Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review: Travels, Festivals, and Events

Another year has come and gone and in soppy melodramatic fashion, it’s time to look back on all we’ve done and didn’t do. Instead of focusing on love or lack there of or personal growth, I’ve look back through the magic of film and video on all the places and things I saw in 2007.

January
I rang in the New Year between the traditional area of Asakusa and the sleazy area of Roppongi. Needlessly to say the 1st of January did not see me until much later in the day, in fact it was evening. My first activity of the New Year then was the following day after sleeping off an all-nighter in Roppongi. I went to the Imperial Palace on January 2nd to hear the Emperor’s New Year address. Didn’t understand a word he said (my New Year’s Resolution is to fix that problem by next year).

A week later I went to Meiji Shrine for Seijin-no-hi (Coming of Age Day) to see kimono-clad girls strut their stuff.

That weekend I went to Kanda Shrine to watch Shinto adherents prove their mettle by drenching themselves in freezing cold water. However given the unusual warmth that month, the normally chill-inducing spectactle looked rather refreshing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlFqaUYA_T4

The next week I went out to a temple in east part of Tokyo – Kameido. There they had a type of Noh performance. This was the first time for me to see Noh but by the end of the year while I would be no expert in Noh, I would at least know Noh much better than before.

February
The 3rd of February is one of my favorite times of the year. This is Setsubun which is like a mix of New Years, Groundhog Day, and Halloween rolled up togther. Every year I attend the mami-maki (bean-tossing) at different temples. This time I hit three temples – Senso-ji in Asakusa, Zojo-ji in Hammatscho, and Kichibojin in Ikebukuro. I always enjoy watching old ladies knocking people over for thrown washcloths, beans, and other trinkets.

I mainly stayed in Tokyo and when I wasn’t killing zombies and Nazis on my Playstation I was visiting gardens such as Hama-rikyu.

The end of February brings out the plum blossoms, the heralds of Spring. To see them I took daytrips to Kamakura which due to the warm winter had already shed its plum blossoms and I went to Mito in the Ibaraki Prefecture to see Kairaku-en Garden with its hundreds of plum blossoms.

February was a good month for armor. I got the chance to wear samurai armor twice. Once in Odawara in front of the castle for 200 Yen and another time in Ikebukuro at a store’s opening week for free. My inner geek was pleasantly sated.

I took another daytrip out to Chiba to watch another type of Shinto ritual where half-naked men wrestled in a cold muddy pond to ensure good fortune for all – its a Shinto thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeXKz3L6fx8

February-March
The next day I embarked on an ardous journey into the heart of the urban jungle of Tokyo. Along with my comrade, Zen Master Jeff, I hiked around the Yamanote Line for five days. We stayed at an ryokan, an internet cafe, a karaoke box, and a capsule hotel. Our outfits were a mix of samurai, old style Yakuza, pilgrim, and backpacker. We met quite a few people and had several interesting adventures because of these costumes.

March
In March I went to Nagoya where the year before I had attended one of the most amusing festivals – the fertility festival of Tagata Shrine. Once again I saw that huge wooden phallus hove into sight admist the awes and chuckles of the spectators.

The next day I went to reconstructed castle whose original structure once belonged to warlord Oda Nobunaga.

Two days later I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish Pub with some co-workers where we listened to a kickass Irish band who were all Japanese.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq07MT6rYN8

The next day I went to Asakusa’s Senso-ji Temple to watch the Kinryu-no-Mai – Golden Dragon Dance.

Showing the spirit of union solidarity I attended the annual March in March, a gathering of foriegn and japanese union members. It rained during the march but the sun came out at the end – The Man can now control the weather!

April
In April, I made my yearly Cherry Blossom pilgrimage to Kyoto where I enjoyed the Sakura both day and night thanks to nighttime illuminations.

On the second day of my trip, I went to Nara, the first official capital of Japan, to feed the semi-tame persistant deer and see the Diabutsu – Great Buddha.

The third day, I went to Yoshino which was an Imperial capital for some decades when there were two rival Imperial Courts for a time.

As it was there was a Geisha performance going on back in Kyoto at the same time in the Gion Quarter – the Miyako Odori. Luckily I was able to get a last minute ticket on my last day.

Though laden with controversy (and with good reason) Yasakuni Shrine hosts an outdoor sumo event in mid-April. While the blossoms fall, sumo wrestlers toss each other around for our free amusement.

A few days later I went to Kamakura to see Cherry Blossoms and watch a display of Yabusame – mounted archery. I injured my knee scrambling up a small tree for a better view. This injury would come back to haunt later in the summer when I was limping about.

