"Where are my Oktoberfest shoes?" he called. Oktoberfest shoes? If that means nothing to you, then you are thankfully not among the 7 million who flock to Munich this time of year, sporting the standard ensemble worn by Americans and Australians alike at the 200 year old folk-festival turned Beer craze. The Oktoberfest, a.k.a as the Wiesn put little Munich on the map. The quintessence of the festival being Beer, it's ceremonious entry and unceremonious exit from the human body. An event at which people from all over the world converge eagerly, bent upon repeatedly testing their (in)ability to handle large amounts of alcohol. Lederhosen clad tourists coat the streets of Munich or lie around in undignified human piles.
Munich is bursting at the seams. Had it not been for the meticulous German measures and controls, the city would be catapulted into total drunken chaos. The strain of handling 5 to 6 times it's native population, most of which are in the form of intoxicated beer corpses, shows in everything from public transport and paramedics to the overloaded police force. It's all they do can to keep the security and sanity of the city. Even so, it is not uncommon that rape and even death are noted within the Oktoberfest premises or in its immediate proximity. Neither the obvious danger nor the already exorbitant and steadily rising prices at the Fest are a deterrent. The hordes of people keep flowing, as does the beer.
The Oktoberfest is an important part of the Bavarian culture, having been around so long. Still, one can't imagine they are completely comfortable watching their local costumes and traditional clothes reduce to something of a drunken uniform. How would it look if Indians only wore their Saris to eat rice and curry? Then have masses of toursits adorn Saris, as they consume bushels full of rice and curry! Germans are wearing their traditional alpine costumes like the Dirndl less and less - before and after the Oktoberfest that is - thereby not only supporting but also promoting their Oktoberfest image.
Ok, let's try another angle here. It's easy to hate the whole Wiesn Meshugaas and to vilify its faithful. It's harder to understand it's attraction though. Why people travel from all the corners of the earth and spend ridiculous amounts of money, recession or no recession, to drink themselves senseless at this one place? Unreasonable amounts of alcohol can be consumed in several, easier accessible locations. The economic motivators for the breweries and the city are obvious. According to some statistics each time the band in a beer tent encourages guests to clink their mugs, 1000 Litres of beer is consumed, which happens several times hourly, in 15 tents. 7,5 Million Mass (1 Liter beer mugs) are sold at the Wiesn, that's more than 1 Liter of beer per person on an average. Not even taking into account the hundreds and thousands of roasted chicken and other sorts of grease oozing goodies downed to counter the alcohol. The stats are mind-boggling, the Wiesn is ALWAYS a smashing success. More every year.
What's in it for it's patrons though? What brings them and keeps them? Viktor E. Frankl claims man is constantly in search for meaning in his life. Does the Oktoberfest celebrate the ones that have found it or console the ones that are still looking? Did Viktor get it all wrong, maybe all we are looking for is a pair of Lederhosen to drink the next Mass in. Prost!