What Not to Wear

Using the trains here is normally a not unpleasant experience. The coaches are reasonable new and still in good shape, the ride is not bumpy, the conducteurs are friendly or at least not openly hostile. The crowd is mixed as always. When I travel to the bookmines in the Monday damndarkmorning (coined by Savannah) for two or three stations the waggon is filled with young people who go to their working place or vocational school (Berufsschule), and from their destination Ochsenfurt (Ger., Eng.) onwards its quiet and relaxed (20 minutes). These youngsters are basically tired from their weekend follies and do not talk too much, most of them look into some papers and try to remember what kind of profession they try to learn. There is the optional silent drinker, but again, the emphasis is on silent.
I spent the holiday (Wednesday, 3rd of October, day of unification, oh yeah … Ger., Eng.) at home and used the train this morning as usual. Less youngsters than usual, but to my utter astonishment groups of young men, with the obligatory occasional young lady among them, poured in wearing a kind of uniform: Blue or red chequered shirts, kind of  short leather trouser ending under the knee, woolish jumper; the young ladies wore skirts from the same pattern as the men’s shirts, with aprons (!); all of them, even the ladies, carried with them at least two bottles of beer, some small groups even a crate of beer (that is 20 bottles á 0,5 liter); and they cracked open their bottles and started more or less heavy drinking.
An especially nasty group settled near me and made me leave when one of the pissheads sprayed himself and a part of the waggon with beer, because he was too dumb or drunk to crack open a Kronkorken (Ger., Eng.). Besides they were blubbering out loudly and stupidly, and from Marktbreit (Ger., Eng.) onwards (30 minutes, first beer finished) it became subterranean, unacceptable and unbearable. I found a silent place at the very end of the train – in company of another angry-looking man (a silent drinker), and we must have been impressive, because until Ansbach (Ger., Eng.) (where I left) nobody came near us. I greeted him on exit, he nodded: Cheers, unknown fellow traveller! Ansbach station saw even more of the Halbaffen boarding the train.
I had no idea where these uniformed idiots were heading to until I spoke about it with the bus driver: All these people go to München (no links to the Hauptstadt der Bewegung!) and visit the Oktoberfest (Ger., Eng.). They don their uniform, swig their booze, and behave like arses, in masses. Acting “Bavarian”, like “Bauern”, on the “Volksfest”.
Sometimes this night all these drunkards  are transported back to their stables, where ever this may be, also via train; thankfully I do not have to use a night train in the coming days – said orgy ends coming Sunday.

I do not care if someone wants to get drunk in the early morning or wants to visit said infernal pandemonium in Munich. But why do these people feel the need to wear a uniform? I seriously do not understand it: Maybe the leather trousers are pee- and vomit-friendly?!
They masquerade themselves as “Bavarians” with a “national costume” (Tracht, Ger., Eng.), invented in the 19th century – as are so many other things, the late great Eric HOBSBAWM (1917-1912) (Ger., Eng.) showed some in  The Invention of tradition (1983) (Ger., Eng.). I know about the power of costume, I act differently when in full regalia (three-piece suit with Schlips, Querbinder or foulard; good shoes – they are so important! The right accessories, men carry few, but they must be well worth it – ah vanitas rises its ugly head …); people acted different towards me when I was wearing the “security”-costume, but I will never again wear such a kind of Clownerie, GOtt sei mir gnädig! It is fun to disguise, and of course the mask gives freedom – but the people I saw today used the mask to act just uncivilized and unworthily.
But who am I to criticize, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, the next time I see one of these cheap ugly chequered shirts I stand up and leave, immediately. 
What the hell is so difficult about getting drunk in style?


Pour me another one …

Leni mentioned the Hofbräuhaus in her comment to the last post, and that a friend of her would visit the place in October.
“In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus …” – exactly. Since 1607 (Ger.).
A Brauhaus – or Bräu(haus) in dialect – is a brewery, commonly with a taproom where the brew is sold. “Hof” means simply court, the brewery belongs to the court, in this case to the founder duke Maximilian I. of Bavaria (Ger., Eng.); a Bürgerbräu belongs to the citizens of a town: The brewery is lent out to a landlord who administers and manages the business, the responsible entrepreneur or contractor; he pays a fixed rate or a share of the profit to the proprietor, who gains a steady income, be it the court or the civil administration of a town.
The Munich Hofbräuhaus is in possession of the stately Bayerische Hofbräu. The main and original parent house am Platz’l has room for more than 2000 guests, smaller Hofbräuhäuser still exist(ed) in Bavaria and other places. For example the Hofbräuhaus in Coburg was founded in the 19th century by the duke of Coburg. After the end of Coburg’s independence 1919 the brewery was taken over by the Bavarian firm Paulaner (1921), who finally ended the tradition there 1981, after 123 years. Today the buildings house the Hochschule Coburg. In a way this is a typical story for the development of brewing in Bavaria: In Alt-Bayern few large breweries emerged, while in Franken small breweries stayed independent, struggled and at least partly survived. If you count the numbers on this list of “Breweries in Bavaria”,  you will find that 287 are in Franconia (179 alone in Upper Franconia), while Alt-Bayern (Lower Bavaria, Upper Bavaria and the Oberpfalz) sum up only 237, with no particular centre. This is a detailed list of Brauereien in Franken.