Next Saturday, I went to Sumida Park in Asakusa to see another demonstration of Yabusame. It was here were I first saw it performed years ago and I go back to Sumida almost every year.

I went to Harajuku Park one Sunday to see the goth lolita anime folks. While I was there I was interviewed for a French cable TV channel called French Wave or something like that. It was suppose to air sometime in July but I had no way of seeing it.

That particularly Sunday in Harajuku I stumbled the remnants of the group that used to dominate Harajuku – the dancing rockabilly gangs. Don’t know why the cops drove them off 10 years ago.

May
Usually in May during Japan’s Golden Week, I stay put in Tokyo either working or killing people – on my Playstation, of course. Although I get 3-4 days off and sometimes more depending on my schedule, I don’t like to travel at this time because everyone is traveling. Prices are high and accomodations hard to come by. Still this year, I went up to Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture to see the re-enactment of Kawanakajima, one of the famous samurai battles of the Sengoku (Warring States) Period. The re-enactment was more like a high school play with a fair size budget but that was ok as it added a surreal element of watching smiling schoolgirl samurai swinging swords about.

I also try a bit of Yonezawa’s famous beef – which was a damn good (and expensive!) steak.

From Yonezawa I went north to Sendai and then to Hiraizumi where another festival was taking place. I watched Noh performed on a 300 year old outdoor Noh stage and drummers dressed in bizarre deer costumes. As for accomodations, I stayed for three nights in true backpacking style -at the Chateau de Internet Cafe.

The following week I was off again – back to Kyoto for 6 days. In Kyoto I went to the Silver Pavalion – Ginkakuji – named so even though it actually doesn’t have any silver. A grim jest of financial destitution or a tourist scam, you decide. Still, lovely building, silver or no.

I attended this year’s Kamogawa Odori geisha performance in Pontocho which had a story set during the civil war which burnt much of Kyoto and explained why Ginkakuji was silver-less.

That evening I went to Gion Corner to get a crash course in traditonal Japanese arts from Tea Ceremony, kodo playing (japanese harp), gagaku (court music and dance), geisha dancing, ikebana (flower-arranging), kyogen (the amusing plays inbetween the serious Noh dramas) finally to bunraku (puppet drama), All of this in under an hour.

I took the second part of the program and learned a bit on how to do make tea in the traditional tea ceremony way. My tea was a bit strong I’m afraid.

The following day I went outside of Nara to see the site of the oldest Buddhist temple – Horyuji. The current buildings do not date back to the 6th century, though.

In Nara for two nights I watched Noh by torchlight. There’s no Noh like torchlight Noh.

On Sunday I went to Iga-Ueno which was the hometown of some of Japan’s original Ninja. There I saw a short demonstration of Ninja fighting which basically means fighting dirty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIEnsOZXKOM

Monday I went to Ise famed for its shrines which are the number one shrines in the Shinto faith. However, instead of going to these cultural meccas since I had been culturing it up anyhow, I went to a samurai theme park. Ise has one of the Edo Wonderland themepark chains this one based on the later half of the Sengoku Period. I watched a samurai stage drama which I didn’t understand but the plot was simple enough to follow – bad samurai wants precious sword that good samurai guards. Good guy won. Dammit! Gave away the ending – sorry!

On Tuesday, I watched one of Japan’s oldest festivals, the Aoi Matsuri which was my main purpose for my trip.

My knee had troubled me a bit at first but by the end of the trip, I was fine. However my knee injury would re-surface during the rainy season next month. Before that occurred I still had some weeks with a trouble-free knee and so two days back from my Kyoto trip off I went to Nikko to catch the tail end of the festival procession honoring Tokugawa Ieyasu.

I caught a bit of Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri as well. I was really still tired from my Kyoto trip to gave these last two as much time and energy. But I watched people carrying around Mikoshi -portable shrines – and had a good time. I aslo caught another bit of Noh (it was definately becoming a Noh year for me).

I was rested enough towards the end of the month to take in sumo. I was fortunate to be there the day Yokozuna (champion) Asashoryu lost a pivotal match which paved the way for a new Yokozuna. Well, fortunate for me not for him, I guess.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsowgV50igo

Two days later I was in an area known as Miura, a beach area 2 hours south of Tokyo, where I watched another form of Yabusame – Kasagake. Similar to Yabusame, kasagake has a more military practicality. The targets are placed in front and are lower down at the same height as a dismounted enemy.

