Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fasching: Party with zee Germans

This past week saw the end of the carnival season around the world. Instead of going to Brazil, the Carribean, or any another place where scantily clad woman roam the streets with ornate headdresses, I got the chance to experience my first German Carnival. But since I'm in Bavaria and the Bavarians think themselves cooler than regular Germans, they call it Fasching. 

Some research showed that the Carnival season technically starts in early January, However the last three days of the season are the biggest, named Fasching Sunday, Rose Monday, and Shrove Tuesday. 

Traditionally, the time is marked with elaborate costume balls and, as one blogger described it, is closer in style to the masked celebrations of Venice than the drunken debauchery of Cologne.

Last year's Carnival Ball at the Bayerischen National Museum. Photo:

As Bavarians are normally very reserved, I wasn't sure what to expect. My roommate, normally a great source of info about everything Munich, only said that it was crazy, the people were annoying, and she purposely avoids most clubs and bars until the whole ordeal is over. Not a very enthusiastic endorsement, at all. 

On Fashing Sunday, I made my way to Marienplatz where the square had been transformed into an open-air party. Live performances of traditional German party music supplied the entertainment while beer stands and food stalls provided the refreshment. During a break in between sets, I heard drums off in the distance. Mesmerized by the hypnotic rhythm, I made my way through the crowd and discovered Munich's Latin drum band, Bateria-Z

They were fantastic and I wish my phone took better video so I could show you. The group had fun with the crowd and did different tricks with their instruments. The energy was infectious and everyone around me were moving their hips to the beat. 

Tuesday was the culmination of Carnival and it was marked by the "Dance of the Market Women" at the Virtual Market. Not wanting to enjoy the festivities alone, I checked out my trusty Toytown Germany expat site and saw a forum posting asking if people wanted to get together for the event. 

Five of us arranged to meet in Marianplatz at 10:30 and head over to the Virtual Market. My roommate warned me that Tuesday would be crazy and if I hoped to see anything, I should be out the house by 9. I thought she was exaggerating, but by 10, both the Virtual Market and Marienplatz was in full swing. People were dressed up and many had already cracked open their first beer of the day.

10:15 and people are pouring in from the U-Bahn.

By the time we reached the Virtual Market, the place was packed! Being a vertically-challenged person, it was impossible to see any of the performances. But I did get the chance to see the mayor. Thankfully, my companions were as unenthused as I was, so we left and went for a breakfast of German champions, weisswurst and pretzels, at the legendary Hofbräuhaus

One of the oldest beer halls in Munich, Hofbräuhaus became known for it's delicious weissbier (wheat beer). The beer is so good, it supposedly saved Munich from the Swedish king during the 30 Years War in 1632. King Gustavus Adolphus promised not to burn the town down in exchange for some hostages and 600,000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus' beer. Pretty fair trade I'd say.

As if the food and beer weren't good enough, a brass band started playing on the stairs behind us. I was in Bavarian heaven.

After breakfast, which rolled into lunch, and then early dinner, we went back to Virtual Market for the last of the performances, and then a nearby bar for a nightcap. In total, I spent more than 12 hours dancing, drinking, and being entertained by the party revelers around me. I had no idea the Bavarians had it in them.  

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