When I meet up with Nela, our colleague Koney and a few of my buddies at the Windhoek Oktoberfest on Saturday, people, dressed in traditional German dress already crowd the SKW-sports grounds around the yellow and white beer tent.
My friend Björn asks “Are you ready?” With a unanimous yes, we set off. Our first stop is the Beer Tent and Nela points out that she loves the vibe of little children running around, playing, dancing and enjoying themselves, trying to imitate the traditional German dances. “What is that dance?” she asks.
“Think of it as a German Gumboot dance,” I reply. We order the specially brewed “Festbier”, and I go into personal guide mode. We walk around and stop at several games, such as the Mechanical Bull-riding, High Striker and the “Nagel” station, where I try my best to explain what is going on.
Nela seems puzzled, and I realise it is the “Nagel” station that has caused the greatest confusion. “It’s a type of fairground game, usually played at German festivals like the Oktoberfest or other Volksfeste. The aim is to hit a nail into a piece of wood.” Nela’s question makes me understand that “Nageln”, although a very simple game, probably does not make sense to a lot of people.
“The point is to see who uses the least hits with the hammer, to get their nail into the log.” The competition is too strong, and with my ego at stake, I cannot afford to make a fool of myself and so I continue the tour, which includes a stop at the Lebkuchen (similar to Gingerbread) and Brezel (Prezel) stands.
We find a nice spot to sit for a while, allowing the fête to captivate us. Björn interrupts our fascination. He has just come back from the bar. “Look what they’re selling” he says and proudly shows us two tin cans.
“Do they sell tuna at the Oktoberfest now?” I ask. The “tuna” turns out to be fruit Schnapps, a fruit-based liquor. Curious about the taste, we open the cans. “It smells just like ombike.” Nela tells me. Ombike, is a traditional Oshiwambo drink. I didn’t believe her and sought the opinions of a group of people sitting behind us, “It is the most realistic analysis I have ever heard.” One of them replies jokingly.
We move to the bigger tent to get closer to the action. The log sawing finals and the finals of the “Bierstemmen” are starting. “Bierstemmen” is a women-only competition, where the ladies try to lift as many filled 1l beer mugs as possible. The crowd cheers for each competitor; even rivals cheer each other on, as this is a friendly competition.
Then it’s time for the traditional Schuplattler dance, and the bands start turning up the music: “Die Kirchdorfer” and ”Die Broers” are well in tune and keep the crowd on their feet. No one wants to stop dancing and singing. Sometimes on the tables and sometimes out of tune, the crowd roars on to party the night away.
More and more friends join our table, and soon we are a huge group from across Namibia, close friends, strangers, acquaintances and colleagues. – People from all walks of life, simply having a good time and enjoying each other’s presence, toasting to new friendships and this German Festival, with Namibian beer in hand: Namibians celebrating Oktoberfest the African way.
I look at Nela, Koney and my friend Björn “prosting” each other with their mugs full of Festbier and I am content that the Windhoek Oktoberfest has evolved into a truly Namibian occasion,I remain yours truly with a “Prost” and cheers to a uniquely African-German atmosphere that only Namibians can offer.
Have you been to the Oktoberfest? We invite you to share your Oktoberfest experience in the comment section below.
Author: Christiaan Jacobie