I went on a retreat last week ... it was held in Munich to coincide with Oktoberfest.
My limited experience of this beer drinking frenzy is in Dubai where a number of hotels make a valiant effort to celebrate this 150 year old festival, so with that in mind as my benchmark, I was not at all prepared for what I saw.
Munich appears to be a beautiful and modern city in any case, but with the sun shining and crowds of people all over wearing traditional Bavarian clothes, you couldn't help but get sucked into the very unique spirit of Oktoberfest.
While the whole city is buzzing at this time of the year, the "Oktoberfest grounds" are the main place to go. It is swarming with hundreds of thousands of people, all there to have a good time ... and drink! The scale of the event is colossal ... more than 7m people visiting it in the 2 week period over which it runs.
Once inside the territory, you are surrounded by games and rides and all manner of food, drink and souvenir concessions, all interspersed between some enormous "beer tents" ... which aren't tents at all, but colossal halls that can each hold several thousand people.
So our time came and we marched inside, and I just looked around in awe at the sheer scale of this single "tent". Once inside, we settled down at our table and started to enjoy our first beers, and started to line our stomachs with pretzels.
Over the 2 week period that Oktoberfest lasts, some 7 million liters of beer are consumed, and half a million chickens and 200 thousand oxes sacrifice their lives for our indulgence!
The sheer logistics of this event defies belief, and its no wonder that it is executed so well in a country like Germany. The waiting staff are self employed. They earn (we estimate 1 Euro per beer) and are said to earn between 30-40 thousand Euros per week during Oktoberfest. With that kind of reward, it makes it understandable how they can deal with this crowd and the sheer volume of work and the loads they have to carry.
As the evening wears on, the consumption increases, the music gets louder, your neighbours become your best friends, the tables become dance floors and the whole tent becomes a riotous party.
Allegedly, the beer is specially brewed for this event and has double the potency of normal beer - that could certainly explain the actions of the majority of the crowd by the end of the evening.
It was a fantastic experience and well worth the trip ... a big thank you to my friend Arian for organising it ... the bar for our next retreat has just been set very high indeed!