The Hofbräuhaus am Platz’l is a unique place: I hope your friend, Leni, will have a good time there.



“Which way to Oktoberfest?” Eroswings asked in his comment to the last post. His question made me think about other Oktoberfeste, I already had mentioned some here, but answering Proxima‘s question in the post of 2008 the emphasis lay more on the function and history of the Wies’n.
The International Beer Day (IBD) is almost one month over (5th of August) and start of the big gulp in Munich is still ten days away (18th of September), but there are some other festivities that explicitly refer to the Munich original. The largest are the Oktoberfest in Blumenau (Brazil), the fete in the Canadian city of Kitchener (mentioned previous by LGS. Attention: Sound attack!) and the two events in the US in Cincinnati and Denver (Achtung: Even more sound attack! See here too). At the Marco Polo hotel in HongKong a Oktoberfest is held with music by a band from Ulm, also one in Saigon, Vietnam, here the music is provided by the Trenkwalder (massif sound ambush!). I wonder that South Africa is nowhere on the list, they had an Oktoberfest but the last one was held 2008.
Besides these Oktoberfeste exist lots of beer festivals all over the world, here’s a database for events near you. And if you like, tell the world how the brew tasted here.
I follow Nessa‘s advice and drink responsibly, alone at home.


Happy Yodeling!

There are some cities called Leavenworth around: One in Kansas, one in Indiana and one in Washington. In Kansas they have also a Leavenworth-county and the two prisons, a civil and a military one. Because Proxima in her last comment brought it up, I had a look at the Washington-Leavenworth: It grew with the railroad and when it relocated the small community had difficulties. In the sixties they decided to become Bavarian. Later they would have Oktoberfest: And they were saved. Well, I also believed in the healing powers of beer for a long time, but doubt remains. And a high blood pressure. As I learned they started their annual festivity at the end of the 90s – what were they doing for more than thirty years? – and it is said to be one of the biggest and most attended events of this kind besides the Canadian one in Kitchener and Waterloo.

As Proxima put it:
As someone who lives in the real Bavaria, what do you think about this recreation of it in a place far far away? Flattering? Annoying? or just plain silly?

Hell no! People do make something new from old forms – it is an American fest or a Canadian one with European – in this case German – origins and forms, and everytime it stages it is something new. Old form, new content, that slowly but surely changes the (external) form – in a way that is the blueprint for cultural development in any given surroundings, where traditional forms are not totally ignored or skipped. There are not too many really new forms … So it is absolutely not silly to have a Oktoberfest outside Munich. You can have a Greek fest in Franconia with Greek music, food, dance and song – naturally you do not create new Greeks as you do not bake new Germans on the location of the festivity.

The reason I mention this “nation-thing” is rooted in the beginning of the original Oktoberfest, or better it’s later instrumentalization. On the beginning there is a wedding: Prince Ludwig marries Princess Therese on a meadow outside Munich on the 12th of October 1810. Since that time the area is called “Therese’s meadows” (Theresienwiese), or just “die Wies’n” (the meadow). They had a horse race and a large fest for the people. The people liked it. Maybe they already had at the first fest a special beer for this occasion: The “Wies’n-Bier” should have more malt in it and be a little more red and tasty; today it resembles a type that is no longer around, the “Wiener Export” (Vienna-export, Eng Ger), that was made with malt from Vienna. More malt not necessarily means more alcohol. It just “goes” better, has more “gulp” to it. But “Festbier” is made a little stronger too …

The Oktoberfest is a Bavarian fest. The kingdom of Bavaria in 1810 was new and shiny, it still squeaked a little … The Wittelsbach-family became “king” in 1806 courtesy of Napoleon Buonaparte, the first. Before that time they were Herzöge (dukes) of Bavaria, what actually forms the southern part of the modern “Freistaat” (free-state). The northern part is formed from the areas of the once independent dukedoms of Franconia: The bishops of Würzburg, Bamberg and Eichstätt were independent worldly rulers; the cities of Nürnberg, Rothenburg, Dinkelsbühl (and many others) were independent Reichsstädte (cities of the “rike”); sprinkled in between were some independent areas ruled by knights. Maybe independence is a little overstressed here, but there simply was not one bloody king, but minor (bloody) rulers.
All this ended 1803/1806 and Napoleon’s friends, the bastards who betrayed the Reich as one could say, were rewarded and honored – in other words, the prey was divided: New kingdoms emerged, among others, “Bavaria”.
The Wittelsbacher were not dumb, you do not win a new kingdom by sheer stupidity. They very fast understood that there is the need of a new and connecting force of unity, a national consciousness: They created the Bavarian. I exaggerate of course, but I am a Bavarian Volkskundler / ethnologist – my science came into being in the years from 1800 to 1830 out of romantic national spirit; and besides Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Protestants born in Hassia, later in Berlin) there were people like Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl and others, who willingly propagated this new unified Bavarian nation. The big wedding of 1810 was used for propagating the new unity and in it’s succession fests in the land: In Franconia the fest of 1842 has left a lasting impression. The blueprint for all these following events was the Oktoberfest from 1810.

As I said above: The new Oktoberfests will follow the old form, but there is new content, new symbolism, new life in it. Have a good beer, listen to the music, simply enjoy! The original of 1810 had a special task, served a political purpose. I hope the new fest simply serves the folk.

Besides: Franconians do not yodel.