I have found Americans to hold several stereotypes about Germans, not the least of which is how great the beer is. Movies such as Beerfest have helped to solidify prolific great beer drinking as an activity synonymous with Germany. I'm therefore dedicating this post to sharing some of my experiences thus far with that time-honored activity.
First of all, I came to Germany with a goal of leaving as a far better beer connoisseur than when I arrived. So far, I am achieving that goal, and I have to say that German beer is just better than American beer. That is no myth. It's cheaper and it's way better. And America should up its game.
Second, I recently had the opportunity to go camping at a music festival with thousands of Germans. It was a blast, but it also presented a great opportunity to people watch. Most of the other people there were drunk by the early afternoon, and I noticed two things that are sorely missing in America. One, is the large quantity of quality drinking songs. There is nothing quite like seeing tons of different groups scattered around a lawn and a lake all singing loud different drinking songs. Or sometimes one group would start up and then others would join in. America needs this, it's quite the atmosphere builder. Also, it was funny to note that in the wee hours of the morning, when most people were beginning to go to sleep for the night, people would eventually feel the need to yell out at the top of their voices: "HELGA!!!" This is apparently a pretty well known drunk cry, and it would then be echoed and answered by tons of other people all around the campsites. This happened about every 20 minutes or so, whenever someone just had the impulse to start a chain reaction of Helga cries. Totally cool, though mildly annoying if you are taking the task of getting to sleep seriously.
Finally, and by far the most important, I have gotten to learn about the Kerwe. This, above all else, is something almost too cool for me to describe and something that America needs. At its core, a Kerwe is like a festival that occurs in the fall and lasts a weekend in a little town, but it is so much more. Here in the Odenwald, towns are sprinkled around every valley and none of them are very big. However, every weekend one or two different towns has a Kerwe. There are booths selling food, carnival rides and games, huge tents with food, and of course, a ton of beer. Then there are buildings pumping out all sorts of music where people are dancing and just having a blast. Thousands of people from all over the Odenwald and of all ages come to the Kerwes each weekend and hang out. There are children running around in the day, students, young adults, and even seniors, all just hanging out, drinking, and having a blast! On the opening night there are usually fireworks. I have had the luck of being able to go with some fellow teachers this weekend and it was great. I already knew like 6 or 7 people at the Kerwe, which for me, was quite an accomplishment! For most locals however, they see tons of people from all over the valleys who they know. Essentially, it is like a huge party put on for all the towns, and there is a different party, in a different town, every weekend. I haven't completely figured out who pays for these to happen, but this is something which has to start happening in America. I couldn't even imagine how cool it would be if all of downtown Austin would just be shut down for a weekend for a huge party. Unfeasible perhaps, but unforgettable as well.
Such have been my experiences with beer and the kerwe in Germany so far, but expect an update eventually when I go to Oktoberfest!