Oktoberfest: What is the Sound of One Liver Screaming?

Posted: July 17, 2012 in Travel

It was only 10:30 a.m., and I was suddenly wearing someone else’s underwear on my face.

There were no rules here. None worth mentioning, anyway. Any sense of civilization and order were thrown to the wayside. The numerous tents all lined up across the fairgrounds were innocent-looking enough on the outside, but crossing the threshold revealed their true nature. Drunk Australians teemed the long tables, waving huge steins full of freshly-tapped lager and spilling it on the bench. A crazed apish brute clamored up on one of the tables and began to chug the stein he was holding, getting a roar of approval from the onlooking crowd. He finished the stein’s contents in what couldn’t have been longer than 10 seconds.

But none of this was considered strange or rude during this time of year in Munich. This was, after all, the 200th annual Oktoberfest, where rabid hordes of beer-swilling maniacs come from every corner of the earth in pursuit of an experience so unforgettable that nobody will be able to remember it afterward.

I had only arrived in this chaotic hub of debauchery 48 hours ago, but my Lowenbrau-soaked indoctrination to the customs of Oktoberfest was a crash course in crazy.

But back to the underwear. I had been paying a large-breasted barmaid for a pair of beers when I suddenly found myself immersed face-first into an Oktoberfest tradition — the pig. Oh, the mighty pig, and woe to anyone foolish enough to stand under this great edifice of debauchery. Apparently, festival-goers have developed an unstoppable habit of throwing their underwear over the large pig statue that hangs overhead inside the Hof Brau Haus. Since the pig slowly rotates, the none-too-infrequent slip of the trousers occurs, if you will, and Mr. Pig has zero consideration for whoever might be standing underneath him at the time.

The underwear hit me as though somebody threw them directly at my head.

“Jesus fucking god!” I exclaimed as I instinctively threw the foreign object away from my face. “What the hell is going on here?!”

My friend Tashina looked on in amusement, making no effort to hide any of it. Fortunately, she was beautiful enough to get away with things like that.

“That….was someone’s underwear,” she said, accepting the beer I handed her. “And it came from up there.” She pointed above, just in time for the oompa band on the stage in the foreground to play another celebratory tune, prompting 2,000 people to raise their glasses in unison and sing together. The chorus sounded something like “I’m rosy,” but it was German and I couldn’t make out the rest. It didn’t matter, though. Understanding the words wasn’t half as important as understanding their communal intent.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” I said. “Seriously. This is chaos on a whole new level. This is unprecedented.”

“No kidding,” Tashina said. “And it’s only….11 a.m.”

Most of these brutes inside the building had already been drinking here for two hours — or more, depending on how much they decided to throw caution to the wind. One thing we were warned about before coming in was to pace yourself at all costs. However great of an idea it might sound like at the time, one does not simply…pre-game Oktoberfest.

Just then, there was some kind of noticeable commotion going on to our immediate left. And it had to be considerably raucous to stand out in this claustrophobic sea of drunk humans. The large brute from earlier on the table had apparently gotten into a shouting match with a much shorter, smaller man, who was speaking Italian. People had backed away from the pair of them in anticipation of something physical,

I made sure I was standing in front of Tashina as the shouting and posturing between the two men increased. The larger man was sounding as though he didn’t want anything to do with the smaller one, and just trying to avoid anything nasty. I didn’t speak German, but voice inflection is universal.

I braced myself for things to suddenly erupt, but right when the confrontation looked as though security would need to separate them, the large man took what was left of his beer and poured it onto the Italian’s head. A free beer shower.

This was when I really expected a violent outburst, but the smaller Italian just stood there looking extremely displeased, saying nothing. He took his glasses off, wiped them down with his soaked shirt in an effort of total futility, and did not react. He simply shrugged and walked away from the scene.

Incredible, I thought. Potentially earth-shattering violence just evaporated at the blink of an eye, and any dangerous ripple it left behind was swallowed by the great ocean of chaos quicker than it even began.

“That went….well?” I said.

