The festival(s) consist of many beer tents which are open to all until about 5:00p when it turns adult-only. When I say beer tents (as they are called), the term is used very, very loosely. The "tents" are giant structures the size of football fields built specifically for the festivals and hold hundreds (thousands?). They feature stages at one end with live bands. Some tents have more german oom-pah-pah type stuff and some "good" tents, like the one I was in, features a huge soundstage with singers, dancers and musicians. They sing all kinds of stuff but mostly lots of stuff that the crowd can sway, sing and dance to including American classics like "Sweet Caroline", "We Are Family" and "YMCA". There were some german standards sung to which the crowd acted out all the parts, similar to a YMCA type thing only they were pretending to ride horses and waving. The beer tents are about 5,000 degrees inside, almost unbearably loud and if you are *not* wearing the traditional Dirndl or Lederhosen then you stand out like a sore thumb.
A group of 1st grade moms and I all met at the first night of Frühlingfest 2013 last Saturday for a very rare girls night out and yes, we all wore the traditional Dirndl. A dirndl is a type of Bavarian dress based on historic Alpine peasant wear. There are 3 parts to the dirndl... first, a cropped blouse with pouffy sleeves that shows various amounts of cleavage, depending on how chaste you are. There are a LOT of women who needed to "cover that up"!!! But I'm sure the men would disagree. Next is the actual dress. If you are younger (or have a "special" mirror in your house) and have nice gams to show off or are trying to attract the guys, you go with a shorter "mini" dirndl. The typical dress falls at or just below the knee. Then there are the floor-length versions which look more Little House on the Prairie to me. The 3rd part of the outfit is the apron which ties at the waist. You must be careful how you tie your apron as it dictates your "status" as follows:
- bow tie on right = married
- bow tie on left = single
- bow tie in back = widowed
Mike said, "Just don't tie it in the back!" Ha!
You can buy dirndls at a lot of places prior to the festivals (and year 'round at special dirndl shops) for various prices. They begin at around 99€ and go upwards in the thousands. Seriously! I went for the less-expensive option at a lower-end german clothing store where I got all 3 pieces for the price of 1 but still ended up with something nice looking. Since I will only wear it a few times here (for the twice yearly fests) and then *maybe* as a Halloween costume back in the States I thought it wouldn't pay to spend alot of money on it. Plus, you are bound to get beer spilled on your fabulous dirndl. If you are interested in seeing some pretty nice dirndls, visit this site http://www.krueger-dirndl.de/en/homepage/
One more thing on dirndls... typically, brighter colored dresses are worn for the spring fest and darker hues for the fall fest. Mine was more "fall-ish" but unless you buy 2 dirndls you are only "in season" for one fest. But trust me... everyone is drunk and nobody cares! ;)
OK... this is getting quite wordy so time to wrap it up (yeah, right!). My friends and I each paid 29€ in advance which got us a ticket to the "good" beer tent, seats at a table, 1/2 chicken and roll dinner and 3 beer tokens. Our "seats" were a space at one of the loooong picnic styled tables. You had to fight to maintain your seats as friends left for the bathroom (which was a loooong line). The chicken... the best I have ever had! The skin is crisp and super salty and just tastes like heaven. I was told they make it extra salty so that people will consume more beer (as if we need a reason). They must cook a million chickens and they are all perfectly done and steaming hot when you cut into them. The beer. Oh dear! The beer comes in LITRES. They are as big as my head. I had about a litre +1/4 or 1/2. Many were doing Jagermeister shots (obviously very popular here and sold in mini bottles at the store checkouts like gum or candy bars) and I very very wisely declined and stuck to my garbage-can-sized beers. A good tip: wear very comfortable, old shoes. Why, you ask? Well, everyone *stands* (precariously balances) on the bench seats of the picnic tables for hours while belting out tunes, dancing and drinking from gigantic glass mugs of beer. I thought I had comfy shoes on but ended up hobbling to the trains home due to my poor blistered feet. Also, as you can imagine, with everyone swinging around giant mugs-o-beer some is bound to get spilled. Well, alot gets spilled. And it ends up on the benches, the floor and your shoes. (And yes, as with every festival - indoor and out - and biergarten you get *real* glass mugs and dishes with real silverware! No red plastic Solo cups here... and no trash!) And BTW... to say, "Cheers!" here you say, "Prost!" (One more BTW... thanks to one "seasoned" mom who brought a giant trash bag to keep our coats dry in under the table!)
One more thing. This I'll bet you won't get from Rick Steves' european guides! The bathrooms. The germans are *brilliant* on this front. Wherever you go you need to carry pocket change for the WC (water closet - pronounced Vay-Say here) or Toilets (never "bathroom" over here. That's where you take a bath.) Even somewhere that holds hundreds and hundreds of drunken people, the toilets are exceptionally clean. You pay 50 cents euro to the attendant and walk in to a *clean* stall! There's someone constantly cleaning the toilets, sinks, floors, etc. As a person who absolutely *dreads* public restrooms I think 50 cents is well worth a clean potty! They have portable WC trailers at outdoor events too where you pay a few cents and get a clean private stall and sink. Can you imagine?! No germy, disgusting, sewer-smelling port-a-potty! Thank you Germany! :)
OK... on that bright note... here are the picts! I will definitely be attending the Girls Night Out for the Fall Volksfest! Stay tuned! :) (Click on picts for larger/slideshow)