June
June is the rainy season so I planned to take it easy for a change and just stay put but as luck would have it during the Sanja Matsuri I chanced upon a poster for a festival in some town I never of before. The festival was honoring a samurai family from long ago who fled to the village of Yunishigawa. I was intrigued so off I went. To my dismay I missed the procession of warriors in 12th century armor by a day but I caught something even better – women in colorful robes dancing in the street and an incredible performance on a biwa – a type of lute.

Biwa Performance

I injured my knee by putting too much stress on it running to work one day. I ended up limping into class. Through mid-June to mid-July I spent most of my days off at home but I did go to Harajuku park again one Sunday to see the inhabitants there.

July
In mid-July, I was back down in Kyoto once again. This time for the Gion Festival. Two-story floats filled with musicians and covered with old tapestries were pulled through the streets. Today the floats are dwarfed by tall modern buildings but back in the day, those floats must have really seemed gigantic.

I also went into the mountains behind Kyoto to Enryaku-ji which was once a huge temple compound with thousands of subtemples until the aforementioned Oda Nobunaga who apparently wasn’t much of a temple-going man burned many of the temples and killed a great number of priests. The priests, however, weren’t terribly temple-going types either has they maintained an army and used it to fight other temples and bully the capital.

There was a sumo tournament in Nagoya so I headed up there and spent the whole day at the sumo tournament where I watched the various ranks of sumo wrestlers from the lowest to the highest compete. I aslo got the chance to visit one of the sumo houses but it was after their dinner so I missed all the “big” sumo wrestlers. Only the “little” guys were there cleaning up.

I basically took it easy this trip though since the weather wasn’t all that great and my knee was bothering me. The last day I went on a type of fishing excursion known as ukai where cormorant birds are used to catch fish. It was dark and rainy and my camera kept fogging up.

Next week I was at it again – this time the Soma Nomaoi, a festival I went to 2 years ago. I saw again the armored samurai in the best historical procession I’ve seen. This time I stayed for the last day’s festivities of the 3-day festival. I watched pensioners round up semi-wild horses at a shrine.

August
August was a crazy month for me which made all the previous months pale in comparison. Starting Aug 2 I went on an 8-day 6-festival trip throughout Tohoku. I started with the drumming festival of Sansa Odori in Morioka.

Then I went to Akita City where I watched people balance huge bamboo poles with lanterns on their palms, hips, and heads.

South of Morioka, I spent two days at a festival where they had all kinds of dance performances but the best one and the one that brought me here in the first place was the Oni Kembai or devil dance.

I spent two refreshing nights in a business hotel during the Oni Kembai festival – this after two nights in two uncomfortable internet cafes – before going to Hirosaki to see Neputa.

then off to Aomori to see the last night of Nebuta in which they put some of the best floats in harbor while fireworks go off overhead.

The last festival was similar to Aomori’s Nebuta except that the floats were much taller – 3 of them clocked in at 22 meters high! This was Tachi Neputa, the tiny town of Goshogowara’s claim to fame. My knee bothered me so much at times I could barely walk.

A week later I was in Niigata on Sado Island to see once again the Kodo Taiko drum group’s 3-day concert. It was here I met with some sexy japanese belly dancers. I finally got myself a knee brace before going out to the island which helped me hobble about a bit better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V5v01WaCNE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2Tb8pNKhK4

Near the end of the month, I was back in Asakusa to catch the Asakusa Samba Festival. Lots of cameras were clicking away as scantily-clad samba girls pranced about to a Latin beat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DivGNo0-UQg

The next evening I went to Kameido Temple to see another Noh performance this one by torchlight too.

September
September – typhoon season – I really did take easy though I still went to sumo on one of my days off.

In my neighborhood, I caught a festival. Though I missed the mikoshi, I saw a cool drum band.

During that time there was an Oktoberfest celebration going on near Tokyo station at Hibiya Park. I spent two nights there drinking German and Japanese beers eating sausages and watching German and Japanese girls prance about in leiderhosen – or whatever german girls wear – to German oompah music.

I had meant to go to a festival that month up in Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture but this time my laziness finally said no and I stayed home the whole time and killed zombies on Resident Evil/Biohazard 4.

October
October was another busy month as I took off to Europe to meet up with my parents, my sister and her husband, my cousin, and my uncle in a small family renunion in italy. I headed off first to catch the last two days of Oktoberfest in Munich. The last Saturday of Oktoberfest was so packed I was in mortal danger of going beerless at the world’s largest beer festival. Fortunately, the gods of beer smiled upn me and I was able to partake of the holy elixir.

