Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fest Call!

In one of my previous lives I was in the Army stationed in Augsburg, Germany. During my time there, it seemed like there was a beer fest every couple of months. A beer fest is something Bavarians do very well. The organizers will erect a huge tent, place a stage at one end and along one side will be station food and beverage vendors. While the fest is going, there will be an "Oompah" band playing, people sitting at long tables drinking beer and eating.

The food at one of these events is to amazing. 1/2 chickens cooked on rotisseries, giant pretzels, bread with salmon and onions - all truly, amazingly good. (The beer isn't bad either, as I was known to imbibe during my misspent youth).

The ladies who carry the beers and food back and forth are a sight to watch. Some will carry up to 12 mugs (Biermass) of beer at a time as they make their rounds through the tent. These mugs aren't what we're used to seeing in the States, either. Each mug is made of glass, holds a liter of beer and is stout enough to handle clanking together as is tradition in that part of the world. Empty they weigh, probably, four or five pounds. The ladies rush about, wearing the traditional dirndl dress, toting those mugs. Some of them had arms like Popeye - no exaggeration.

On one occasion, some friends and I were enjoying the food and music at the Augsburg German-American Fest. At the next table there were two groups: a bunch of soldiers and a bunch of German youths who looked to be about college age. Neither group interacted with the other until... The Incident.

One of the beer ladies came and deposited a few beers in front of the soldiers at the next table. Now, when beer or food is delivered, these ladies expect prompt payment and get rather terse when payment is not forthcoming. One of the soldiers in the group protested that they hadn't ordered the beers. There was somewhat of a language gap because he wasn't speaking German and the lady wasn't speaking English - but I think the disagreement was understood. After a few minutes of back and forth the soldier stood up quite suddenly. The lady, wanting no trouble from a potentially drunk American soldier took a huge swing at him, hit him square in the chin and knocked him out cold on the ground. I mean, she cold-cocked him and flattened him right there.

All of the sudden, all the Germans at the table stood up and faced towards the Americans - who also stood up to face the Germans. I elbowed my friends, thinking a fight was about to ensue and that we should beat a hasty retreat. A few tense moments went by, after which both groups turned to look at the kid on the ground, pointed at him and started laughing.

Afterwards both groups bought each other rounds, "prosting" and high-fiving.

German-American relations were just a little bit better that evening.


  1. I liked the Fests we had one back in the 70's it was a blast. At that time I lived in Gabligen Kaserne in Bldg 416. I also remeber a German Family that had 4 flat ties at the fest and we took care of them (latter we found out he was a Police commander in augsburg.

  2. Hi Len - Thanks for stopping by. That's a great story about helping out the police commander. Thanks for sharing.