Coming to Munich in September, I was really excited about Oktoberfest. No doubt I started my year off with a bang. There were something like 5 visitors in my room over the course of one week, all headed to this wonderful drinking festival. When it was over, I had dreams that some way, somehow, I had finished my year here and stayed until the next Oktoberfest. I didn't think anything could top it.
As it turns out, Oktoberfest isn't Munich's only drinking festival.
There's also Starkbierfest (Strong beer festival, where the beer is 7.8 to 9 percent alcohol) and Frühlingsfest, the spring version of Oktoberfest. Starkbierfest I may or may not write about later-- it was pretty mellow and not as centralized-- but Frühlingsfest, Oktoberfest's twin brother, was insane.
Strolling out of the U-bahn, I was greeted by the same rides and attractions that had been around during Oktoberfest. There were fewer beer tents, though, and they were a lot easier to get into.
There were a lot of us and no completely empty tables, so we broke up and sat at two that were back to back. I wasn't as impressed as I had been by Oktoberfest, but my friend, Melissa, rocking a new Dirndl, was glowing. "I haven't been this happy since Starkbierfest!" she said. I nodded, but inside, I was like, "Yeah, whatever, let's get a Maß." I was a little disappointed that we hadn't magically sat down with a table of german guys around our age.
The older Austrian couple we sat down next to turned out to be really nice. The combination of their Austrian accent and the noise all around us made it difficult for me to understand them, but we had a nice conversation. When the Maßs came, everyone was pretty happy. We took pictures of each other, laughed, and made merry. When a group of three german girls sat down at our table, the Austrians remarked that our table was fairly international.
Then the Austrian couple left, the girls scooted over, and three guys joined the table. We were never introduced, nor did we talk to them. The german girls were ignoring us, probably thinking that we couldn't speak german, so we just talked among ourselves. Trying to talk to them never resulted in anything.
I hate to assume, but I think they didn't like us because we were American. It was weird. I've met many Germans, and although some of them have been a little wary of me because they've heard about my country, they've always given me, as an individual, a chance. When, after getting to know someone, they ask if people in America really drive the huge cars they see on TV, or if they wonder if people actually exist in America who don't believe in global warming, I admit that it's true. I know that there are a lot of backwards things in American culture.
And, in their defense, the two tables next to us were filled with the type of people epitomized by MTV's series "The Jersey Shore". In the first half hour we were there, one of the tables broke something like 6 beer mugs. The german girls were probably pissed from being surrounded by loud, American tourists. But no matter how hard I tried to converse, they wouldn't.
Things started to get really awkward. The JYMers were joined by two really drunk German girls, and people started to get up on the table and dance. That's good fun. What wasn't cool is that one of them was wearing a thong under her Dirndl and all the guys on the other end of my table were looking up her skirt. Sensibilities offended, I went over and told her to be careful. She didn't care. Whatever. It's her choice, I guess. I just continued to look at the guys really disapprovingly whenever they acted lewd.
I was surprised that the german girls at our table who were talking to them weren't saying anything, and even encouraging their behavior. One of the main cultural differences that I've noticed since coming here is that German men are much more respectful towards women, and that society in general is less sexist. If anyone should have gotten offended, it should have been the german girls at our table. These girls were just unfriendly, uncaring people.
When one of the guys grabbed a camera to take a picture up her skirt, I grabbed it. "What are you doing?!" I asked in German, "That is so impolite! Stop it!" He nodded and put the camera away when I gave it back.
But they didn't stop staring. I know that the girl was being inappropriate, but I who am I to judge? She might have just been really drunk. I hate it when people take advantage of drunk girls. Who doesn't know someone who has been in that situation?
They started checking out a new friend's butt (she was wearing jeans, btw-- no reason there at all to be a jerk) and pulled the camera out again to snap a picture. She whipped around and glared at them, and they stopped taking pictures. As before, they didn't stop staring. Also, I was really mad because our waitress was taking forever to bring our second beers.
So I yelled at him. In English and German. It went along these lines: "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHERE ARE YOU FROM THAT YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO TREAT PEOPLE THAT WAY? WOMEN ARE NOT OBJECTS, YOU CREEP!" etc.
The staring finally stopped. The german girls looked taken aback. I tried, again, to talk to them, (german, quieter voice, insert grammatical errors) "I just think that you should say something when something wrong is happening. Why do they think that that behavior is okay? Germany is one of the best countries to be in if you're female, and they need to know that they can't act like that." Her response? "Oh, he's from Italy-- that's what they do there."
Not wanting to cause a scene, I switched tables. More beer came, and my mood improved. So much so, that when the loud Americans a table over broke yet another glass, and that glass fell on my foot and cut my toe, I didn't care. It didn't hurt, so I thought it would just dry up and stop bleeding. A little later, I walked with a friend to the bathroom to keep her company, and noticed that my foot was sloshing around in my flip flop from all the blood. I grabbed some toilet paper to press on the wound (a shallow, 1 1/2 inch cut), and the girl behind us said that I should really go to first aid. She was german, and really nice. "Flip flops aren't the right type of shoes to wear to these things," she said, "once your friend is done with the bathroom, you both should go to first aid."
So we did. The people there were also really friendly, and surprised and impressed that we spoke german.
First, they had to clean my foot-- there was so much blood that they couldn't see the wound. All my toenails were crusted with dried blood. "This might sting a little," the man said in german, and the woman who was holding my foot started cleaning it with rubbing alcohol. They explained that it was alcohol, and I said (also in german; this whole conversation was in german) "I have a friend who lived in Russia, and she puts vodka on all her wounds." They smiled and nodded.
They touched my foot in different ways, making sure that I still had feeling in it, and then wrapped the whole upper part of my foot in gauze. "Next time, make sure you wear better shoes!" said the man, "we had an injury very similar to this a little while ago."
"I'm from California. We don't have shoes there," I replied, and they all laughed. I agreed to wear better shoes in the future when there was a high chance of foot injuries, and we said our goodbyes.
The walk through the festival and the U-bahn ride was awesome, and completely reminiscent of Oktoberfest. I think that drunk people have a special ability to walk, arm in arm, 6 wide, through crowds, because I don't think I could do that sober. Then again, when I'm sober, I'm too smart to try.
Everyone was laughing and taking pictures, and the U-bahn ride back was really short. When we got back, we didn't want the night to be over, so we all went to the student bar, where we ran into other people we knew. I proudly showed everyone my foot injury.
When the bandages finally came off the next day, one JYMer remarked, "Is that all?". She had seen the amount of blood the day before and couldn't believe that it all came from such a small cut.
All in all, it was a good evening.