About six years ago somebody told me that the second biggest Oktoberfest is in Blumenau in Brazil and I knew that I had to go one day. Finally this year the time has come and of course I also had to go to Oktoberfest in Munich before going to the one in Brazil. So here I was, a Bavarian going to Oktoberfest for the first time!
Preparing for Oktoberfest – the quest for a Dirndl / Lederhose
I came back to Germany from my last trip just a week before the end of Oktoberfest, I carefully read this guide to Oktoberfest http://monkeysandmountains.com/oktoberfest-germany/ and figured that in the end I do want a Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress). So off I was on a quest for a Dirndl!
Since I wasn’t sure I would go more than once I didn’t really see the point in getting an expensive one, so my other options were:
-a Dirndl from one of the discount supermarkets (Lidl or Aldi). However, I realized quickly that the special offers were mostly already being taken out of the stores and I couldn’t find my size anywhere… If I had been back in Germany 2 or 3 weeks earlier I probably would have had more luck, the ones I saw were about 40€.
-a Dirndl from a second hand shop. No success here either though in finding my size in the shops in my area and I didn’t have time to go to the one in Munich (Kleidermarkt, Im Tal 30).
-sewing a Dirndl myself. Since I didn’t have time to sew a whole Dirndl I simply made a little apron with a hidden pocket and wore it with a Dirndl blouse and a random skirt:
I have been told anyway that a few years back in Munich everybody went to Oktoberfest dressed normally, so not wearing a Dirndl wouldn’t make me less Bavarian.
Being at Oktoberfest
One big incentive to go to Oktoberfest in Munich was the fact that the Sacred Harp singing group there had organized a singing on the last weekend of Oktoberfest, so I could link both activities J (Sacred Harp: an acapella singing tradition that originates in the 19th century in the US and that spread in Europe as well recently).
I’m glad I decided to come a day before, because it’s true that it’s less crowded on weekdays.
On Friday afternoon I learned traditional Bavarian dances in one of the tents in the Oide Wiesn (historical Oktoberfest). Traditional dances have gained in popularity again in recent years, probably because they are really easy to dance for anybody and because they’re fun! How weird to learn about your own culture at the age of 30…
After that the Schwuhplatter (a gay Schuhplattler group) gave a performance. (video from 2013, will upload a 2015 one soon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faOJmQCjJVY)
On Saturday evening we were lucky that one of the guys in the group of singers who went to the Wiesn had a cool hat – we had to wait a bit less to get into a tent (“only” about 40 minutes), well, into the outside area of the tent I should say. Once you have your table you don’t give it up, so we drank our Maß (1 liter jug), listened to the band singing Klezmer songs in Bavarian and basically had so much fun that I had no time to take pictures 😉 I also asked for some expert advice from experienced Oktoberfest goers next to me: they had brought a jacket, but a cheap one so they’re not sad if they lose it. They brought a handbag and put it on the table (not the floor, because it’s not clean). And they were even wearing heels, but not too high ones.
Unfortunately Oktoberfest closes at 11pm in Munich, but we had a birthday to celebrate anyway with one of the singers back where we were staying, so the party continued there for a bit.
Last week I finally went to Oktoberfest in Blumenau in the South of Brazil, again during the week to avoid crowds. A big percentage of the area’s population is of German origin and the city celebrated the 32nd Oktoberfest this year (A quick summary of the history of both Oktoberfests: http://www.oktoberfestblumenau.com.br/en/oktoberfest/history)
Tatiana, my couchsurfing host in Blumenau is an expert in both Oktoberfests and also a great host. She brought me to the doctor and with the help of antibiotics I finally recovered from the tonsillitis. True, the coordination between antibiotics and beer consumption is a tricky one, but the reduced amounts of beer were compensated by the great company – more couchsurfers joined on the weekend and a friend I had met 5 years ago also came down from São Paulo.
The difference between Oktoberfest in Blumenau and in Munich?
