We are in our fifth year of living in Luxembourg. In the time we’ve been here, we’ve experienced a few very different Oktoberfest activities. This was our first and one I will never forget.
When considering leaving your job, home and the only country you’ve known for 35 years, you probably wonder what life will look like in a foreign land. I assume that Sweet British Pete (SBP) envisioned himself driving on a different side of the road and perhaps even taking up a fancy hobby while speaking in a new language.
Something tells me he didn’t imagine standing on the side of a road on a blindingly bright Sunday morning, wearing leather shorts, flag in hand, waving at an elderly woman while a brass band bellowed.
We inadvertently hit the jackpot in choosing our rental house. It is mere feet from Alzingen Oktoberfest parade kick off as well as Oktoberfest HQ. I asked a German friend in our neighbourhood if she was going to the parade. She said ‘Oh, I just find it so embarrassing! I mean- no one who is dressed in traditional costume is even Bavarian!’ Um. We are just going to have to agree to disagree because common ancestry or not – any chance I get to a) wear a traditional costume and b) consume alcohol while my kids are entertained is one I will take.
SBP’s highlight as an unsuspecting bystander to the parade was to be presented with various shots poured by a woman dressed in traditional Bavarian costume, riding on a float. Did I mention that the float was being pulled by a tractor draped in sunflowers? And that she was standing in front of an enormous sign which reads Dick, Dick, Dickelcher*? Since it would be rude to decline (he is British, after all) he imbibed several of these drinks, which all tasted either of paint-thinner or raw egg, depending on which one he was lucky enough to receive.
Perhaps, if we had stayed in London, our sons would fill their days riding the world’s oldest underground transport system, gazing at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with the chiming of Big Ben being the daily soundtrack to their life. For my husband and I, life in Lux is defined at where safety meets the bizarre.
Instead of gazing at Big Ben, my four year old boy got to wonder whether the gorgeous women on stilts (dressed as butterflies, natch) were going to slip in the steaming pile of manure from mayor’s horses, deposited mere feet from where we were standing. The MAYOR! He was so close that once you got past the assaulting smell of horse faeces, we could smell his aftershave. Now that’s a fantastic childhood.
Doing it with lederhosen
Sweet British Pete had dug his heels in for the first two Oktoberfests because there are few that hate a costume more, but as with many another battle, he came to the realization that this wasn’t one he was going to win. I had begun pleading this cause since July.
Incidentally, if you wish to go whole hog and buy the traditional dress (and I beg you to), first learn which side to tie your apron on. One side means you are looking for action and the other says you’re frigid – or something like that. Ask a German.
SBP is forever preaching about my inability to understand spending money on ‘things that are necessary for living’ and a category I shall just call ‘other’. So, in this case, I did some strategic research (via an obscure website starting with A, and figured out that if I bought things separately, the price seemed almost reasonable. A veritable bargain compared with train fares, sausage, beer and hotels for a weekend in Munich, right? Well, I can’t be certain of the total amount spent now, but I am at least 40% sure I spent less outfitting my family in traditional gear than a trip to Bavaria.
Anyway, does Munich boast the uniqueness of the Alzingen parade, which features birds of prey, bedazzled unidentifiable farm equipment, bagpipes and Romany dancers? Not to mention men in very strange hats playing the accordion? More importantly, would we receive free shots of paint thinner there? This risk was just too great.
After the ball is over…
The sweet, small town parade is followed by a wonderful day spent at what can only be described as a funfair that health and safety forgot. There is no height or age requirement on any of the rides and as God is my witness, I saw a father take a child who could not have been more than 6 months old on the swings that fly over people’s heads below. Granted, the father was holding him but the very act made me instinctively cover my son’s eyes because…well, like when Blanket was dangled over the hotel balcony, I just get nervous.
And whilst we are on the topic of the swings, there was something rather odd that I noticed on both days that I visited. After the attendant from whom we purchased our ticket made sure everyone was securely fashioned, he then buckled himself into a swing and proceeded to twist the chains of the swing tighter and tighter so that he spun for the entirety of the ride…with his eyes closed.
I thought to myself ‘How refreshing! Isn’t that just the definition of doing what you love?!’ which was shortly followed my ‘Sweet Jesus! If he is riding the swings who is controlling the damn ride?!’
I never answered my own question because by the time the ride finished, I promptly exited on trembling legs and told SBP that perhaps I needed another sausage to stop the spinning. Not that it was all about sausage. There were also tasty meat knuckles and fabulous cheeses; we dined like Vikings….if Vikings were to dress in dirndls and lederhosen.
The convivial party continued well after our little ones were tucked up into bed. There were hours upon hours of songs played by live bands with everyone and we observed that everyone belting out the tunes and standing on their chairs. Well, everyone except for us. We stood on our chairs but for the life of us, we couldn’t understand the words or remember them – they all sounded strangely similar to our unsophisticated ears. But we bobbed our heads nonetheless.