The Deutsche Schule in Pretoria holds an annual Oktoberfest in line with München’s well-known beer festival. Since I don’t drink beer, I’ve never gone to the trouble of attending, but my mother, who loves all things German, persuaded us to try it out this year.
We were a little disappointed. With such a high entrance fee (R100 per person), we had expected more. Perhaps it was because we only arrived at 18:00 and all the authentic German entertainment had already taken place, but to us it just seemed like any other carnival. There were stalls with the usual displays of African art, hamburger stands, funfair rides and rock bands playing inside the tents. Yes, German music was blasting from the radio the whole time and you could buy such traditional delicacies as lebkuchen, bratwurst and slices of apfelstrudel, the prices of which were quoted to you in German, and many people were wearing Bavarian hats with feathers in them. But somehow, I think the real spirit of what the event should have felt like was just missing.
When I think back on my own experiences in München, I think about fairy lights hanging from stalls displaying authentic German merchandise, where the food you buy is real and not a gimmick, where old men walk around in lederhosen as a matter of fact, and where the bells of the Frauenkirche toll loud enough to be heard over the oompah music being played by the street musicians. Your breath steams in the air over a cup of hot glühwein, while you watch the first snowflakes lightly dust everything in white. And everywhere you look, people are smiling and greeting each other with a friendly “Grüss Gott!”. That is Germany to me. And that is what we’d hoped to find at the Oktoberfest. But although the evening was entertaining enough, having experienced Germany first-hand already, this festival unfortunately lost its appeal fairly quickly.
Then again, the people drinking pint upon pint of Bavarian beer from huge clay steins were probably convinced otherwise…
Labels: Africa, Europe, Germany, Munich, Oktoberfest, Pretoria, South Africa