Monday, 12 October 2009

Boo at Oktoberfest

Having a (kind of) Bavarian other half means that I am fortunate enough to experience Oktoberfest as the natives do, living for a number of days a year in the heart of it all. I indulge in the festival wholeheartedly including sporting a dirndl, it really heightens the experience dressing as they do, in traditional outfits. The whole area is grandly presided over by the The Bavaria Statue, here she is in all her glory.

It's not for the feint of heart, last year it took me a full week to recover. The Brits and the Aussies tend to congregate in the Hofbräuhaus, we wisely steer clear of it unless in desperate need of a laugh at the drunken antics. What I perhaps enjoy most about Wiesn is the sense of pride relating to all things Bavarian (some German ladies we befriended complained about the whole thing being not Bavarian enough!) and the glorification of really enjoying oneself. In today's climate eating and drinking to excess is oft frowned up (rightly so in many cases as if one were to live like this permanently, it would not be for very long) yet for these 3 weeks of celebration, it is positively encouraged.

There are 14 large tents to choose from, each housing between 5000 and 10,000 people, and copious smaller venues. We begun things at the Ochsenbraterei tent. This tent celebrates all things Ox serving the beasts in various forms to be enjoyed surrounded by the colours of Bavaria, blue and white. Some of our group sampled the roast ox served with a potato salad, the meat was succulent and delicious.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated dish prior to our arrival was the schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle. This is cured, boiled then grilled to produce the most amazingly crispy skin served with a tasty gravy and the most incredible potato dumplings that I find myself craving all year round. Next year will be the 200th Oktoberfest celebration and I already cannot wait. We arrived on day 1 at around 10am to find none of the tents were serving food yet, it seems absurd now that we were waiting for a litre of beer and a hunk of meat for breakfast but it would seem wrong to have anything other than these local specialities.

I had the leberknoedelsuppe, soup with a large liver dumpling in a tasty broth. I needed some warmth and whilst it did the job heatwise, it was a little artificial tasting. The bretzen I had resembles in shape the snacks that we call pretzels, this is topped liberally with salt in order to keep you drinking that beer.

They take their beer very seriously , obviously, and it is rolled in by horse drawn carriage at regular intervals throughout the day. There are strict rules by which the breweries must adhere in order to supply at Oktoberfest resulting in pure and pretty strong beer, nothing but the best for the annual celebration. The kegs arrival is celebrated with vast fanfare, the animals adorned with bells and flowers, much to the delight of the festival goers.

Other tents of interest for foodies are the Fisher Vroni for fish lovers, serving whole barbequed fish and the Stiftl Tent for a celebration of poultry. One of the most popular dishes available in all of the tents is the half roast chicken or hendl.

These are deliciously buttery with crisp juicy skin and again they are just what you need when getting a little tipsy or in need of some sustanence after a litre or 3 of beer. There are some crazy statistics relating to how many birds are devoured throughout the festival.

We sampled many other Bavarian delights over the weekend but these were the firm favourites, ordered again and again. The final evening is an amazing spectacle, 6000 revellers in the Schützen-Festzelt tent (or any but that was our chosen one), belting out traditional German songs (who needs to know the words?) with Germany's answer to Richard Madeley leading proceedings. Everyone weilding sparklers at the end. I would advise everyone to experience this at least once in their lives, perhaps not one for the veggies though. And not a sausage in sight!


Su-Lin said... had me at schweinshaxe. :) I'm not sure I've ever felt the need to experience Oktoberfest (I'm not fond of beer) but I'll happily live vicariously through you!

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

All those years I lived in Germany and I never went to the Oktoberfest. Like Su-Lin, I'm not much of a beer drinker, although I'm quite partial to some schweinshaxe!

Helen said...

Wow! This seems like my kind of event. Meat and beer. Yes. I consume far too much of both already and I think after this I would be in need of one serious detox!

Dan said...

Love Germany and the food, I've been to the Hofbräuhaus in Munich and drank massive steins of beer (comically larger than my GF's head - hilarious watching her trying to drink one)...but never been to the Oktoberfest - I'll have to do it one year.

Boo said...

Su-Lin and Helen I wouldn't recommend it for non beer drinkers really, it's fairly pivotal to the experience to sample it but I (much like you would) enjoyed the food far more than the booze!

Helen - it's a dreamy combination of some of my favourite things, clever Germans! 3 weeks a year of beer and meat, they call it the 5th season!

Dan - Definitely recommend it, it's an amazing and unique experience. The glasses are so huge and heavy that I had bruises on my hands from holding them!

Lizzie said...

3 weeks of beer and meat? Oh my.

The only place in Germany I've been to is Berlin, and I loved it there. Must schedule a visit to Oktoberfest next year.

Boo said...

I love Berlin too, went there for a weekend last year, it's a completely different feel in Munich, particularly come September/October time. I think you'd love Oktoberfest Lizzie, see you there next year!