Thursday, April 17, 2014

Adventures in Assimilation: My Quest for a Dirndl

As was demonstrated by the Starkbier Fest and Fashing, Germans like to dress up. If it's a special event, the sneakers and jeans are traded in for something much more stylish. And for them, that's usually the dirndl or lederhosen. Here in Bavaria, they are not just costumes, they are a part of their culture. I've seen people, both young and old, wearing leather trousers and structured dresses around town without the slightest bit of irony.  


Contrary to popular thought, lederhosen & dirndls were not considered formal attire. They were typically worn by working class peasants, much like American jeans or a maid's dress. But the garments gained a bit of respectability when German nobility decided to take inspiration from the fashion of the general population and reproduced the items in rich fabrics and deer skin leather. Today, people often where them to festivals and other cultural events in a show of national pride. And I want one.

I should rephrase that. I want a nice one. I have two that I got from my job, one of which is pictured below. But they both look and feel cheap, more like a costume than an actual dress.

The style is very flattering, even if my boobs are pushed up to my chin. However, the fabric and overall construction of both dresses are flimsy. As part of a bulk order for the workers of the company, they were purchased with cost in mind, not style. So I would like one that is more reflective of my impeccable taste.

One company that makes absolutely exquisite dirndls is Noh Nee à l'Africaine

The specially produced fabric is only available in the Netherlands. And the dresses are constructed in their shop in Scwabing. Needless to say, the quality is exceptional and the cost staggering. Most of their dirndls start at 800 euros.

And it seems like the fates enjoy teasing me since I happen to live above a dirndl shop. Theirs are also lovely and obscenely expensive. Most start at 1,000 euros, which is so far out my price range, I can't even see the price tag. 

My best bet for getting a dirndl that is both lovely and affordable is getting one from a second-hand shop. I visited the Weis 'n Tracht & Mehr at Rosenthal 5 right by the Viktualien Markt and was surprised their inventory. I completely ignored the hideous display of cheap dresses at the front of the store and went straight to the vintage section. And fell in love with a red embroidered number. However, our love affair was not to be since I literally could not get the zipper to move past my boobs. Not one to give up so easily, I found another dirndl, this time in blue with white embroidery. This one fit like a glove. If that glove prevented you from breathing. I looked great, but felt like I was wearing a vice. So that too stayed in the store next to it's crimson counterpart.

But I will not give up yet. Weis 'n Tracht has 5 locations in Munich and I only tried one. Plus Kleidermarkt at Tal 30 has three floors of second-hand goodness and a happy-hour special of 30% off every Tuesday. I will find a dirndl that will love me as much as I love it. It's just going to take a little bit of patience and some footwork. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Starkbierfest: Good beer, better friends

This past weekend, I had the immense pleasure of attending the Starkbierfest at Paulaner am Nockherberg. My lovely friend was visiting from Madrid and I wanted to show her what Munich was all about, namely mass beers and singing. Plus, one of the guys from my writing group wanted to go and was looking for people to join him. So we all agreed to  go and see what this magical elixir was all about.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with starkbier, it was originally created by monks for them to drink during the fast of Lent. The idea was to create something that served as liquid bread since drinks were permissible while one was fasting. The result is a flavorful brew with a higher alcohol content of about 7%, a nice little side effect.


Most of the famous breweries in Munich have their own version of starkbeir, but Paulaner's is the most famous and has the biggest parties, so that was where we were going. 

Entrance to the festival this year was 2 euros. If you went Thursday through Saturday, the entrance total was 11.80 euros and included a voucher for one liter (mass) of beer. So if you plan on going next year, budget accordingly. Also, reservations are highly encouraged if you actually want to get a seat inside. 

When my friends and I first arrived, the sun was bright and shining, so we decided to sit in the adjacent beer garden. Not wanting to get too drunk too early, I decided to get some food from the near-by stalls. Now, I do not speak ANY German. I know, I know, bad American. But so far, I've been able to get by with my rudimentary skills of Danish (the languages are surprisingly similar) and miming. There were no menus nor prices listed at the stall and after asking the man behind the counter the prices of several different items, I some how managed to get a plate of a half chicken and a dumpling for 19 freaking euros! I thought I misheard the woman at the register and was going to take my food back for something more affordable. But then she started yelling at me in angry German, so I paid for my meal and mourned the loss of drinking money. So again, be prepared if you decide to check it out, the is not for the tightwad.

Rather than sulk about the culinary rip off, my friends and I enjoyed the day and made arrangements to meet another friend who happened to have reservations inside. Score! 

Must protect the precious beer!

I would have been happy sitting outside all day, but the weather and crowd were both a bit subdued. I was hoping for a German brass band and dancing on the tables. Instead, the beer garden was filled with quiet conversation and civilized drinking. And Despicable Me balloons. 

So once we finished our first round, we headed indoors and was greeted with Bavarian hospitality.

Yes! This is exactly what I was looking for. And after doing a international tour of Oktoberfest, I knew most of the drinking songs and was able to sing along. In the end, my friends and I managed to drink 4 liters of beer, each, over 10 hours. It was great. Until I woke up the next day and looked at my account =)