I met the indomitable Nicole of Nicole is the New Black a couple weeks ago in Berlin. The girl’s got humor, moxie, and a phat-ass crib in what used to be West Berlin. As Oktoberfest draws near, Nicole decided to share with us (and Parlour Magazine, for which she writes the “Berlineska: Black in Berlin” column) her how-to guide for owning Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest? Been there, done that, became a legend.
My first visit to Germany was in 2007, long before deciding to move here. I made my way to Munich to attend Oktoberfest. For those of you living under a rock, Oktoberfest is the biggest drinking festival in the world and it’s held annually in late September. The fair is massive with multiple tents hosted by local breweries where guest drink beer out of gigantic maßkruge, eat traditional German fare and enjoy music performed by live bands.
For my inaugural trip to the capital of Bavaria I decided to dress like the natives, convinced that it would enhance my cultural experience. Stupid people believe all Germans walk around looking like the von Trapp family but this is mostly false. Traditional Bavarian clothing such as lederhosen (for men) and dirndls (for women) are primarily reserved for celebrations like Oktoberfest. My dirndl was in an obnoxious pink color, with a blouse and bodice that drew a lot of focus to my boobies. The unsuspecting apron, held the most significance; depending on which side you tie the bow will communicate to prospective suitors if you are a virgin, single, or married.
When I arrived at the fair, the entire scene was overwhelming, from the thousands of people to the rides, food and trinkets for sale. This was also when I started to notice the staring, finger pointing and laughing. As an attention whore, I appreciate and expected a lot of looks. You rarely see Germans outside of Bavaria wear dirndls and definitely not a black American woman with dredlocks. Not too fussed at this point, my friend and I walked around looking for the right tent. We arrived at the Ochsenbraterei that boasted a giant ox rotating on a spit above the entrance, so naturally it seemed welcoming. Little did I know, a few hours later things would begin to get very unwelcoming.
As my friend and I drank our beers, I began to attract negative attention from a bench of locals across the aisle from us. These drunken idiots began throwing bretzels (pretzels) and making monkey noises. I tried to ignore them but they were getting belligerent, the waitress felt so bad that she tried to locate a different bench for me escape but it was so packed that my only options were to suck it up or leave. I decided to leave. While I was saying my goodbyes to my new friends the clock struck 6 o’clock and the crowd began to focus on the stage.
I didn’t know it at the time but 6 o’clock meant the start of the live performance. Before 6 p.m. music can not be played too loudly to encourage a peaceful atmosphere so older people and families can partake in the festivities. The breaking of the silence is a big deal. The first song is usually led by someone plucked from the crowd and it’s considered an honor. I noticed the band leader was walking through the crowd with a baton and a hat, searching for the right person. People were jumping in front of him, begging to be chosen but he already knew who he was after. He made his way down my aisle and stopped right at my bench, placing the hat on my head and handing me the baton. I was so shocked, I had no idea what to do and then he ushered me onto the stage. He introduced me to the crowd and then he started playing “Country Roads” by John Denver. I didn’t have to sing, thankfully I just had to wave the maestro’s baton, do a little jig while blowing some kisses and the crowd loved me.
My performance made me an Oktoberfest celebrity. I literally signed autographs and took pictures with babies. I got free beers and hugs and experienced a complete 180 degree change from how I’d been treated just moments before by those bullying yokels. As I made my way home that evening, tripping over dozens of people who’d drunk themselves to the point of failure, I received yet another pat on the back.
“Nicole from New Jersey,” some guy who’d spotted me yelled. ”That was legend, mate.” Indeed.