Who needs Munich when you’ve got the Wasen?

"Oktoberfest bierzelt" Wikimedia Commons

Scene from München, “Oktoberfest bierzelt,” Wikimedia Commons

For reasons perhaps too private to get into it’s hard peeing in lederhosen, hard undoing the suspenders through the clasps when you’ve been drinking, hard clearing the edge of the leather because they don’t come with flies or barn doors, you just climb in and out — hard looking cool standing over a trough in a temporary WC inside a beer tent with other men singing, spitting, doing things men do in public restrooms better not discussed on blogs.

LidlBut as with anything, after a while you get used to it — and I realise you don’t have to undo the clasps, you just slip them off your shoulders and back on again, and as the night wears on the WC starts getting crowded and strange — a guy gumming the wall like a mollusc, singing “Sympathy for the Devil” but stuck on the first line, can’t get past it, like the record’s skipping, so I feed him the words (‘a man of wealth and taste’) and discover there’s a separate queue for private stalls, and start using that one instead.

Lily says she was surprised at German school, the kids all just change together in the same room before Gym, whereas in the States they have private stalls — and both of them are delighted they get to use hot glue guns unsupervised during Art, a “large saw” Charlotte describes, for cutting.

It’s different here but not better, I say. Different, because you’re trusted with more responsibility but expected to not act like an asshole, which is something I didn’t get growing up and I’m not sure I deserve it now, to be trusted to not act like an asshole.

At the butcher, the woman behind the counter uses what looks like a battle ax to muscle the pork cutlets apart, grabs it from a hook and slaps it on the cutting board but can’t get a clean cut with the ax so she lifts the whole unit up, the blade stuck in the bone or the muscle or whatever, and slams it down two or three times, a messy break.

Used without permission from grocery flyer ad, Lidl

Used without permission from grocery flyer ad, Lidl

And in the beer tents, the Cannstatter Volksfest, the second largest beer festival in the world after Munich and for me much better, because you can actually get in and drink beer and have fun and not have to worry about reservations, long lines, or droves of drunk tourists — they are climbing up on the tables clapping, and the wood on the benches sags as they bounce up and down, some of them in heels, taking selfies, the one litre ‘Maß’ equals almost three cans of beer from the States and no, you can’t just have one — and they’re selling balloons with Hello Kitty or Sponge Bob, Papa Smurf, My Little Pony…cheap, felt Tyrolean hats with fake feathers, everyone smoking — and the security guys look the same as they do everywhere with the sides of their heads cleanly shaved, ribbed necks, mic’d with ear pieces and radio sets, stern in their greying goatees…the band does a call and response to “Summer of ’69,” “The Boys of Summer,” and every song sounds like “Edge of Seventeen,” (just like the white winged dove / sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’) and finally, they’re all singing “Country Roads” (take me home / to the place I belong) and I find it funny and ironic they’re singing about West Virginia, and how alike we all are, or at least maybe it’s just the Americans and the Germans, we’re the ones most alike.

Awaiting new Followers and Likes after a blog is published

Awaiting new Followers and Likes after a blog is published

I want to tip our server because I think a.) it’s nice to tip, and b.) it gets you better service when you want another drink, but Eberhard won’t tolerate it, insists I just give her .70 and that’s normal — then pockets an unopened ketchup packet that came with our pommes frites before we go — and after a couple hours, with all the smoke and the Oy!, Oy!, Oy! call and response — the Dirndl dresses and the boobs, I need some fresh air, need to remember who I am and what the night sky looks like and not let all this ruin my appreciation of beer and music and women in bar maid costumes with tight braids and aprons.

Mom can’t get a grip on her Maß because the glass is so big she needs to use both hands, so it looks like she’s drinking soup — and every time I take a drink it feels like I’m chugging, which feels strange at 44, and worse in the middle of the night when I wake up bubbly and farting from raw onions and some Döner thing I had in the Bahnhof, shaved lamb in a pita with a white sauce I leave half-eaten on the bench for the pigeons.

Returning much later than any of us thought we bump into the singer from the Boogie Woogie band, Cadillac Kolstad, and I tell him he should come down Türkengasse by the Obama house, where mom lives, and I’ll do some American cooking for him before he goes back home to Minneapolis next week. The owner of the Hirsch points out the panel comes down in the front of the lederhosen, that’s what you do when you need to pee.

