The Bavarian Heartbeat of Canada
Markus Buessecker in Guelph, Ont., for a one-year work experience and travel exchange, went to the Oktoberfest in Waterloo-Kitchener, Ont., and found his home country spirit. All the photos were taken by Markus’ Canadian friend James Jackson.
The Bavarian Heartbeat of Canada
This Canadian-Bavarian heart, more precisely, beats in Waterloo-Kitchener, Ont. At least that is my conclusion after I ventured there on a day trip to have a first-hand experience. I was positively surprised as I am a frequent Oktoberfest guest in Germany, because in the end it's all about passion and prost!
The largest Oktoberfest outside Germany?!
That is a major claim and I cannot resist exploring this idea. Up to 750 000 visitors were expected during the nine days of festivities. I picked the first weekend and had bad luck to start with, the temperature dropped to nine degrees Celsius and a chilly wind was blowing. I arrived in Downtown Kitchener around 1 p.m. The "Willkommen Platz" is central to the Oktoberfest in both towns, so I decided to make it my starting point. There were many booths selling Oktoberfest-related food, colourful fun rides, live music on stage and one of the buildings had a certain resemblance to the notoriously famous castle of "Neuschwanstein." There were other curious visitors around, but to my relief it was not overly crowded. I had been prepared to be jammed in never-ending human traffic.
On the quest for the spirit of Oktoberfest
I entered the information tent to enquire about the afternoon activities. The friendly staff brought me up to speed. There was an extended program that covered traditional, culinary and historical topics. One of the highlights was the famous Monday-Parade which attracts a large part of the annual visitors.
Still, there were certain staples that define Oktoberfest for me: The dress (what Germans call "Trachten"), live music and Bavarian cuisine. If I could find them, I would be happy to vouch for the spirit of Oktoberfest.
First, I dedicated some time to spotting the traditional dress, which was easily done. There was the official Oktoberfest retail store and it was packed, not only with customers, but also with genuine Bavarian apparel. The bestseller seemed to be felt hats. I got in the line for my hat memorabilia too. Apart from the hats, there were more ladies wearing the traditional skirts and vests than men in lederhosen. I should have brought my outfit along to balance the odds.
Schnitzel and Prost
My next endeavour was music. There is no such thing as a silent Oktoberfest. There was live music everywhere and the bands knew what they are doing. Their set of songs covered the classics and I experienced a slight feeling of being homesick. Couples were dancing and there was cheerfulness in the air. The motto is "Gemuetlichkeit" which can be vaguely translated as sociability.
Hours had passed and my stomach told me to find something to eat. I entered one of the 18 "Festzelte," venues in which food, drinks and live music reign, especially in the evenings. By the way, there are only seven "Festzelte," which have a larger capacity in Munich run by the six local breweries. I was expecting a decent Bavarian feast and got a schnitzel with sauerkraut and potatoes. That was all fine with me.
There was one thing that was significantly different as I watched the crowd having a good time. I know by now that alcohol policies are different in Canada. To offer a beer in a 0.2 litre plastic cup instead of a 1-litre glass mug would not be possible in Germany.
Time to set the scores then. I am not sure about the overall scale of the Oktoberfest, but I found the spirit here for sure. And it was not about masses of people, it is about the individual persons I met and had a nice talk with during the day. There were plenty of them for sure. Thanks to all who made this Bavarian heart beat with pride!