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Having never been to Germany, to say I was excited about the ESN (Erasmus) society’s trip to Oktoberfest is understating it. So along with my motley bunch of multinational students, we rustled up our best German (ein bier bitte) a couple of sandwiches and as much enthusiasm as we could for the 8 hour coach journey ahead. Though my coach took this opportunity to attempt some shut-eye, a fellow coach has my well-earned respect for attempting to drink away the entire voyage. Upon our 7.30am arrival, members of this coach were identifiable from their green-tinted faces, as they queasily waved away pain-au-chocolat and complementary juice boxes.
But we were there! We approached the Thereseinwiese, waved in by the looming statue of Bavaria herself, and drank in the sight of rollercoasters, oversized beer statues and lederhosen-ed people, wrinkling their nose at the subtle odour of beer and piss. Selfie taking ensued. We sat at outdoor tables while a stern overhead voice told us the rules of the beer tent. We would be allowed into the tent one table at a time, going out of turn would get you barred, everything would be cash only. Around me, people resembling Hansel and Gretel (and in a magnificent array of hats) sat up slightly. Understood. This was intense. However inside the tent the atmosphere immediately lightened, we crammed into a table and marvelled at the strength of the dirndls hurrying about with their clutches of stein (that’s a 2 pint glass to us).
What then occurred was glorious, it was time for stein; beer flowed, pretzels flew overhead, a brass band started up, alternating with the overhead speakers which blasted out EIN PROSIT every ten minutes amidst tunes like ’Sweet Caroline’ (go figure). By 11 most people were dancing on their benches, food was being ordered and plates of sausages, chicken and stew swarmed below. By half one, and after desperately clinging on to a friend – who drunkenly almost toppled onto our neighbour’s chicken dinner for the second time – we made our way outside. As we are all well aware, the best thing to do after a good beer is almost certainly to find yourself a rollercoaster or three.
The weather was fantastic and the crowd bustled around, wielding schnitzel and gingerbread (and occasionally vomiting, truth be told). The Bavarian dress was worn by most, and whilst I can never see embroidered shorts and knee-length dresses taking off in England, it is a crying shame. It is evident that the festival is universally enjoyed from the many languages heard all around and when we finally returned to the coach, it was with a slight sense of dejection, and a determination to go again!
by Abbie Priestley
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham