Munich is famous for many things, but perhaps the city’s most iconic feature is its annual Oktoberfest, which traditionally starts in late September and runs for more than two weeks. Oktoberfest traces its heritage to the early 19th century, originating as a wedding festivity honoring then-crown prince Ludwig’s marriage, but now attracts thousands of tourists every year who want to experience the beer-drinking, sausage-eating fun firsthand.
The event has inspired many imitations around the world. Here in Jakarta, various off-shoots of Oktoberfest are held throughout September. The city’s newest festival impersonator, the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, organized an Oktoberfest event last weekend for the first time, hosting celebrations on Friday and Saturday night.
Billed as the “biggest Oktoberfest ever in Jakarta,” organizers set up a huge tent complete with long-ale benches and tables. The dominant colors were, naturally, blue and white, in line with the colors of the Bavarian flag. The tent filled up quickly with both Indonesian and foreign guests, though only a few Germans attended. Waiters, dressed in the traditional Bavarian lederhosen and dirndl, moved swiftly between tables, refilling mugs, though unfortunately not with German beer.
The large buffet seemed to burst under the many German delicacies. Ranging from sausages, pork knuckles and roasted chicken to sauerkraut, potato salad and pretzels, the food came courtesy of the hotel’s German chef, Claas Meinke, who had previously worked at Die Stube in Kemang.
Before the live band kicked off its set, fitting beer hall music was played through a sound system and complemented the tent atmosphere nicely. The occasional yodeling tunes were especially amusing at first, particularly while intertwined with the call to prayer from a nearby mosque.
Scanning the tent, I spotted several people that looked like Oktoberfest rookies, busy taking in the whole atmosphere and wondering what to expect, as opposed to the large swaths of visitors that obviously had already experienced this before — those dressed in traditional German clothes, swaying along to the music and standing on their benches by 8:30 p.m.
After most visitors had already indulged in the food and beer — though some were also enjoying shots of Jagermeister, a German digestif made with 56 herbs and spices — the musical duo Die Sowa Gschnitzt’n took the stage to provide some live music. Armed with multiple instruments, including an accordion, the pair belted out some German traditional music.
As the evening progressed, cheerful couples occupied the dance floor to swing their hips before starting a polonaise through the tent, happily inviting the more reluctant visitors to join. In between songs, a master of ceremonies introduced some of the Oktoberfest rituals, most prominently a toast that was repeated numerous times throughout the night.
“Everybody stand up, stand up,” he said. The attendees followed suit, raising their glasses to call in unison “1,2,3, g’suffa!” (1,2,3, drink!).
The celebratory mood was infectious, and combined with the great food, it was impossible not to have fun. It’s pretty safe to say that Oktoberfest has a bright future in Jakarta.