Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oktoberfest Kink

Why am I writing about the Oktoberfest in mid-November? Well, I was going to make a post about it a month ago, at the appropriate time. But I was too busy with other things and eventually discarded the idea - maybe I would dig it back up in 2011. Then, by pure chance, I found an interesting news item about this year's edition of the Oktoberfest, and felt that I had to address it immediately. So I am doing the post after all. Without further delay.

The news item is this blog entry by a German travel guide: Oktoberfest's Lost and Found - A Pug, a Rabbit, and a Leather Whip. It seems that, according to the official post-festival statistics, the lost and found items list of this year includes:
  • 1,450 items of clothing
  • 770 passports
  • 420 wallets
  • 420 mobile phones
  • 1 set of dentures
  • 1 rabbit
  • 1 pug
  • 1 leather whip
So, for the record: while Kaelah and I did visit this year's Oktoberfest, the lost leather whip does not belong to us. Neither do any of the other items on the list. I hate to disappoint our ardent fans who would think us capable of every imaginable perversion, but we did not bring along any BDSM gear during our visit (or pugs, or rabbits...). We were simply there to savour the more ordinary, but nonetheless pleasant joys of the festival. The most tasteless activity we indulged in was eating cotton candy (Kaelah's idea).

As for the whip, I can only speculate like the rest of you: who did it belong to? Why did he (she?) take it along to the festival? Under which circumstances did it come to be lost? Or was it perhaps deliberately left there? For what reason? It's a royal puzzle.

At least it gives me an excuse to write about the Oktoberfest. I've been waiting for a news item like that, a random and trivial curiosity which I can misconstrue as being somehow kink-relevant. With that out of the way, let me move on to one of my beloved historical mini-essays:

The original Oktoberfest in Munich was held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I.) to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The date is sometimes given as October 12th, sometimes as October 17th. From what I can ascertain, the truth is that the marriage took place on October 12th, the festivities lasted for five days and ended on October 17th with a great horse race on a meadow outside the city walls. The public was invited as well. Bavaria had only recently been elevated by Napoleon Bonaparte from an electorate (a kind of duchy) to a kingdom, and the rulers used the marriage celebrations to showcase their newfound splendour.

(Ludwig I., King of Bavaria.
A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1826.)

That first festival was mostly a series of sports events, much more akin to the Olympic games than to the beer-guzzling funfair it has become today. The Crown Prince was a glowing admirer of ancient Greece (later, as king, he erected numerous classicist buildings that still shape the cityscape of Munich). The Oktoberfest was such a popular success that, much to the delight of their subjects, the royals decided to hold one every year from now on. And so began a tradition that still continues today. Two hundred years after its inception, the Oktoberfest has become the world's largest funfair and a major tourist magnet. It lasts a little over two weeks nowadays, ending on the first Sunday in October, and attracts over six million visitors during that time. The fairground is called Theresienwiese, the "meadow of Therese", named after Crown Prince Ludwig's bride. Bavarians usually refer to the festival as "die Wiesn", "the meadow".

Actually, the Theresienwiese today is not a meadow, it's a huge space of asphalt. During the Oktoberfest, it is filled with carousels, rollercoasters, ghost trains and, of course, gargantuan beer tents where people gather to eat roast chicken and get drunk. Every local brewery has its own tent and its own brand of beer brewed especially for the festival. Contrary to an Australian legend I once heard, the beer at the Oktoberfest is not free. It is actually rather expensive, but good. The alcohol level of the Oktoberfest brews is higher than that of normal beers, around six or seven percent. Tourists who don't realise that are in for a nasty surprise the morning after.

The citizens of Munich today have an ambivalent relationship with their famous festival. It is often dismissed as a mere commercialised tourist attraction "for Italians, Japanese and Prussians" ("Prussian" refers to all non-Bavarian Germans, regardless of whether they are Rhinelanders, Saxons or whatever). At the same time, there remains an unspoken civic duty that you have to visit the Oktoberfest at least once each year, otherwise you're a bore and not a good Bavarian. Many locals avoid the weekends when the Wiesn is at its most crowded, they use a leave day from work instead. Once they are there, they find that they are having a great time after all. Usually after the first beer.

