Travels with Papillon




The Narrative



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*   *   Oktoberfest 2007   *   *


Starting in the first decade of the 1800's as a celebration of a royal wedding, today it has morphed into one of the world's greatest parties.  

For Americans, you should think of this as a large State Fair: without the Arts and Crafts, nor the animals AND add some beer.  LOTS of beer; a dozen beer tents each seating 6,000 inside and another 4,000 or so on the outside.  And don't forget the rides; dozens of rides.  And the food booths, again dozens, all selling some of the most delightful food with fantastic aromas: chicken, wurst, Bavarian roast nuts, gingerbread, fish, oh it is a sheer JOY.


Two photos that attempt to create a panorama of the Fest grounds. 


Top: looking down the central cross street with 2 beer tents to the left.  The other beer tents are on one of 2 main streets.  The first main street runs left between the 2 towers.  The second main street is in the far distance and is home to half the amusement rides.

These photos show about 1/3rd of the Fest grounds.

Here is the right side of the cross street showing a large portion of the amusement rides.  These are some of the largest portable amusements in the world.


The time is 2:30 on the Opening Saturday in September.  The beer tents are filled with at least 120,000 people.  I would venture to say that at least that many are in the streets on the rides.



The inside of a beer tent just before the first keg is tapped on Opening day at noon.  Here everyone is sitting, patiently waiting.  These folks have been here for 2 hours so that they can get a seat inside a tent.


Within a few hours everyone will be standing on the floor, the benches, or more than likely, on the tables, in a generally drunken celebration of the "Gemutlichkeit".


And no longer is the band just playing a bunch of German Omph Pah music.  Nowadays these are Show bands in costume playing what the younger crowd wants to hear.



But there is much more than beer and party here, this is a celebration by the Bavarian Germans of their heritage and they like to dress the part.  This is not a costume ball on their part, this is a part of who they are.


The Drindl for women and lederhosen for men are as Bavarian as it gets.


Thousands of locals got decked out to join in the celebration.


As with any Opening Day in any event, there was a buzz, a hum, an excitement in the city that was palpable.  And no matter how many times they have seen it, or been there, it still draws a crowd.


And it all begins with the Owners and Landlords Parade





There is a Special Place in Heaven for the Father of Girls


A young U.S. Army officer moved into the spot next to us at the campground and began erecting his tent.  With him were his two daughters.  All three had taken the train down from their home in Heidelberg with backpacks on.

In the process of setting up camp the oldest daughter earned our nickname of "Contrary" for herself.  In exasperation, Dad at one point asked her to "stop being a girl" and do as she was asked.


On Saturday morning the girls are dressed and ready to go to the parade.

Here, departing the campground for the parade and the train ride home is the family taking the shoe leather express.


Mom had elected to sit out this family adventure.


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