No, I was not in Munich during Oktoberfest, although I had my share of German beer in the beer gardens, where the buzzing of intoxication was accompanied by the rowdy chatter of Bavarians, providing much better entertainment than performances of any kind. The best entertainment, by far, however, was the Australians. In general, Aussies are ubiquitous wherever there are interesting sites and good drinks to be had. Apparently, Aussies comprised nearly 30-40% of Munich's population during the two week-long festivities of Oktoberfest, frequenting its beer tents "Bierzelte" with laughter, smooth accents, and good old inebriation. So inebriated, in fact, that the majority of the Aussies lost their passports and the Australian embassy aptly set up a temporary, make-shift embassy (in a tent) during Okoberfest so that the drunkards who lost their documentation did not have to take the 6 hour train ride to Berlin, where the official embassy was situated. True story.
I lived vicariously through Simon, who shared the experience of paying nearly $30 for a mug of beer during the celebration, as well as shacking up with roommates for meager accomodations and shelling out $150-200 for a third of a room per night. Wow. Now I am just not that committed to beer. Half grinning and half sheepish, Simon assured me it was worth it for him to see his typically uptight friend completely lose it. "Drunkenness with trusted company" was the way he put it. Simon seemed so young to me, guileless and with big, double-lidded eyes unusual for those with Han ancestry. A Taiwanese friend once told me about the ethnic differences between the indigenous Taiwanese versus those who later came with Chiang Kai Shek after WWII. Chiang's cohorts were unmistakably Han, but the indigenous people looked a bit more exotic, with wide eyes and darker skin. I guessed Simon belonged to the "original" Taiwanese, but it is inevitably a sore subject to raise, as the indigenous Taiwanese and their intelligentsia/scholars were massacred by their Han counterparts. Sigh...
Simon and I went to the Residenz, the largest palace within the city, home of the Bavarian monarchs that has now become a museum, a concert hall, undergoing immense reconstruction behind billboards of some famous Italian designer like Prada. It boasts some amazing Rococo and classical architecture, among others, and true to the German style, everything was perfectly symmetrical. The Antiquarium, (Hall of Antiquities), was a massive hall covered by a plethora of Renaissance paintings, separated by large beams of wood, which seemed to be the overpowering color in the entire collection. It was the most impressive room and somehow, the coldest. Suddenly, the tears that I did not shed on the train spouted full force and Simon was justifiably baffled. However, he didn't find an excuse to leave that hour, that day, or even that evening. Backpackers are not beholden to one another, and whenever you felt that your paths needed to separate, there was no explanation necessary. Instead, he sat beside me until I quieted and for some reason, there were very few tourists in the Residenz that day. I don't remember what I told him as the reason for my outburst, and I don't remember him asking. Perhaps it was nothing, and perhaps it was the wave of uncertainty over uncertainty hitting me as I didn't know what my next step would be. Nonetheless, it didn't matter. We sat in the silence, punctuated by my occassional sobbing, and then it was over.
And he suggested we have dinner. We went to this folksy, non-tourist and therefore non-English-speaking restaurant where the food was reputed to be authentic. However, we weren't warned on the demeanor. Not to be speaking in generalties, but Bavarians are rude. Particularly in restaurants. They are impatient with you for taking to much time to decide, and then annoyed that these bumpkins did not pronounce the names correctly. I ordered the Weisswurst, a traditional sausage made from very finely minced veal and fresh pork bacon, and Schweinsbratenhe, pork with gravy. Simon had the Nürnberger Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut (fried sausages with Sauerkraut). The meats were hardy, succulent with juices, and utterly amazing. And strudel, of course!
That night, the air turned frigid. As I ate the last bits of my apple strudel with beer and began to sniffle, I realized I was coming down with a cold.