Then I spent a week beer-guzzling while taking in the castles of Bavaria’s mad king, Ludwig II and listening to some really talented street musicians.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcsYOhlLBoA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhL6rPJlIkg

An overnight bus brought me to Zagreb where I spent the morning wandering around the old town admiring the rampant grafitti. At noon, I had my eardrums shattered by their noonday chime which is delivered by a WWII howitizer cannon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VYNIn_Swuo

From Zagreb I proceeded to Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia, a country which tires of being mistaken for Slovakia.

I spent a night there then spent a day at beautiful Lake Bled.

An overnight train brought me into Venice – well not at first since in my exhaustion I got off at the first station before Venice and had to wait half-an-hour till the next one. I spent the day wandering about the city which was all I could afford to do as admission prices are stupidly high and the lines were stupidly long too. That night I arrived in Florence and spent much of the next day there.

I met my family at a villa that was part of a small castle complex outside of Florence. Wasn’t use to this luxury – I had slept in a locker for two nights in the train station in Munich during Oktoberfest. From then on it was smooth sailing – except when we got lost on the winding roads of the Tuscan Hills which was often.

I went to several medieval walled towns that week in Tuscany and Umbria. Ah, the bloodshed and paranioa of past centuries left some wonderful sites to see throughout the area. My favorite was Monteriggiono outside of Siena.

I returned home to Tokyo just in time to catch a ride on the notorious Yamanote Halloween Train. Little did I know till later of all the controversy that had been swarming around the event. As it was, the killjoys helped to kill one Halloween Train but they knew nothing about the Halloween Train I was on – the killjoys left some amusingly angry comments on the Youtube video I made about the event.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5jVTNyw2BY

After the Halloween Train, I went into Roppongi for a bit fun and sleaze. I also went there on Weds, Halloween proper but it was dead and not int he Halloween sense. However, I did get a bit of grind action from a she-devil and her playboy playmate pal.

November
November was another quiet month. On Culture Day, Nov 3, I went to a small pocket in Tokyo’s urban sprawl to see a small demonstration of a Japanese lord’s procession from several centuries ago and to see one of my student’s samba group perform.

I went home for Thanksgiving where I got fat on some good southern grub such as fried catfish, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cornbread. Also got to pet my doggies.

December
December was also a quiet one for traveling. I went to Sengaku-ji Temple in Shinagawa to see the festival honoring the 47 Ronin who 300 years earlier arrived on a snowy morning with the head of the lord’s enemy to lay at their masters’ grave.

Then on the 23rd I went to the Imperial Palace again. This time to hear the Emperor give a birthday address. Since 2002, I’ve always gone to the Palace on the Emperor’s birthday. Last year I missed the address though I was still able to go inside. This year I got to see and hear some welldressed Japanese rightwingers (and possible yakuza) get really into wishing the Emperor a happy birthday.

And the last 5 minutes of 2007 were spent at Zojo-ji Temple where hundreds of balloons flew off.

Whew! Well that’s that for 2007! Look out 2008! Actually, I think might just take the year off.

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January 2, 2008 Posted by | 2007, 47 Ronin, akihito, belly dancing, cosplay, culture, dance, entertainment, event, festival, geisha, Gion, heike monogatari, iwate, japan, japanese emperor, japanese history, Kyoto, life, martial arts, matsuri, misogi, morioka, Mudslinging, Munchen, Munich, music, Naked Festival, nebuta, neputa, New Year's Eve, New Years, ninja, Oktoberfest, parade, party, plum blossom, purification, ronin, Sado Island, sakura, samba, samurai, sansa odori, seijin-no-hi, sengakuji, sengoku, Setsubun, sexy, Shinto, soma nomaoi, Sport, spring, sumo, taiko, tohoku, tokyo, tokyo imperial palace, travel, video, Yabusame, yamanote halloween train, Yamanote Train, yokozuna, youtube | 5 Comments

Danke for the Memories and Beer Belly – Oktoberfest

Danke for the Memories and the Beer Belly!
Munich’s Beer-Swilling Oktoberfest


Typical Oktoberfest fare

Oktoberfest: Germany’s grand contribution to world beer appreciation and beer bellies. Every year Oktoberfest attracts beer drinkers from all over the world to eat, drink, sing and make merry, while hopefully not making more of a fool of themselves than necessary and throwing up all over the place in the process.

