Oktoberfest in my backyard

Every year around this time, one million people or so used to stop by my back yard for a party.

This party lasted about two weeks. Just until the first weekend in October.

Because we lived just a street over from the ‘Theresianwiese’. In the middle of Munich, Germany. Which is the large Munich city park where the Oktoberfest is held every year.

For 10 months of the year the park is empty. Great for walks, jogging, sledding in the winter, biking. There are swings and playgrounds for the kids. Lots of dogs. Like a huge backyard in the middle of the city of Munich.

Then every year in July, they start building for the Oktoberfest.

We watched them do it nine times. It’s a huge production.

Suddenly the people arrive.

Hordes of people. The streets become packed. The subway is filled to the bursting point. Every possible language can be heard except German.

It’s unbearable. Everyone who lives nearby complains. Many move out for the Fest, renting their apartments out for ungodly sums for the two weeks.

And the fun starts.

The mayor taps the first wooden beer keg – ‘O’zapft is!’ everyone yells in the hard to comprehend Bavarian dialect. That’s the signal to the start of a 16 day drinking binge.

To be fair, the Oktoberfest offers a lot of things aside from beer drinking.

There’s a wonderfully colorful ‘Trachtenzug’ – a parade of traditional Om-Pah bands, horses and traditional costumes. There are roller coasters, Ferris wheels, lots of booths selling every sort of Bavarian kitsch.

Lots of food. Sausages, of course. Roasted chickens. Ice cream. Pretzels. Huge fire pits with whole Oxen roasting on a slow turning spitz. Giant soft pretzels and giant brightly decorated heart-shaped cookies that you hang by a ribbon around your neck.

And people. A million people. From everywhere in the world. That is a fantastic sight in and of itself.

By noon, the beer tents are full. (Noon!) Cleverly, only Munich breweries are allowed to sell beer at the Oktoberfest.

The Munich residents pack into the Augustiner beer tent. Augustiner being the best lager-style beer in the world. Period. Erdinger is the best Weissbier in the world. Again Period. That’s just how the world is.

The tourists pack into the Hofbräuhaus. Which is derided mercilessly by the residents of Munich.

Most Munich breweries brew a special beer for the Oktoberfest. Stronger, naturally.

A stout Bavarian might plant him- or her-self and pour 10 liters down over the course of a long afternoon.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder. Tightly packed. Six thousand plus people in one giant beer tent. Swaying side to side to the live music. While the waitresses carry a mountain of one liter beer krugs in each hand up and down the aisles to try to slake the raging thirst. Music blaring. Thick smoke billowing.

Although it all sounds like a good time, the downside is visable every morning.

People passed out all over the streets, sleeping it off in door stoops. Blocks and blocks of pee soaked buildings, trees, street signs, everything. Smashed beer mugs everywhere. And naturally it seems like every other person must have thrown up on the way home.

Lovely indeed.

But the food can be very good. The key is that it can be good. You really have to have insider knowledge to get the good stuff. As there is a lot of awful food to be had as well.

Some of my favorites include:

  • giant Pretzels with the Bavarian ‘Obatzter’ cheese spread,
  • super crispy pig’s knuckles from the rotisserie,
  • the uniquely Munich ‘schmaltznudel’, which is a sort of biegnet or doughnut,
  • ubiquitous rotisserie chickens that are found everywhere in Munich,
  • heaping spirals of sliced daikon radish with a sprinkle of salt on very dense whole wheat bread
  • and nothing beats a salty crispy whole speared Mackerel grilled over an open fire

It’s fun to recreate a few of these flavors every year around this time.

So you will find some tasty Oktoberfest specialties on our menu for the next week or so. Including the giant pretzels. The ‘Obatzter’ cheese spread. The crispy pigs knuckles. And maybe even a schmaltznudel with powdered cinnamon sugar.

Along with some Munich beer to wash it all down with.

So come on by and give it a try! Cause ‘O’zapft is!’ and there’s a party goin’ on!

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