Oktoberfest! Germany’s international trademark and treasure.
Let me stop you before you remind me it’s only August. Something as small as the month doesn’t stop the Germans.
As the Summer circles into Autumn, each Bavarian town hosts its own fest. The tradition a traveling prelude to Oktober’s main event in Munich and Germany’s larger cities. On the second to last day of Garmish’s week-long festival, I found myself among the merriest townsfolk in my pink and green dirndl.
Participating in Oktoberfest is something I touched at eighteen while working an imitative arrangement of the celebration at the local Swim and Racquet Club. Passing out steins and pretzels to parents I’d known since childhood, I dreamed of attending the celebration in earnest. On German soil.
Just a dream. Proven all the more elusive by the 20th of August expiration date stamped firmly in my mind by the hard-nosed and thin-lipped officer at the border, taking a breath in his interrogation to solidify my last day in the country. Before October, I was doomed to depart.
Now my dream was real, however cheated by the Summer air.
As I took to my two-hour-long train journey from Munich to Garmisch, my hands sought pencil and paper. I drew the fields we passed and traced the outline of the log cabin houses just beyond.
My mind wandered, and I wrote.
The red shade I cast upon the page
reveals more than simple rouge.
Like a shallow river these
curves mark my progress with
pressed too hard against the bleached page.
These twisted indents lingering
under crimson tip
I plow. Harder over its edges,
staining the next page with overcorrection.
With this cycle,
too harsh to sever from its
ebs & flows
from its lines
arching & layered.
The tragedy of life,
the way we trace each former version
of our bodies,
illustrating corpses across a fresh page.
Soon enough, my rambling was interrupted by the announcement of our arrival. I walked my corseted layers across town until I reached the calling festival entrance.
It’s banner declared 2022’s, “Garmisch-Partenkirchen Festival!” I dipped inside.
The Bavarian band stood tall on their wooden stage, blowing tunes through brass and beating drums in time with their string companions. Auburn liters of beer in glass Maß and the swirling layered skirts of Bavarian dirndls weaving amid a sea of embordered lederhosen delighted my eyes.
The Oktober sentiment was as thick in the air as the smell of bratwurst and Lowenbrau wafting through the great tented hall.
With German exchanges filling my ears and the traditionally-dressed patrons crowding my vision, it proved difficult to remind myself I was in the 21st century. A black and white filter would convince me this was a different time, the only clues in lifted smartphones gripped by convincing hands.
Sweat-soaked and sun-burned, I split fries, pretzels, and a plate of cheese with friends as we listened intently to the clashing thunder signaled by the yellow strikes of lightning just outside the tent.
That August 5th showcased traditional Bavarian dancing, the dirndl dressed and lederhosen-clad swarming the wooden set. As the waltzing congregation weaved their limbs around the floor and each other, I was transfixed.
Struck by the way their hems dipped and the soft leather embraced embroidered flowers and vines over their shoulders. Their steps winded in circles, their loose formation cradled by the prop house behind them.
Children’s dirndls and lederhosen hung from a thin clothing line on the set’s balcony, an intimate touch. Bursting from the ambiance, the band struck their instruments in a Germanic crescendo, keeping time among the chaos of beer and conversation.
I sipped my Helles beer, lining my lips with its foam. The taste chilled my tongue and warmed my stomach. Joining the time-capsule crowd.