Quite a few, actually they are completely different I would say, but I loved both. Here are some of the differences:
Oktoberfest in Munich opens early and also closes early (from 10am weekdays/9am weekends until 10.30pm big tents/11pm small tents), so that party people go to the two tents that are open until 1am and then to an Afterwiesn Party
I never managed to stay until the end in Blumenau, since it opens later and also stays open later: opening at 6pm every day, closing a bit later each day (Sun, Mon, Tue:12pm, Wed 2am, Thu 3am) and open until 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.
Blumenau: tickets can be bought online or at the ticket office just outside the festival, you get half price (meia entrada) if wearing a traditional dress (full price “inteira”:10BRL on weekdays 30 BRL on weekends)
Munich: entrance to the festival area is free (except Oide Wiesn, which is 3€)
Blumenau: you can put away your stuff at the entrance for 5 BRL.
Munich: I learned later that there is a baggage room at the underground stop Theresienwiese (3,70€/day), but it’s much easier to simply leave at home what you don’t want to lose (e.g. expensive jacket, big wallet, …). It gets hot inside the tents anyway and when you get out you’re drunk and don’t feel the cold.
Oktoberfest in Munich takes place at Theresienwiese. The area consists of 16 beer tents (which take 10 weeks to be set up) and also offers many fairground rides. http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/events/oktoberfest/map.html
Oktoberfest in Blumenau takes place in Vila Germânica, a festival area that hosts different festivals all year round. There are three indoor sectors and an outdoor area with food, drinks, shops for Oktoberfest equipment and souvenirs, … There are no fairground rides though, but I never go on any rides anyway. (For kids there is a special area called Kinderplatz instead)
Munich: order your drink (10,60€ for a Maß this year) wthe good looking waiter comes around to your table, then wonder how heavy the food and the drink they are carrying around is.
Blumenau: buy vouchers for drinks and food (credit cards accepted at many selling points) and then choose one of the beer /food stands (beer: options for 6, 7 or 8BRL available). I was quite disappointed that there is no Radler (mix of sprite and beer) in Brazil, but Brazilians seem to find even the idea of it too appalling, so it probably wouldn’t sell.
-jugs: Whereas in Munich 1 liter glass or ceramic jugs are used, in Blumenau people walk around with aluminium jugs that are secured around the shoulder with a sling. If you didn’t buy one beforehand you can still buy it in one of the souvenir shops, or you drink your beer out of the 400ml plastic cup that it’s sold in.
-seating: Once you have a table in Munich you don’t want to lose it. You can either arrive ridiculously early to save one, or book one in advance (but the condition is a minimum amount of people and consumption per person).
-dancing: it is forbidden to dance on tables or benches in Blumenau, whereas in Munich it’s expected that everybody will dance on the benches (it’s forbidden on the tables though). It was much more comfortable to dance in front of the stage anyway…
-Music: I found the songs and styles of music played in Munich more varied than in Blumenau, but that didn’t do any harm to the atmosphere. Only two of the bands were from Germany, so some songs were sung with slight hilarious mistakes in the text, for example the song “Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht” gets a bit weird if you replace the line “alles geht vorbei, doch wir sind uns treu” (everything ends one day, but we’re staying together) with “alles ist vorbei” (everything is over).
-Traditional dresses: The Dirndl and Lederhosen in Munich and Blumenau are quite different, the most disappointing fact in Brazil being that the Dirndl ends in the wrong place to my taste and mostly doesn’t show any cleavage, whereas in Munich there was revealing cleavage everywhere (which is kind of the point of a Dirndl, I think). Another difference is the material: a lot of Dirndls in Blumenau were synthetic and nobody there had Lederhosen made from leather because they’re imported and ridiculously expensive in Brazil, so a lot of them were made of fabric that looks like suede from far away.
Which one do I like more?
I enjoyed both Oktoberfests likewise and was glad that I was there on weekdays as well, it’s true for both that it gets too crowded on Saturdays. Even Friday afternoon was still great to enjoy without a too much crowd in Munich. What I liked a lot in Blumenau is the fact that you can walk around freely everywhere without having to fear not to get in or not to get a seat. In Munich I really liked the traditional dance session, and of course… the Dirndls!
After 4 evenings of Oktoberfest I took a bus to Florianópolis where I will enjoy the Irish like weather for 3 weeks…