Foamy liter steins of beer, called ‘mass‘, are hoisted high, sometimes with 2 hands because they’re so freakin’ heavy, saluting the strains of Bavarian Oompah Band music. Flocks of roasted chicken, herds of oxen steaks, and tons of sausages of all manner and perverted shapes are consumed in a carnivorous orgy. It’s a homophobic vegetarian’s worse nightmare.


A ‘Mass’ of Bavarian Beer – a beer to some, a pitcher to others

Munich’s Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration for Bavaria’s Crown Prince, Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. Though called “Oktoberfest“, the festival today actually begins in the last week of September. Originally the festival was held in mid-October and lasted only 5 days. The festival was later extended to 16 days and was moved back to the end of September so beer-drinkers could enjoy the lingering warm autumn evenings and perhaps avoid freezing to death in their stupors overnight.

Munich has a long and robust history with beer. Before Munich was even a full-fledged city, clever monks were brewing especially stout beers to help them through periods of long fasting. In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria passed the Purity Law that decreed beer could only be brewed from grain, hops, yeast, and water. The good Duke thus preserved the special flavor of German beer that brings in the beer-thirsty pilgrims every year.


A cosy room for just you and a few hundred of your closest drinking buddies

It felt good to be back in Munich after so many years. This is where it all began (no, not the Nazi Party – even though it did). This is where both my interest in traveling and beer drinking began.

I first went to Germany while at University on a Work Exchange Program. It was my first trip ever overseas. The premise of the program was to give students a taste of living and working in a foreign country over the summer holidays in order to broaden their cultural (and economical) outlook. For poor students like myself, who couldn’t afford Study Abroad programs, Work Exchange was a great way to travel and make a little money in the process.


I need two hands!!!

Some basic knowledge of German was required to participate in the program. I had studied German for three years in High School and one year in University so naturally I couldn’t speak a word of it when I got over there. Prior to my departure, the coordinator of the program would periodically call me up to test my German ability. At one point, he told me if my German didn’t improve I would not be able to participate in the program. I starting screening my calls from then on to avoid speaking with him.


A cellphone shot of moi enjoying a mass of Dunkel Bier

After a summer working as carpentry assistant just north of Munich, I could carry on simple conversations in German. Granted, I couldn’t exactly debate philosophy, politics, or anything like that but I could talk about more important things such as beer.

Deutsches Bier ist sehr stark!” (“German Beer is very strong“) I would say with authority.

Americanish Bier is sehr schwach. Es ist Wasser.” (“American Beer is very weak. Its water.”) I would add to strengthen my point.


Good Times A-comin’: a Beer Wagon laden with beer and girls

I drank my very first beer in Munich. I had never cared much for the taste of American beer before going to Germany. German beer I found quite delicious since it lacks all the preservatives and other unpleasantries (like formaldehyde) that are found in many other beers.

My very first beer was served at the famous (and sometimes infamous) Hofbrau Haus. A burly arm attached to an even burlier serving maid plunked down in front of me what I thought was a small pitcher because it came in a liter glass. It took me half-an-hour, one bratwurst, and two large pretzels to wash it down. After I stumbled away from the Hofbrau Haus evening in my first alcoholic-induced haze, it took me two months to find the place again.

I missed Oktoberfest that year because I had to return to school. I always harbored a hope that one day I would make it back for that Hallowed Happy Hour and drain beer after beer (which my limit is two) with other beer pilgrims from around the world.

Accommodations are scarce in and around Munich during Oktoberfest. It would be wise to book well in advance, preferably at the end of the previous festival. However, as I made my plans to visit Oktoberfest in my usual fashion, i.e. on the spur of the moment, I was left with very few options.

My accommodations were a bit spartan. I had a mind to complain to the staff about the living conditions but the staff consisted of train engineers, ticket officials, and the guys who clean up the vomit from the platforms.

One night, my traveling companion, Deirdre, had some fellow, whom I suspect was not part of the staff, play with her ear while she was asleep. I said she should feel lucky to get a complimentary ear massage. I recall she didn’t speak to me for some time after that remark.


Dunkel Dee

Oktoberfest begins with a parade of the Brewery Landlords. Each beer brand has its own cart made out in festival colors with servers decked out in leiderhosen. They head straight to the beer tents set up in Theresienwiese field, which was named in honor of the Princess Therese. In one of the tents, the Lord Mayor of Munich starts the beer-swilling festivities by tapping the first keg and shouting: “O’zapft is!” (“It is tapped!“).

