Sacramento Alpentaenzer Dance Group and Band at an Octoberfest in Sacramento, CA
Another weekend and then Octoberfests in Northern California are nearly over for this year. I am amazed that this Bavarian tradition/event has become so popular in the U.S. According to data from the German Magazine Spiegel, this is not that unusual since over 3,000 Oktoberfests are celebrated worldwide. I have to admit that I have never been to the Oktoberfest in Munich when I lived in Europe; I am now kind of regretting that oversight. In contrast to most American tourists to Germany, I have not even been to the Hofbraeuhaus even though I have been to Munich plenty of times. The irony is that I have attended many American versions of the Oktoberfest since I have moved here. Since I have joined a Bavarian folk dance group, I am now also performing at plenty of these events; the weeks of performances have become a fifth season with its own traditions, atmosphere, and energy.
Performance at the Sacramento Turnverein Octoberfest
Audience Participation at the Sacramento Turnverein Octoberfest
Since joining the Bavarian folk dance group at the beginning of the year, I have learned about other German and Austrian folk dance groups in North America, which are organized into something called a Gau [which I see as odd choice but more about this some other time]. A whole new sub-culture has revealed itself. The irony for me is that I have learned more about traditional Austrian and Bavarian dress, hairstyles, dances, and songs than I have ever known when I actually lived in Austria. Now that I am living in the U.S., I dance landler and polkas and dress in a dirndl nearly every weekend day throughout September and October while I would not have been caught dead at these events as a teenager in Austria. I am not sure if this change had occurred because I am now older or because I have moved away from Austria or maybe it is a mixture of both.
Bavarian Phrases Deemed Important at an Octoberfest
Gingerbread Hearts Imported from Germany at an Octoberfest in California
No matter the reason, I am fully enjoying my first Oktoberfest season as dancer and the camaraderie of the other dancers. Many of the other dancers do have German or Austrian roots, but few were actually born and raised in Austria or Germany. Many of the dancers in the U.S. dream about attending the Oktoberfest in Munich and some do make the trip and walk in the official parade. Germans seem rather surprised and a little confused by the strong support for Bavarian culture by the Americans as seen by this news segment by Bavarian Public Television: http://www.br.de/mediathek/video/sendungen/abendschau-der-sueden/amerikaner-bayern-100.html
Replica of the Eiffeltower at the Paris Hotel Casino in Las Vegas
My favorite hotels in Vegas are the ones that represent a specific city. That includes the Paris and the Venetian. What’s better than comparing the real deal to the Vegas version? I love the idea of considering how to find the ultimate distinctive traits of Venice or Paris to include in the Vegas version. What makes Venice/Paris so special and how can it be replicated in Vegas?
But why stop at Venice or Paris? Why not an Austrian-themed hotel and casino on the Strip? No, not the Sound-of-Music version, but a more realistic Austria that still appeals to Americans and tourists from across the globe. What would it include?
Well, obviously mountains, castles, and beer would be prominent features, but the challenge is to differentiate it from a possible Swiss or Bavarian theme. This hotel/casino would be truly Austrian. So Viennese elements would have to come into play. Viennese coffee houses and Heurigen – wine taverns – would be part of the choices for restaurants. To fit with the Austria theme, additional restaurants and bars would be based on Austrian bakeries, ski huts (think Apres Ski parties; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apr%C3%A8s-ski) with snow and all, bratwurst road stands, and beer tents with live bands and of course servers in dirndl and lederhosen. So many Austrian delicacies would make it easy to offer plenty of restaurants and a large buffet.
The design of the building and interior of rooms could be based on the palace of Schoenbrunn (http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en.html). The hotel pool could be modeled after the water features of the Hellbrunner Wasserpiele (http://www.hellbrunn.at/ ). Instead of gondola rides as offered at the Venetian, this hotel would offer horse-drawn carriage rides (Fiaker) through a park and slides into a salt mine or ice cave. The big show for the hotel/casino would be the Lippizaner Stallions (“White Horse Ballet” http://www.srs.at/ ) and/or folklore dancers and Schuhplattler and/or the Wiener Saengerknaben (http://www.wienersaengerknaben.at/). And then there is always the possibility of organizing a large ball to promote the Viennese Waltz.
Austrian culture would offer plenty of material to create a newly themed hotel/casino on the Strip in Vegas. And I am sure it would be successful – who would not love a little bit of Austria?!?
View at the Venetian in Las Vegas
Beer Tent at 10 in the Morning on a Sunday
It is common to drink beer and Radler anywhere and at any time. This is the most obvious in the practice of Fruehschoppen typically on Sunday mornings. In the past reserved for men/farmers after Sunday mass, this early beer fest with plenty of beer, bratwurst, and of course a band starts usually around 10 in the morning [I have seen some advertised as starting at 8]and can last deep into the afternoon. Nowadays, whole families attend together, but the atmosphere usually becomes rowdy and loud rather quickly.
One Sunday, my cousin and I attended the Fruehschoppen of the local marching band competition. Just half an hour into the Fruehschoppen, groups/bands were standing on benches, singing along, and “prosting” with their beersteins. Somehow bratwurst with sauerkraut in the morning did not sound bad to me even at 10 a.m. but beer did, and so I chose white wine [Gruener Veltliner] mixed with sparkling water (“A G’spritzter”). Of course, Fruehschoppen means Dirndl and Lederhosen.
Still Early in the Morning but People Are Already Dancing on Beer Benches
Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and a White Wine Spritzer for Breakfast
More people joined us at our table, regular repetitions of “Ein Prosit auf die Gemuetlichkeit” were sung, and more rain fell outside the beer tent; all in all, a pleasant morning that turned into mid-afternoon before we left.
PS: Gemuetlichkeit is a tough term to translate – it describes a mixture of coziness, laziness, comfort, feeling of being home, and sociability. That a place, event, or visit has become gemuetlich is a great reason why one does not want to leave.