The October autumn sun beamed brightly as everyone gathered in revelry and celebration. The air was crisp and cool on the Thereisienwiese – the central area in Munich, Germany and official grounds of Oktoberfest. This was the world’s largest public festival celebrating beer and Bavarian Culture. Inside 1 of the 14 main tents, I ordered a stein and internally rehearsed the scene that was about to play out on this grand stage. I placed my foot on a wooden bench, thinking that this could either go really well or terribly wrong. I had no time to think this through. There was only action.
Challenge Accepted, Oktoberfest
As all eyes began to enclose on my position, a growing crescendo of applause was starting to build. There was no turning back now. Moreover, a wave of uncertainty enveloped me as I grabbed the cool handle of the sturdy and heavy stein. I stood on the table in the midst of thousands of people who were anticipating my success or failure. This particular challenge, of consuming a litre of what would normally be a refreshing glass of beer in large gulps without pausing, seemed like a right of passage into the halls of Weis’n greatness. Praise, adulation and fame awaited if I succeeded. Loud jeers, thrown pretzels and shame awaited if I failed.
At any rate, with each gulp it was as if I were ingesting the cultural foundations of Oktberfest and travelling to the original celebration of the wedding of local royalty in the Middle Ages. The brown leather breeches I wore, known as Lederhosen, suddenly contained an extra aura of comfort, tradition and heritage. Consequently, as I reached the halfway mark I acknowledged the bodily limitations of attempting such a feat. It seemed as if there was a hush in the crowd as if there was a recognition that things were in jeopardy. In my mind, all of Oktoberfest had temporarily halted. The orchestra playing the upbeat and traditional folk music had stopped. The children and families enjoying the many rides and amusements outside paused. The servers with delicious roasted chicken and pretzels waited.
Ein Prosit (Cheers)
Miraculously the stein became lighter and lighter until finally the last drop was consumed. At this point, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause and cheers and the orchestra started to play “Ein Prosit”, a song symbolizing good cheer, belonging and acceptance. All things considered, this perfectly captured the sensation I felt as I overlooked the crowd and saw local Germans, Americans, Brits, Australians and many others from all walks of life come together in support and merriment. And as a result, this was a feeling, experience and place I truly would never forget.