There are 14 tents that each cater to different tastes and styles. For those sick of beer (which would beg the question: why come in the first place?) there is a tent for wine connoisseurs. If sausages three times a day begins to wear thin, there is a tent that specializes in fish dishes. As of yet I do not know if they have set up a Tofu Tent for Vegetarian visitors. All the tents have their own reputation – some traditional, some modern, and some wonderfully decadent.

One tent sponsors crossbow shooting. Beer, pig knuckles, and crossbows, the Armbrustschutzen Tent offers something for everyone – provided you like beer, pig knuckles and crossbows, that is. I displayed my crossbow skill and won Deirdre a stuffed bear. Alright it wasn’t in the Armbrustschutzen where I did my William Tell impression. It was at one of the game stalls, and the bolts I was firing were made of foam rubber. They wouldn’t let me fire the crossbows at the Armbrustschutzen, which probably was a wise decision in retrospect.


Dee enjoys a pretzel

In addition to the beer-drinking tents, they have a funfair filled with puke-inducing rides. A twirling, upside-down ride high in the sky is just the thing after downing a few liters of your favorite brew. One has to be careful when walking below to avoid such dubious rain from the heavens.

After downing a liter of beer, Deirdre and I, wisely avoiding the puke-n-spin rides, went to our favorite ride: bumper-cars! There’s no law that says you can’t “Drink and Bump”, so we fell to it with reckless abandonment and became drunken terrors on the bumper-car rink. I still remember the look of shock on the faces of those poor children and teenage couples as we bore down on them with Wagnerian fury and bumped them into oblivion.

The beers at Oktoberfest range in several categories:

Helles – this is the standard beer served in a liter stein which brawny beer maids grasp five to six in each hand.

Dunkels – an old-fashioned dark beer served in liter steins as the Helles. Its brewed with toasted malt and has a rich robust taste. I prefer it over the Helles.

Pils/Pilsner – served in a 1/2 liter glass. Pils is a lightly-toasted malt beer originally hailing from the Czech Republic and is often poorly imitated in other countries, fortunately not so in Munich.

Weissbier – a tasty, strong beer made from wheat and sometimes served with flecks of lemon in the foam. It too is served in a 1/2 glass.


A Tall Glass of Bavarian Beer – for light drinkers

Some lessons I learned the hard way about German beer my first time in Munich which I now pass on to the readers are as follows:

1) Don’t drink an entire liter on an empty stomach, and especially don’t follow that first liter with a second one just because someone else is paying. I found myself outside of a bar violently throwing up in the arms of a sympathetic German woman who I had the cheek to ask for a kiss later.

2) Don’t chug German beer. German beer, unlike most of the cheap swill preferred by college students, actually has a good flavor that is worth taking the time to savor. That first night at the Hofbrau Haus, I watched a group of American college students encouraged a girl to chug a whole liter of Helles. Surprisingly, she accomplished it but barely kept the beer down through the applause and she quickly threw it all back up.

3) Don’t play “Quarters” with German beer – or any drinking game for that matter. Some of the Work Exchange participants and myself engaged a few of the carpenter apprentices in a friendly game of Quarters one night. The fellow beside me had an amazing stroke of Beginner’s Luck and I had to down glass after glass of Spaten Helles. I remember the brand well because it was not too long afterwards that I began “spatting” like Hell in the bathroom. Spaten’s logo is a shovel which must symbolize the tool needed to pick people off the bathroom floor after a few too many rounds of the old Spaten. Good beer, though.


Ye Olde Beer Drinkers from the Oktoberfest Parade

I survived Oktoberfest last year, barely. The last night there we spent in the Augustiner-Brau Tent eating roast chicken washed down with more liters of beer. Ours was a lively table, though I almost go into a fight with one of the guys at the table at the beginning of the evening. He told us he was taking a newly-opened table all for just his friends. Deirdre, ever the peace-maker, just smiled and sat down anyway so everything worked out alright. We jumped up on our benches a few times to croon merrily and drunkenly German drinking songs and a few American songs with our beer buddies.

By the end of the night we stumbled away from our new-found drinking buddies, then took an overpriced uncomfortable bus ride to Bratislava, Slovakia.

For those heading to Oktoberfest this year, I wish you the best in foamy delicious beers, savory sausages, succulent chickens, and juicy oxen steaks.

Hold your beer high and say for me:
Prost! Gemulichkeit!


My hands are completely full at Oktoberfest

October 5, 2007 Posted by | alcohol, Bavaria, Bayern, beer, Deutschland, festival, Germany, Munchen, Munich, Oktoberfest | 5 Comments