Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Liederkranz: A Real Oktoberfest

It all began with a wedding. Crown Prince Ludwig, who would later become King Ludwig I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate this joyous occasion, and thus started Oktoberfest. What a legacy, huh? Today, the festival has extended into a 16-day extravaganza. Beginning the third weekend in September until the first weekend in October, it is celebrated around the world.

Lancaster, with its rich German heritage, is no different. So on the third Saturday in September, we visited the Liederkranz in Manheim for their annual Oktoberfest shindig. The Liederkranz was formed in 1880 and serves to preserve and promote German social customs, including song, dance…and food!

$5 got each of us in, and we proceeded to the tent of merriment. The Heimat Klangeband Orchestra was in full swing, accompanying a German choir. Folks were already happily buzzed and swaying to the German folk music and singing along. Armed with dollar tickets that would allow us to purchase food and beer, we staked a portion of a table bench that stretched throughout the center of the tent, and sent out food runners to the desired food stalls, leaving my husband in charge of obtaining a pitcher of beer along the way.

The wonderful thing about these festivals is that everyone is so friendly. Everyone talks to everyone else; everyone cheers everyone else, and it’s just a good ol’ time.

The pitcher of beer made it back first. Spaten Oktoberfest ($10) was a medium-bodied beer with a deep amber color. It had a great richness to it, accented with an underlying sweetness. Spaten, originally a Munich brewery, created this beer in 1872, the first of its Oktoberfest kind. It’s delicious.

The bratwursts ($4) came back grilled so that it was slightly charred and plump with juice, nestled in a soft white bun. I topped it with onions, spicy mustard, and pungent sauerkraut ($1). I love eating hot bratwurst, when my teeth cut through the casing and juice bursts into my mouth and soaks into the bun. This brat was expertly seasoned and incredibly moist. Along with the strong flavors of sauerkraut and mustard, it was such a treat.

I was hoping for some German Potato Salad and Saturday’s special, Pig Roast, but at 8PM on Saturday night, neither was to be had. Note for the future—show up earlier. Thankfully, there were still potato pancakes left, but the line was so long, you would really want to have it. And of course, we did.

The potato pancakes ($4) were golden brown and crisp on the outside. Just out of the fryer, we pulled them apart with our hands and savored the soft texture of the potatoes inside its crisp shell. Shredded potatoes were seasoned with salt and pepper, combined with onions, scallions, then bound together with eggs. While a bit greasy, it was simple and wholly satisfying.

With our leftover tickets, we indulged in shots of Jagermeister ($2), the German herbal liquor. My husband calls it “German Nyquil,” and wouldn’t you know it, it came in little plastic cups that looked like the Nyquil cap. Yuck. Both are gross.

We rounded out the night watching jovial German folk dancing performances, complete with the festive Lederhosen. I was glad to see young individuals embracing their ethnicity and partaking in the performances.

As we walked back into the field where our car was parked, we could hear the band switching to pop music –“Alice? Who the he** is Alice?” The melding of the old and the new. What a great cultural showing.

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