen and raid the fridge, taking the cheese and some frozen rolls in the freezer.

In the end, it was a great first night of Oktoberfest, albeit not so memorable.  Plus, there were no vomiting incidents (that we know of).  As action-packed as it was (and as lengthy as this blog entry is), we’d do it all over again in a heart beat — and we would, for we still had another full day left…






Next entry: Team Crossbow

Previous entry: Beer Team, Assemble!




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Comments for “The (Drunken) Man Show”

  • WHOA, this one’s a doozy. Two more entries to come… stay tuned!

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • erik, finally! thanks for the post. looks like a great time. terence,
    tita astrid called and told me to tell you she doesn’t like when you put
    up your middle finger in pictures. j/k. happy belated birthday!

    Posted by Cheryl  on  09/20  at  03:35 PM


  • f the man show and f eurotrip…just reading this with the pics is WAY
    more entertaining…

    hunk of feta cheese! french fries in pockets! terence just being terence!

    Posted by markyt  on  09/20  at  05:08 PM


  • wow awesome entry!! love the pics!

    Posted by scott  on  09/20  at  05:25 PM


  • erik, great post! Maybe after two steins switch to radla like most
    germans. Radla is half beer and half lemon water mixture. But I’m sure
    my tolerance for beer is way lower than yours! This post brought back
    memories of my Oktberfest pilgrimage last yr!

    Posted by Anonymous  on  09/20  at  05:35 PM


  • OMG!!! I can totally relate to the cyborg thing.

    Posted by bil Chamberlin

  • “there’s a glockenspiel in my pants”

    hahaha

    Posted by sara  on  09/20  at  07:26 PM


  • OMG - those are damn funny pics… I would be toast after all of that.
    Glad you ended up un-robbed “on the beach.”
    Peace out.

    Posted by tallgirl

  • wow, i feel drunk after reading that entry. but those “hot” girls? um,
    they all look like they’re 15. you musta been drunk…

    Posted by Dan 3  on  09/21  at  01:46 AM


  • hey Erik, one of those dreaded SBRs coming out of hiding to say thank you.

    i’ve been reading since the early days of TGT2, and your blogs have made
    the time i spend between travels a bit more bearable.

    enjoy the rest of your trip, i look forward to reading as much as you
    can remember from the drunken haze.

    David

    Posted by Anonymous  on  09/21  at  04:25 AM


  • Hey, sorry, I’m late on the next one; I’m only about halfway through
    writing it since it’s another doozy—plus I’m trying to capture the
    essence of all the inside jokes for you and, mostly, my beer team.

    I hope to have it up by the end of today, Friday, New York time.

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • man that is a funny story! i’m just catching up smile
    chooo chooo!

    Posted by civil013  on  09/22  at  01:40 AM


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This blog post is one of twenty-five travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Tomatoes, Grease & Beer" (originally hosted by Blogger.com), which chronicled a trip to Spain's wild Tomatina festival, Greece's awe-inspiring islands, and Munich's world-renowned Oktoberfest in August/September 2006.

Next entry:
Team Crossbow

Previous entry:
Beer Team, Assemble!




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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