November 29, 2009

Munich, Oktoberfest part 2

4. Beer tents
Now the main reason why millions of people flock to Oktoberfest every fall – the beer tents. Those huge tents are setup as early as July and can hold up to 10,000 people and another few thousand in their outdoors areas. Each tent is hosted by one of the famous Munich breweries, so one criterion for choosing your tent could be your beer preference. But every tent also has a particular crowd to it:

Armbrustschützen-Festhalle and Augustinerbräu: traditional, authentic Bavarian tents; a favorite among the local folks who want to avoid the rowdy tourists and party youngsters. Here's where you'd see the real dirndls and lederhosn.

Bräurosl and Fischer Vroni: commonly known as the gay tents as they host the gay and lesbian days on the first and secondd Sunday of the Oktoberfest.

Hippodrom and Käfer’s Wies’n Schänke: Smaller tents, but not the less posher. The who is who of Munich society meets here. Those tents are also notoriously known for the high flirt-factor.


Schützen-Festzelt and Schottenhamel: Yearly, Munich’s mayor taps the first keg of beer in the Schottenhamel tent announcing the official opening of the Oktoberfest; only then may other tents start serving beer. Nowadays a young and hip crowd gathers in and around the Schottenhamel tent and its nearby neighbor the Schützen-Festzelt. The motto is dress to impress.


Löwenbräu, Hackerbräu and Hofbräu: young and old, local and from all from all corners of the world – these tents are the meeting place for all seeking to drink, have fun and party as if there was no tomorrow.

When’s it open:
Oktoberfest serves beer from 10am until 10.30pm; rides are open until 11.30pm. On the weekend, everything opens at 9am. Weekends are generally very crowded and it is not unusual for tents to shut their doors early to prevent overfilling.
The 2010 edition will be from September 18 until October 3.

What to say:
Make sure you know 2 words while at the Oktoberfest: Prost, which means Cheers! and Mass, which is the word for the 1 Liter mug of beer you'll be having. Ask the waitress for "Eine Mass, bitte" (one mug please). Now a popular way of toasting in beer tents is to the tune of a song called Ein Prosit zur Gemütlichkeit (a toast to coziness), followed by a crowd cheering Oans, Zwoa, Droa, Gsuffa (1, 2, 3, drink up!) and mugs banging into each other.

What will it cost:
There is no general entrance fee. All rides must be paid separately. You may enter the tents for free but don’t expect to get a seat unless you order. The price of a beer ranged from 8.30-8.60€ this year and will most likely increase by next year. Also, beware of stealing the beermugs. There's a 50€ fine if you get caught.

How to get there:
U-Bahn station Theresienwiese or S-Bahn station Hackerbrücke, from there simply follow the crowd.

November 17, 2009

Munich, Oktoberfest

Another year, another Oktoberfest. This century-old town fair is the epitome of Bavarian lifestyle. As a true Münchner Kindl (a Munich child) this is an event you do not dare miss. And as an out-of-towner, this is an event worth traveling to Munich for. Here’s a quick guide on the things you should know and the stuff you shouldn’t pass up on.

1. History
Why is it called Oktoberfest when it actually mostly takes place in September? The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.

By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over "die Wiesn" or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.

Different styles of dirndls

Lederhosen revisited

2. Fashion
A true blue Bavarian girl wears the Dirndl to any special event may it be a wedding or a formal birthday party. Nowadays with traditions taking a backseat with the youngsters, the Dirndl is mostly seen at the Oktoberfest only. And what once was a ankle-length long skirt with apron is subdued colors like black, moss green, brown or red, is now often seen as miniskirts in flashy pink or turquoise. Guys wear Lederhosn (leather pants). Those are traditionally custom-made, hand-embroidered and last for a lifetime (weight permits). Not much has changed in this department except maybe that sneakers are the preferred shoe wear. Also more and more women are seen wearing Lederhosn, which caused quite some uproar amongst traditionalists.

But despite the many people frowning upon the new trends, one thing is for sure: the recent years have brought a new sense of nationalism with young girls and guys looking forward to dress up for Oktoberfest, despite the outfits not being quite as what they are supposed to be. It is cool to dress up and people spotted without Dirndl or Lederhosen are often labeled as tourists.

Chocolate-covered fruits

Gingerbread heart

Haxnbraterei and its famous pork knuckle

Roasted almonds

3. Food
You don’t go to Oktoberfest expecting gourmet-worthy food. But like at every fair, you can find some good grub here too. Chocofruits are definitely one of my favorites and I never leave the grounds without having a stick of milk chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas (3€). Another sweet treat are roasted nuts. Vendors have now come up with all sorts of varieties ranging from choco-chili macademia nuts to cognac flavored hazelnuts. I usually stick with the classic delicious, tasty, crunchy and sugar-roasted almonds (5€).

On the savory side, D. has become a fan of the Haxnsemmel, which is basically pork knuckle meat in a bun of bread – the local version of a hamburger. The crispy skin of the knuckle and the tasty meat inside a crispy bread bun make this the ultimate after-hour food (7€ at Haxnbraterei). Other typical foods you can find at Oktoberfest are roast chicken, sauerkraut, brez’n (German word for prezl) and sausages. If you want to bring home a little taste of Oktoberfest, grab one of the many designs of gingerbread hearts. You can even have your message customized on it (5-20€)

Oktoberfest at night

Chain carousel

4. Rollercoasters and rides
Although the vast majority of people associate Oktoberfest with beer drinking, it is only half of the story. Growing up, beer wasn’t on my mind. I wanted to go to Oktoberfest for the rides. Half the grounds of Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest takes place every year (hence the local name Wies’n), is occupied by fair attractions such as rollercoasters, bumper cars, haunted houses and ferry’s wheel. On Tuesday, all attractions offer special discount for the so-called Family Day.