“Could’ve been worse,” Tashina replied, taking a large swig of the huge beer in her hand. Half of her drink was already gone, and I’d barely made a dent in my own. She indicated this with a furtive glance at my glass.

Tashina is no ordinary woman. She is no ordinary drinking buddy, and certacoinly not a boring travel partner. Her spirit of adventure is rivaled only by her exotic facial features, highlighted by eyes that hold a sensual gaze that could render any man’s legs to jelly. She had extraordinarily soft skin, shoulder-length brown curly hair, and one of the most positive and optimistic outlooks on life that I’d ever had the pleasure of encountering.

We had been friends for a few years, but never what you’d call close — not until we discovered a mutual love for world traveling and finding ourselves at the epicenter of random insanity, anyway. Back home in Seattle, she had been looking at getting her master’s degree for some time, and she had been fairly certain that it wasn’t going to be in America. Part of me envied her, but a different part of me had always wondered why her sense of wanderlust would carry her so far as to live on a completely different continent than anyone she loved; let alone knew.

But a few months ago, she had decided her education would take her to Glasgow, Scotland, to pursue a degree in geothermal energy. School would begin for her in a few weeks, providing ample time to take a little vacation through mainland Europe first. My travel plans for this backpacking trek turned out to conveniently mesh with hers, and what better place to bond in celebration of life, love, traveling and insanity than on the inaugural weekend of the longest-running beer festival in the world?

Before I knew it, I had finished my liter of Lowenbrau, and she had done the same. The barmaid from earlier was nowhere in sight, and hadn’t been for the past several minutes.

“This is gonna be futile, I think,” I said, already feeling the effects of drinking in Germany on an empty stomach. “I recommend a relocation.”

Tashina nodded in agreement and took my hand in hers. “This way,” she said, advancing into the crowd behind us.

This would normally be me taking the lead and blazing the trail, but girls who look like Tashina tend to get a path cleared quicker than anything with a penis in this place. As I followed her, hand in hand, I made eye contact with an amused-looking guy who had been making no effort to hide his thorough scrutiny of my female accomplice. He grinned drunkenly at me.

“Well-done, mate!” he said in a thick Scottish accent, nodding at Tashina. “Well-done!”

I laughed. “Cheers,” I said as I passed by. He called out something unintelligible after that. Even after spending the past week in Scotand, I still didn’t understand 50 percent of the garbled hilarity that came outta their mouths.

We came to the main entrance, and I immediately felt like like a salmon trying to swim upstream in a river of beer. It was everywhere — flowing like a river on the ground, splashed across the walls and on people’s clothes, mugs in the hands of large-breasted barmaids…there was no end to it.

Finding our way out of there was no easy task, but once we did, we stumbled into a smaller beer tent that was significantly less crazy than Hof Brau. Then again, the plot of “The Hangover” was less crazy than Hof Brau.

This tent served a deliciously different, darker ale that was a nice break from the norm. I could tell it was stronger, too. And at this point, stronger wasn’t necessarily better. We’d both had three liters apiece at Hot Brau, and I was beginning to wonder when we’d both hit the Wall. It would happen, no doubt, but stories like these are always so amazing that nobody ends up remembering them in the first place.

We started talking to a group of Canadians at our table. There were a couple of Spaniards there too, from what I recall. What I don’t recall is the conversation we had, or the point at which Tashina and I looked at each other and silently reached a mutual agreement that the Wall was fast approaching.

The last thing I remember is stumbling around the metro, asking some stranger where the hell the Tent was, and having him return a glance that said “good god, this town is full of savages and drunken swine.”

I woke up later in bed at the Tent, not entirely sure how I got there or what was going on; let alone how long I’d been out. The only thing I was entirely sure of at that point was this: Oktoberfest is a place where only the professional drunks have any business attending, and nobody lasts the entire day without either puking or passing out. Or both – preferably in that order.

  1. gonzonl says:

    Next time you are going to oktoberfest I am coming to hunt you down. Warn your liver.

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