Munich's Oktoberfest: Grab Your Dirndl and a Stein
Story by John O' Ceallaigh; image (of the Gay Sunday event in the Bräurosl tent during Oktoberbest) by John O'Ceallaigh
It may be 200 years old this year, but if the opening weekend's celebrations are anything to go by there's plenty of life left in Munich's Oktoberfest.
Still attracting crowds of up to 6 million a year, the festival has also become a magnet for Lederhosen-loving, beer-guzzling gay visitors, with a number of events aimed at the market. Our arrival on Sunday coincided with the biggest of them all: Gay Sunday. Held in the Bräurosl tent, it sees some 8,000 gay visitors and the odd drag queen attired in a Dirndl -- a type of traditional Bavarian dress -- gather at any one time in the Bräurosl tent.
But what exactly happens? Well, in essence, not much. You gather with others at communal wooden benches and wait for a waitress to ask what you're drinking. Although that's really just a formality -- while water's available the only liquid any legitimate visitor would consider imbibing here is beer, served frothy, fresh and by the liter in heavy glass tankards. At €8.80 a pop it's a bit pricier than the going rate in downtown Munich, but the brew's stronger than standard beer and entertainment's provided for free.
For us that included the opportunity to see thousands of rather strapping Germans show their patriotic side. Traditional dress is de rigueur, with snuggly cut Lederhosen, checked shirts and neckerchiefs the uniform of choice for the boys, and tightly fitted Dirndls and heaving cleavages on display from the girls and their impersonators; the soundtrack is resolutely Bavarian too, with a brass band accompanied occasionally by local yodelers and an unnamed lady who was described to us as 'the German Dolly Parton.'
We tried the following day to recall the specifics of her performance but our memory alludes us -- as with all the best parties, if you can remember all of Oktoberfest you probably weren't there. There's another opportunity to experience it though -- September 27 'Gay Monday' takes place at the Fischer Vroni tent.