I had been forced to neglect my civic duty in 2009 because I was travelling at the time, so I was actually quite keen to go this year. Especially because Kaelah, being a northerner, had never been to the Oktoberfest at all (which kind of contradicts the "It's only for Prussians!" theory, but let us ignore that). I just had to introduce her to the madness that is our proud southern heritage. So, first thing, I showed her one of the beer tents and we walked from one end to the other. It has to be seen to be fully believed. You have literally thousands of people (the biggest tent accommodates 10.000 at a time), crammed in like cattle, the air saturated with beer fumes and relentless, ear-splitting brass music that makes anything but shouted conversations impossible, and they are all pretending that it's really cosy. The most gemütlich experience ever. Actually, it can be fun if you are in the right mood. But Kaelah and I kept our visit short, all the more so because she is a teetotaller and does not have the aid of drinking to make things enjoyable.

Instead, benign soul that I am, I took her to the notorious Fünferlooping (five loopings) rollercoaster. Kaelah has a history of nearly passing out in rollercoasters, which leads to fear of rollercoasters, which leads to her Klingon side wanting to confront and conquer that fear. Same thing as in spanking, really. So of course we had to do it. Kaelah was getting more nervous with every minute we stood in the queue, but she did not chicken out, did not faint during the ride (although she said later that she came close during the first looping) and was smugly proud of herself afterwards. Did you notice that she even mentioned the five loopings in a recent column of hers? I tell you, she is almost as proud of it as of those cane marks. So I felt compelled to recount the heroic story as well, and express my compliments.

(The site of Kaelah's triumph.)

But let's get back to truly kink-related matters. Many years ago, as a teenager, I rode on a very interesting ghost train at the Oktoberfest. I am not a huge fan of ghost trains, or haunted houses or whatever they are called. As a stuck-up, elitist fan of "serious" horror (like Braindead), I find them childish and somewhat beneath me. But back then I rode one, and it turned out to be unexpectedly inspiring. One of the attractions which you passed inside your little car was a depiction of a rather sexy M/M birching scene (I'm hetero, but I appreciate a good scene regardless of sexual orientation). It consisted of two life-sized plastic figures, one very Krampus-like and slowly, mechanically swinging a large birch with which he whipped the other figure, a naked young man whom he held over his knee. There were even some bloody welts painted on the victim's bottom, and howls of pain emanating from loudspeakers with every stroke. It was an impressively, lovingly detailed construction. Whoever created it must have been one of us, no question about it.

I have been trying to find that ghost train again ever since. Unbelievable as it sounds, I totally forgot what it was called or how it even looked like on the outside (I guess the view on the inside made too much of an impression on me for me to remember anything else). So now, despite not being a fan of ghost trains in general, I try out one or two every year at the Oktoberfest in the hope that it is the one. I never found it. I suspect that the birching scene was removed long ago, anyway. In the politically correct climate of today, where public life is strenuously, fearfully sanitised of everything that anyone, anywhere, might find offensive, it would be considered too much of a risk. Never mind that the spankee in the depiction was obviously a young man, not a child. Never mind that the action is M/M and could not even be accused of "degrading women". It would still be a petty little scandal waiting to happen.

So, when Kaelah and I went on one of the ghost trains, all we saw was the usual clean family fun: hooded figures chopping off heads with scythes or pulling out each other's entrails. Fortunately, depictions of death and graphic dismemberment are still okay for funfairs, while a vaguely erotically charged spanking scene probably isn't. Doesn't the hypocrisy of it make you want to puke in your suit? But enough ranting. The point is, we did not see any plastic figures with birches. Kaelah was very disappointed. Like many females, she holds the (justified) opinion that there is not enough good M/M spanking porn out there on the web. She had hoped to at least see some at the Oktoberfest.

We did see one borderline kinky scene, though. Because 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the festival, there was a special "historical Oktoberfest" section on the fairground this year. It had many of the old amusement rides from the last two hundred years, venerable old carousels and funhouses, plus a small Oktoberfest museum. As a historian, I was delighted. Then, suddenly, while walking around this part of the fairground, we had the following chance encounter: three young men in traditional Bavarian costume, lederhosen and all, came running past us, apparently in a jolly half-drunken mood and playing tag. One of them was chasing the others with his belt, swinging at them and making the occasional hit. A minute or so later, they came running by again, in the other direction, same arrangement. So Kaelah and I had witnessed some action after all. M/M action, even.

