We’ve all heard about the great love for beer in Germany, or about their lovely Bavarian countryside and castles but what don’t get talked about enough are German parties. The only one we’ve ever heard of is the Oktoberfest, no doubt one of the biggest parties in the world, but don’t be misled to believe that’s the only cool one. There seem to be nationwide events and festivals all year-long, something I had no idea about! There is the Carnival, Frühlingsfest, Oktoberfest, Funkenfyre, the Christmas parties. And these aren’t isolated events, no. They sometimes cover a span of over two months at different locations!
I recently got to go to such an event. The Frühlingsfest or literally translated, ‘The Spring Festival’ is a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. The evening started with me heading to a friend’s house (incidentally whose birthday it was the next day). Now, suffice to say the Frühlingsfest involves an unreasonable amount of beer drinking, yes? But when I got to his house that day the fridge was fully stocked with loads of beer just for the 9-10 of us there. The idea was to be tipsy BEFORE you got to the festival and then start on the good stuff. Crazy!
Here’s the best part; everyone dresses in the traditional Lederhosen (for the guys) and Dirndl (for the women). It’s not compulsory, but it’s definitely recommended, because to describe these by words is not enough. The Lederhosen is of several types but in its essence it is a pair of shorts or 3/4ths made from thick leather. If authentic, the buttons are all made from the horns of a deer. All Lederhosen have a pocket on the side where a traditional shepherd’s knife is supposed to fit and the most interesting feature, is the flap over the part covering your crotch. That’s definitely a task to handle when you go to the loo. It’s weirdly tight to wear and it’s definitely not possible to put a lot of stuff in your pockets. They come in two styles with breeches or a normal belt. The shirt is usually a chequered one of pink blue or white. Now the Dirndl I can’t describe in so much detail because I haven’t worn one myself, but essentially is a knee-length skirt with a kind of apron hanging in the front, frilly short sleeves and something similar to a corset meant to amplify the woman’s bosom. And EVERYONE was dressed traditionally when we got there.
The location is another awesome thing. These Frühlingsfests are usually organized by a local brewery. Almost every area has its own. The one I went to was organized by Meckatzer, in their own backyard! They set up a HUGE tent with rows and rows of tables, a whole big section cordoned off just for the beer and a stage up front for the band. The entry to the tent itself is wonderful where you follow 5 metre high stacks of beer crates all the way from the parking lot.
It’s unusual to see a modern day party in old-school clothing. Don’t get me wrong, it somehow still fit the whole picture perfectly. It was still pretty early when we got there but people were already standing on the tables, happily and drunkenly singing along to the band playing up front. It was 7 pm, we were just getting started. So the first thing to do is get your drink. Now, there is Alkoholfrei beer for the designated drivers of the night, a wonderful drink called Radler (a mix of lemonade and beer with a lower alcohol content, made for the people who don’t like beer) and the beer itself. Not having a beer glass at least half empty in your hand at all times, gets indignant protests from those around you. Then you head to your table (if you’ve had the foresight to book one in advance) and squeeze yourself in between those already around you. Next you clink your glasses with “Zum Wohl” or “Prost” and here it is important to clink your glass with every single person within reasonable reach. The final and only task for the rest of the night is to drink until drunk and then to drink some more.
The music accompanying this style of party is particularly awesome. The general beat and tune remains the same with a few international crowd favorites played in between but the true beauty of these drinking songs lie in the lyrics. I was introduced to the glorious songs about Niki Lauda’s Mamma (Mamma Lauda! MAMMA LAUDA! *Incidentally in India, ‘lauda’ is the word associated with a man’s nether regions, so I cracked up a little while singing that*), songs about how Radler is not really beer and a really interesting chant a friend was singing, “Beer you, Beer me, Beer us together, Beer naturally!” (I think it’s from the Simpsons). Every once in a while there are chants lead by the band of, “Zickezacke Zickezacke” and you have to respond shouting, “Hoy Hoy Hoy”. When tipsy, let me tell you these are the most fun things you will ever shout with a crowd of over a thousand people. The words are somehow designed to make you feel giddy. I dunno how that works but it does.
Considering the sheer volume of beer being consumed, the urinals are understandably always full. Watching the interactions you see here among the guys are nothing short of watching the most hilarious tv show on the planet. There are guys declaring their love for each other one moment and angrily shouting the next, guys singing at the top of their voices while peeing, guys hugging other random guys for no conceivable reason at the most awkward of times. It’s a new cultural norm that develops and exists only within the boundaries of the male restroom area. God alone knows what happens on the ladies’ side, if this was the situation in the men’s.
There wasn’t a single person there that night (that I saw at least) that couldn’t keep down their alcohol. That is no mean feat with a drunk party crowd of thousands. The party started to disperse by just around 2 am. A lot of older couples stayed behind though and the band played dance classics just for them. The couples were simply twirling, singling along and were generally lost in their own world. And all that would be repeated the next day and the next. The really motivated drinkers could come on Friday, Saturday as well as Sunday. What a party!