In the middle of April, I was riding my bike across the Theresienwiese when I noticed yet another fair being set up at the far end. I pootled over to get a closer look.
I didn’t have to wonder long before I figured out what event was coming up…
Frühlingsfest! Aka Munich’s Spring Festival. How exciting. It opened a few days after we got back from Amsterdam, so we went over in the evening to check it out.
It was mostly your basic midway amusement park with rides, games, and food stalls.
However, it also had two of the big festival beer tents! (By comparison, Oktoberfest has fourteen.) The Augustiner Festhalle was super popular with a large crowd waiting to get in.
I was delighted to see how many young people were wearing their Tracht. Tracht refers to the traditional folk costumes worn in German-speaking regions (mostly in Bavaria, Tyrol, and Austria). For men it’s mainly lederhosen, and for women it’s dirndls.
While I was marvelling at the outfits, something caught my eye in the distance. “Does that… say… Beer Carousel????”
Indeed it did. “Bierkarussell.” An honest-to-goodness rotating beer carousel. We knew we were going to have to try it out, but we needed to line our stomachs first.
How about a half-meter bratwurst? Perfect. Okay, now back to the beer.
The Bierkarussell looks like a traditional carousel, except there are no horses and there’s a circular bar in the middle. The patrons stand around the edges and it rotates very slowly around and around. We went for the full “Maß” (1 liter) of Helles (lager).
The rotating was making me a bit dizzy, so eventually we stepped off and found a spot on the side to stand and drink our beers. A very happy drunk Bavarian guy toasted us every time he came past. It was hilarious.
The very next day I spotted an email from the local Democrats Abroad Munich chapter inviting us to join them in the Hippodrom tent for Bavarian-American Friendship Day. I immediately reserved two seats. Of course, if we were going to party in a festival tent, we were going to need our own Tracht…
I had previously waffled on whether to buy Tracht. It’s an actual folk costume, and I wondered whether it would be cultural appropriation. (Neither of us have German ancestry.) I asked a couple locals though, who said that it was absolutely fine. The only rule they mentioned was to NOT buy the crappy shiny Halloween costume versions they sell in the cheap shops near the Hauptbahnhof to the tourists. Instead we went to Trachten Rausch, not far from where we live. They were pretty busy with folks buying outfits for Frühlingfest, but within minutes we each had a guy pulling stuff off the racks for us to try on. I got a pink dindl with an apron and blouse, and the Snook got lederhosen, a checked shirt, and knit socks. (Each outfit ran us around €200.)
And then it was time for the big day! We got dressed up and made our way to the Hippodrom. Holy moly – it was overwhelming. A band was playing and thousands of people were eating dinner and gulping down giant steins of beer.
We found the Democrats Abroad tables pretty quickly. It turns out that many of the tables at the front of the room were for various American expat groups.
The tent was so big they had a screen so people in the back could see the stage. (As you can see, not everybody was wearing Tracht.)
Karena took a photo of the Snook and me in all our Tracht glory…
We settled in and pretty soon we flagged down a server for some beers. PROST! 🍻
The evening kicked off properly with a lovely speech from United States Consul General Timothy Liston in honour of Bavarian-American Friendship Day. He wore Tracht too!
We were enjoying ourselves a lot!
The band were mostly playing classic pub rock covers (in English), but I’m not sure if that was special because of the day. Maybe normally it’s all Schlager? At any rate, they were awesome. We learned very quickly that every 20 minutes or so the singer would yell “Die Krüge hoch” and everyone would raise their glasses and sing a little drinking song…
It’s called “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit,” and it means “a toast to well-being.” It’s followed by a count to three and then “DRINK!”
With all that beer, it was time for some food.
The Snook went for the roast pork with dumpings, while I went with meatballs and sauerkraut. I find it frankly astonishing that they manage to have table service in such a huge place. And there’s no credit cards – it’s all cash. (Note to self: Write an Ocean’s 11-style heist movie where a daring band of criminals knocks over multiple Oktoberfest tents in one night!)
We each had a second Maß of beer, and that’s when everybody started to really cut loose. People were up on the benches dancing and singing along to the band. My phone is full of videos of us acting like idiots and belting out Neil Diamond and ABBA songs. As I’m sure YouTube would flag those as copyright violation, instead you get a photo of the Snook and a couple dudes’ bums. 😂
Here we are at the end of the night. Yeah, that was a good time!
Thanks to the Democrats Abroad for hosting us! Now we’re just counting down the days until Oktoberfest and we can break out the Tracht again… ❤️