Much like the ubiquitous „German Bakery“ which can found in the most far flung corner of Asia and used as a synonym for „good bread“, (whatever the standard of the produce), „Oktoberfest“ is world-renowned with mini-variants to be found all over the world. I’m no complete novice to beer festivals; there are plenty to be found in Britain. But they are traditional and low-key affairs held in local town and village halls where a manageable crowd arrives to taste the local ales, with simple local food and entertainment in the form of local folk music.

Now I live in the land of the Oktoberfest, which kicked off yesterday. Having not yet seen the festival first-hand I can’t yet comment on the event. But the sheer scale of the festival is already evident in my day-to-day goings. The tube ride to work has provided the fascinating and pleasant distraction of dirndl-spotting.

As multi-coloured and unique as a sari and as feminine (well ‚mädchenhaft‘ or girlish would almost be a better description), the dirndl is a thing of beauty. And just like the traditional Indian sari, each generation of women, wear their own style of dirndl. The teenagers with their mini-skirted version, the conspicuous décolleté of the young and the more formal and elegant cut of the more mature lady. The printed pinafore neatly tied around the pinched-in waist of every women tells you something else at a glance: a bow to the right means this lady is taken.

As as with the Karneval in the Rheinland, Oktoberfest is a festival full of history and tradition. And as with my experience of Karneval, it’s probably best to go with a local and avoid the hoard of Australian, British and well, German tourists. Because it’s a festival which dates back to the time of Napoleon in 1810 – originally a celebration of the wedding of King Ludwig to his Therese (which is why the location of Oktoberfest takes the name Theresienwiese‘), evolving over the years to an annual festival for the people to celebrate the arrival of the golden autumn. There must therefore be more to it than just drinking litres of beer.

Even if not whole-heartedly throwing myself into dirndl-wearing (one try of a demure dirndl in a local second-hand shop got me feeling I should head straight to the kitchen to bake bread and prepare tea from a hot stove rather than ready for a party) and the requisite beer-drinking this year, I do plan to go to ‚Wiesn‘ (the large field where the festival takes place) at some point over the next 2 weeks, to at least get a taste for the festivities. Pictures maybe to follow…