Was one guy chasing the others, with the belt, because they had misplaced his other favourite spanking implement? Is that what the lost leather whip was all about? Sadly, we will never know.


Kaelah said...

Your account of our Oktoberfest visit brings up a lot of sweet memories! I never thought I would enjoy it that much. This was one of the most happy days for me during the recent weeks.

The lost items seem to be a topic of great interest, I read another article a while ago that mentioned the whip. And I had nearly the same thoughts as you! Except for adding: It wasn't our whip, but I would really love to have another one (especially one that isn't as nasty as ours). By the way, according to the article the rabbit obviously was alive and they found a tuba and a ship in a bottle as well. The article also reports that 37 children got lost, but it doesn't say how many of them were searched for and found again later (I hope all?)...

The ghost ride was indeed quite lame, even for someone like me who is easily freaked out by any kind of horror scene. Well, but at least the guys who ran the ghost train were nice. Although I felt very sorry for the one who had to stand inside between all those plastic figures and scare the people by banging his hands on the train when it passed him...

And it really was a mess that we didn't find the famous M/M scene. But the guys with the belt were very funny! I'm not sure who looked freakier, though, them fooling around with the belt or me trying to get a good picture of the scene while at the same time trying to make it look like I was aiming for something else in order to hide my deep interest.

Oh, and thanks for mentioning the roller coaster! I've never got sick on a ride, but I nearly lost consciousness and had to lie down afterwards which wasn't really funny. It was good to see that my health condition has improved. Even though I have to work on the hyperventilating, it's not really helpful... ;-) Next year we'll try the big chairoplane as well!

And before anyone asks: Nope, Ludwig and I didn't wear the traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl! Well, and at least I have got a good excuse: I'm Prussian. :-)

Unknown said...

Re the Australian comment: When I was looking up the official aussie government travel website to see if I needed a visa, I was amused that straight after the standard 'come home if there are terrorist warnings' is effectively "If you are an idiot and get arrested at Oktoberfest, the embassy is not bailing you out." Amusing but highly relevant advice. (I'd paste the exact wording, but the website seems to be down.)

It is interesting seeing what the actual event entails, since the corresponding parties here basically involve drinking far too much, especially amongst university students. Whipping each other seems a much safer and more entertaining activity.

Also, that painting of King Ludwig I is wonderful. He looks pleased to have his portrait painted and not overly concerned with primping hair and such. Very much confident that he is the king and everyone already knows it.

Rich Person said...


I've often wondered at the seeming inconsistency of people abhorrent of anything mildly sexual but total acceptance of freaky violence and gore. I'm at a loss to explain it.

Great description of the event. I've never been to it, but it would be fun.

Where I grew up (in Ohio) there was an enormous "Oktoberfest" in Berea. The beer is not free there either (sadly). Your description brings back fond memories.


Ludwig said...

@ Kaelah: I originally wrote that you had a history of "getting sick in rollercoasters" instead of "nearly passing out in rollercoasters" because I thought that the wording sounded less clumsy and conveyed the same essential message. But you're right, getting sick and passing out are different things. I changed that now.

@ Morgrim: The Australians at the Oktoberfest are usually easy to recognise from their Bermuda shorts and sandals even before you hear the accent. Yes, most of them do get awfully drunk. I rarely hear about them being a nuisance or getting involved in brawls, though. That seems to be more common with other peoples, not least the Germans. The Australians seem like pretty peaceful, relaxed drinkers.

@ Rich Person: Didn't know that there is an Oktoberfest in Ohio, but it does not surprise me. There is one everywhere. Probably on the far side of the Moon, too. It is our most successful export article.

Redhead said...

Ah, it looks like a Goaßlschnalzer had a tad too much to drink. Whip crackers have been coming to the Wiesn (Oktoberfest) for quite some time.

Peter8862 said...

Sorry Ludwig, despite the appalling reputation that English football fans have gained abroad, Oktoberfest has yet to reach these shores. Maybe it's spread out throughout the year in small local bad spots like Portsmouth's Guildhall Walk. I've seen the equivalent in Hamburg and Aarhus however.

Enjoyed your blog !

Ursus Lewis said...

Seems like a lot of good things happens at October 12th. The best day of the year! ;)

It's a shame, I never was in Munich not even off Octoberfest time and I lived not so far away most of my life.

Still, I want to attend at least once in my life. Let's see, maybe I can find that ghost train...