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Foreign Correspondent: Munich

What comes between sex and fear? Fünf! Michael Barraclough has been in Munich for two months and has been waiting to use that pun since getting there. This week our Foreign Correspondent describes Oktoberfest and the Tag der Deutschen Einheit

So far I’ve had an incredible experience living in Germany, and the time is flying by. It’s a great opportunity for me to do things that I can’t back home. It’s not always easy; it’s nothing like I’m used to and I’m no longer able to nip off home to my parents when things go slightly awry – but I’m having a fantastic time. Even more so this month as October plays host to two of the largest and best-known events in Germany – the Tag der Deutschen Einheit and the legendary Oktoberfest.

I’ll start by explaining what the Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or German Unity Day, actually is. Annually held on the third of October to mark the anniversary of the nation’s unification, it remembers when the Federal Republic of Germany and the Democratic Republic of Germany united to create one single, federal Germany. It’s kind of a big deal, or so you’d think.

Having learned the history of Germany at university, I was obviously aware that the day was coming up. But there was nothing in the papers, nothing on the news and nothing on the radio. I mean, I had the day off work and everything in the city was shut, but to me, it didn’t seem that special. I asked my flatmate that night and he said he wasn’t bothered by it and as far as he knew not many people were. A quick Wikipedia search told me that each year a celebratory event gets toured around Germany. It has been in Munich, and the videos look impressive, but I’m not convinced the locals were that enamoured by it (although they did love the fireworks).

Historically, Munich was in West Germany. Geographically, culturally and dialectically speaking it is totally different to the Capital. Perhaps, therefore, it is understandable that it doesn’t appear to be a big deal down here. It stands to reason that it will be a bigger deal in Berlin because of the Wall and other historical ties, but I was surprised it wasn’t more of a deal. Nevertheless, I appreciated the day off work!

Oktoberfest on the other hand, is probably the world’s most famous beer festival. It takes place from late September to early October at Theresienwiese and, in addition to the beer, it is also a large non-permanent fun park with quite a number of rides. There are plenty of beer tents and fun for all the family. Although, to be honest, that’s a simplistic description and doesn’t really do it any justice. Maybe some figures will. This year, over six million guests from Munich and all over the world visited the world’s largest annual fair, between them consuming one hundred and twelve oxen, fourty-eight calves and six point four million litres of beer.

It’s sixteen days of complete madness (total verrückt) and throughout the city it’s impossible to escape the traditional clothing, music, or massive influx of tourists anywhere. People from all over the world came in their droves to be part of the festivities, and on the whole it’s good natured fun and there is certainly something for everyone. There are even special family days, where the rides and performances are cheaper, which is a great idea and something I thought British events could look at doing.

I kept putting off going but eventually went on the final night with work. The site is massive. I wouldn’t want to even guess at its size. The rides are gigantic – there’s an Olympic Rings-themed roller-coaster which looked nauseating and everywhere you look there are rides and beer tents, the biggest of which can seat ten thousand people – think of your average League Two football ground and you get the point!

We were in one of the smaller ones – a measly three hundred-seater, but believe me it was crazy, and not in a British crazy way. Everyone was singing and dancing on benches, chatting and having a good laugh. The beer was flowing (and at ten percent strength, a killer), the atmosphere was great, and overall it was all good fun. The closest you could come to something like this in Britain is if you go to the darts I guess, except this was without fat men waddling on stage or Planet Funk’s “Watch the Sun” blaring out every fifty-four seconds.

The event combines tradition (it has been running since 1810 after all) with modern fun and is a spectacle worth seeing; it may cost a lot to go and visit, but it would be totally worth it.

To keep up with Michael’s time in Munich, follow him on Twitter: @m_barraclough

If you are on your Year Abroad or know someone who is, get in touch with us via Facebook ‘The Print’ or Twitter @ThePrintQM to share your story

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