More to follow...

November 4, 2009

A French girl's guide to a Filipino man

Ever since I can remember my mom’s family has attempted to play matchmaker and find me a decent Filipino guy.
Ever since I can remember I refused and they failed.
To tell you the truth I’ve always imagined myself with a tall, blond and blue-eyed man and eventually have cute blue-eyed children.
Because, ever since I can remember I didn’t see Filipinos as being “my type”.
A few years ago, I met this wonderful young man. He was tall, yes. He was charming, he made me laugh. He seemed to have a similar take on life as I did. He had ambitions and his head on his shoulders, but without taking himself too seriously. He was smart and witty without trying so hard. He was all I ever asked for. But he wasn’t blond and his eyes were far from being blue. That day I fell in love with a Filipino.

Now, I’m a European through and through. And though, my DNA is supposed to contain the best of both worlds, I grew up in Germany, lived in a French home and went to a European school. Filipino culture, food, even language was as foreign to me as to any other expat out there.
I grew up in a melting pot so you could assume it’ll be easy to live a multicultural relationship. Far from it, we deal with challenges everyday. I’m a strong believer of individualism and often refuse to generalize. But here a few things I have learned during these past years. Here is my quick guide to dealing with my Filipino guy and how we grew stronger out of the differences we face:

Understand the value of family
More than in any culture I know, family plays a crucial role in a Filipino man’s life.
The respect of the elder is a concept that is – unfortunately - rare to find these days in western countries. However it is also a tremendous adjustment to understand the relationship between your partner and his parents for instance. I am love my family, but I flew out of the nest as soon as I graduated high school, I express my opinions clearly when I disagree with my parents and I live my own life. It therefore took me months to realize that my independence from my family wasn’t a concept D. could easily understand, let alone identify himself with it.
But true love is about embracing one another’s culture. I struggle at times, I admit it. But on the other hand, as frustrating as it can sometimes be to suddenly have to remember the names of several dozens of titas, titos (aunts and uncles that is) and cousins, it is a cultural difference that I’ve learned to value as I’ve always hoped for a partner that would treasure, value and ultimately take care of his family.

Modern chivalry
Who said the true gentleman was a dying breed? Well girls, I found my Filipino man to be far more courteous than the European ones I’ve dated. The act of courting a girl is far more romantic and reminds you of the old school of chivalry, which I honestly thought was nothing more than an old Hollywood myth. During the first months of us knowing together, he was at his best behavior. Dare I say on his best foot forward? He picked me up from my place and brought me back. He gave me flowers and chocolate cake. He would call me everyday just to see how I was doing. I never had to open a door or carry a bag. And my bill was always paid for. Little niceties but I must say, for an emancipated and independent woman like me, it felt weird suddenly being confronted with pre-gender-equality chivalry. I was brought up to be strong and capable of living without a man’s help. Were Filipinos considering women as inferior beings?
Today I understand I was completely wrong. The woman plays an important role in the Filipino society, reason also for the internally matriarchal system. Men are brought up to protect and respect their mothers to the utmost and transfer this behavior into their relationship.

“NO” doesn’t exist in his vocabulary
In the spirit of always being the most friendly and courteous, the Filipino men seem to avoid the word “no”. Any question is answered with a smile and a “sure”, “maybe”, “why not?” But do not mistake this positive answer for anything else than it really is: a negative one. Out of fear or simply conflict avoidance, D. prefers to please me at first and deal with the issue once it arises. I have gone mad about this behavior. A planned trip out of town is all set in my mind, but is cancelled last minute because it was never really confirmed in the first place. Conflict avoidance is the keyword here. A negative answer is associated with negative feelings. And this spans outside relationships as well. Contractors would rather start a less than mediocre job and claim that they can do it rather than turning it down and admitting it can’t be done. Over the years, I have lost my temper numerous times and have yet to understand why it seems so difficult to give out clear answers. In Western cultures, a clear “no” is definitely less hurtful or frustrating than a half-meant “yes”. Be firm and get the truthful answer you deserve.

Notoriously late
Or am I just notoriously punctual? I spent most of my life in a culture that considers punctuality one of the highest virtues. In Germany being late meant arriving at the said set time. Being on time meant arriving 10 minutes early. Anything else was out of the question. I can’t help but feel nervous and stressed whenever the clock ticks and I know I won’t be able to be on time. With unpredictable Manila traffic that can change a 10-minute trip into a 1-hour journey, I had to learn that my punctuality was going to be challenged. But more than anything, I believe it’s in the nature of Filipinos to be worry-free and take things as they come. I have learned to relax a little, but we are usually still the first ones to arrive at any dinner or party; sometimes even before the hosts get there.

Bottom-line is that no matter how many pet peeves might drive you crazy, the greater values and ideas are what will make or break a bi- or tri-cultural relationship. And I’m lucky enough to say that while disagreeing on many issues, we definitely agree on those.


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