So..if it’s called Oktoberfest, why does in start in September? Good question! You may have been wondering that too, so let me explain.
The first Oktoberfest was indeed held in October, on the 12th to be exact. The year was 1810 when Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. (Phew! With a last name that long, I would’ve married simply to shorten it…but I digress.) Over the years, this celebration was extended from a few days to 16, so the starting date was pushed back into September to take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather. Today this event begins in mid-September and ends on the first Sunday in October. In addition to the eating, drinking and merriment of long ago, festival goers can now enjoy parades and the fairgrounds packed with booths, games and amusement rides, including a 164-foot tall Ferris Wheel!
Within minutes of arriving at our table in the Hofbrau Festzelt, Robert had a mug of Paulaner in hand while I was sipping a lemonade. Henning, Maren, and the rest of gang now had their beers at the ready. Glasses clinked while we made eye contact calling out Prost!
A few beverages later, it was time to partake in some fine das essen! The cheerful St. Paulie girl waiting us wrote down: Schweinshaxe, Wurstl, Hendl, Haxn, Sauerkraut, and more. Knowing I was a vegetarian, Maren quickly added Knodel and Kasespatzle. It all sounded so…so German…and the only food I knew for sure I’d be eating was sauerkraut.
While Robert and his Munich colleagues feasted on roasted chicken, sausages, and pork knuckles, I thoroughly enjoyed the potato dumplings, cheese noodles and of course, the sauerkraut. After this hearty meal, there was really only one thing left to do to…and that was…sing and dance the night away!
From my journal: September 21, 2009 East Twickenham, England
“Still laughing about the songs…had forgotten the American ones in the mix!”
There’s nothing more fun than people watching…or, watching people having fun! Tables to the left of us and tables to the right were jammed with merry makers, all leaning in to sing and talk with each other. When favorite tunes such as the yodeling “Das Esellied” or the German song with a Spanish chorus “Sierra Madre” were played, the house got to their feet and sang along. But, when “Hey Baby” the Bruce Channel tune from the 1960s was played, the place erupted! I couldn’t stop laughing…it seemed so funny to hear an American song being sung in English at full volume in Germany!
That song turned out to be just one of a handful of U.S. tunes that rotated through the play list. “Country Roads” the John Denver hit was a hit! Did you know that John Denver’s real name was Henry John Deutschendorf? Part German, for sure! And the one song that seemed to be universally loved was Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”! Right before the chorus, people reached towards the middle of their tables and gave “spirit fingers” to the lyrics “Hands, touchin’ hands, Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you”. My cheeks truly hurt from laughing so much!
At closing time, before Robert and I were ready to head out, there was just one more song to enjoy. The night ended with the one that started it all off. “Ein Prosit Der Gemutlichkeit”. The title translates to “I salute to our cozy friendship and good times we’re having together.” What a perfect way to say good-night to Robert’s co-workers, who in time, would become our friends. And over the years, with whom we’d share many more good times together.