Eberhard's lederhosen from his dad, elk leather, with a fly (hat by Stetson)

Eberhard’s lederhosen from his dad, elk leather (hat by Stetson)




Categories: travel

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. Learning curve or what re the lederhosen. Which reminds me that as a pre-teen at dance class I learned to do the kind of dance you might do wearing lederhosen. It involved a lot of thigh and foot slapping. I can still almost do that bit – when I haven’t had a glass of wine. Those quantities of beer sound overwhelming…


    • Yeah, the leather a bit stiff in the knees, hard going up and down steps, but well, there you have it. Easier when you’ve had a Mass or two. I love the traditional dance stuff, never thought I would, but really enjoyed watching some dancers from our partner city in England here recently, with their goofy flowers in their hats and so on — very nice tradition. We’re taking our kids to the festival today, beautiful weather here in Germany, and we’re going to ride the rides and not worry about how much anything costs. Can’t wait.


  2. But, today is only October 1. We have an Oktoberfest in SoCal that looks very similar to the pic you posted. Good times.


    • I know, funny they get right into the Oktoberfest in September, why wait? Wish we did have more of this type of thing in the States, but maybe that’s what makes it so special is, we don’t. And I say I wish for it and at the same time maybe not.


  3. Loving all the photos. You’ve opened up so. See what Europe does to a man and his beard?
    This piece made me laugh. Sitting here listening to It Still Moves and looking forward to cracking a reasonably fresh copy of Franzen’s new book, retrieved from the library. Can I get through it in three weeks? Time will tell. I give Franzen this one more chance. I really liked The Corrections but was frustrated by Freedom, especially how he portrayed his women characters. It felt like he was using them for his own gratification. And here’s his new one. Purity. I feel moralism coming on.


    • Glad you’re liking the photos, I’m often a bit lazy about them but I thought people would enjoy some of these. I liked the one in your latest post, too. I had to look up “It Still Moves” because I knew the title but couldn’t remember the band. And I’ll be curious to hear how the Franzen is. I liked both the other books but Freedom more, didn’t think about his portrayal of women as much. That punk rock guy she fell for wasn’t much of a charmer either, was he? I loved it. He’s a bit funny about birds though, isn’t he? Good luck on the three weeks and you’re right, time will tell. Good reading season, now. I’m in this book by a map maker/philosopher focused on every nook and cranny of Connemara. We should be there late November, early December. Bye for now, – Bill


  4. and i loved the surprise twist at the end, no pun intended.


    • Glad you liked the end, I got discombobulated with it and had to set it aside for a bit, for dinner, but then I got it. Glad you enjoyed it Beth. – Bill


  5. You are becoming such an expat! This post was great! I wish I were you. I was you once, you know, a long time ago. Then I came back. Don’t do it! Stay over there! You know it’s better over there. You are a rock star, sir.


    • Careful what you wish for Walt…but glad you enjoyed this, and thanks for twittering it or Mentioning me, that was nice. Felt like we had perfect lives back home, so my kids kept pressing me, why are we leaving — and I kept saying it can be better by doing this trip together, so hopefully I’m right. Should make for some colourful writing at least, and good memories.


    • I was thinking about your comment here, tonight – from several weeks ago. Thinking about it walking home from a pub because yes, you’re right – and I think I answered in some BS diplomatic fashion but OK, I’ll say it: it is better over here. Done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And everything you were caught up in over here seems so small now, doesn’t it? That’s what happened to me. Coming back you get reverse culture shock. You hear American English in the airport and it sounds weird. You watch the news and are reminded of narrow mindedness. The Lithuanian high school drop out you met on the train in Vienna is wiser and more informed than your last Regional VP.


  6. I need a private stall. I’m pee-shy. Have been my whole life. It’s not like being diabetic, but it’s a pain in the ass, just the same. I would flounder there. Two beers and I’d either be inappropriate with the ladies or under the table asleep. Neither is very flattering.

    Nice work, you s.o.b. I have to go sit at my desk now…


    • There are other reasons beyond being shy, for private stalls, and I learned that this week. Not having to look at other guys gumming the walls for whatever reason, faces pressed up against it drunk, singing.


  7. Holy shit, “Edge of Seventeen”, song gets me every time, I actually just heard it like this week driving around. Funny though I always heard it as “the one winged dove” which is pretty stupid and funny. You know I got to admit hearing that music would sort of sour it for me. I like how you sort of bring it back in perspective though. But I think as an American (whatever that means) I sort of want this nostalgia for the old Fatherlands (is that what we should call it?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s something in that dramatic guitar thing at the beginning they kept doing at this beer tent. I always get song lyrics wrong myself. I think I looked this one up on the Internet before I put it in. But the one winged dove makes for an interesting image too, circling and circling above. Glad you connected with this. And I’m not sure about the Fatherland or the Motherland, but will keep my ears open for it. I do like the solemn looking falcons on the flags, with their sharp talons. Lots of good, rich imagery here. Thanks for reading friend.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: