« Welcome to Frühlingsfest! », Ernst crowed. He lifted his straw hat and mimicked a deep and ceremonious bow. His three grandchildren smiled pleasantly although he caught Susy, the oldest, throwing a sidewards glance to ensure nobody saw them. The old man twisted his hat in his hands and encouraged the children to come along. With his lederhosen, white shirt and hat he was perfectly and neatly dressed for the occasion.
A long tradition at the Frühlingsfest
« What shall we do first, grandpa? », 8-year-old Hannah asked. « Hmm », the old man thought while eying the surroundings, « let’s go for a walk first and see what looks fun ». Happily, he skipped away, the children following in his trail. Wide-eyed, he enjoyed the sights. This was one of his favorite moments of the year. The tradition started years ago when he first came here with his own daughters. Later, his children made room for the grandchildren and now when spring is in the country after a cold Munich winter, it is them he takes to the Frühlingsfest.
From the corner of his eye, he saw how his oldest grandchildren were a bit more hesitant than in earlier years. He recognized the social awkwardness he also noticed with his own daughters when they got older. Ernst didn’t mind. If they found themselves too old to enjoy the Frühlingsfest, he would enjoy it for three.
He sniffed the delicious smell of all kinds of food. Roasted almonds, cotton candy, chocolate, French fries. Every five steps there was a stand selling some kind of mouthwatering food. All advertised their wares with large plates, often written in old-fashioned letters, referring to the old Bavarian tradition. And that was also what you found in the food selection. Typical Munich food such as brezel, bratwurst and gingerbread hearts was available in abundance.
Hamburgers and bratwurst
« Let’s start here », he announced when he saw a group of people pass by, their hands full of hamburgers and bratwurst. At the colorful stand, decorated with green wreaths and small blue and white flags, he bought food for his grandchildren and treated himself on a large bratwurst, drowned in ketchup. With a few bites, the food was gone. He wasn’t the only one enjoying the multitude of food stands. All around them were tourists and people from Munich eating and drinking, a good portion of them dressed in dirndl and lederhosen. The beer was only reserved for the specific beer tents but many showed signs of having visited those earlier. Nonetheless was it a family affair. Children and adults both enjoyed the fair and that was what made it so pleasant to Ernst.
« Can we have a desert? » Hannah asked while enchanting Ernst with her puppy eyes. « Of course », the old man laughed and took her hand to the nearest food stand with sweets. Each a bag of candy later, they walked through the carnival attractions. Long lanes stretched out around him, each filled with colorful attractions going from simple shooter games to high and dangerous looking roller coasters. Even for those not entering the machines, there was much to see. The different attractions vied with each other to be the most colorful, display the most elaborate design or have the nicest statues. It made Ernstfeel small, a child looking up at the magical world where there was always something new to discover.
An offer he couldn’t refuse
A large Ferris wheel loomed over the Theresienwiese but plenty of other machinery reached up almost equally as high into the sky. A skinny man with red eyes and long teeth invited them into a ghost house. « You guys want to go in here? », Ernst smiled when he saw the kids’ eyes bulge with excitement. He offered them some money. « I’ll tell you what. You go in there and some other attractions and I’ll go visit that one. » He pointed at a small beer tent. In contrary to the bigger ones, there was no large line of people waiting to go inside.
About 30 minutes and three Helles later, the children stormed into the tent. Before he could swallow his last mouthful of beer and brezel, they grabbed their grandfather’s hand and pulled him out. « You have to join us », they shouted. The old man protested softly. « Join where? What happened? » They halted in front of a large machine, the seats were silent on the ground but seeing the size and height of the thing were more than enough to let Ernst step back. « No way », he almost shouted. « Come on, we need to have someone who accompanies us », Suzy said. « We’ve already got the four tickets », his middle grandchild, Lisa was quick to add.
Vielen Dank für Ihren Besuch
It was a moment Ernst would later regret gravely but three Helles in a short amount of time made him do what he would normally never even contemplate. He joined his granddaughters onto the machine. For a while, he could convince himself that it wouldn’t be so bad. It wouldn’t go that high. It wouldn’t take so long. But the moment he felt the seat beneath him come to live and shakenly start its journey upwards, he knew he had made a mistake.
He was right about one thing. It didn’t take so long. Only ten large turns, each with his head down hanging 15 meters above the ground. To him, however, it lasted a lifetime. When the machine finally came to a halt, he felt as if the inside of his stomach kept on turning. Shakily, supported by the children, he walked out of the machine and felt as if he could kneel down and kiss the floor.
With a barely audible voice, he said it was time for him to leave. « It’s getting late. Now it’s time for the youth to take over. I am going home to have some rest. » The three children looked at him worryingly when he hugged them and put some money in their hands. « No worries children, have fun! » When he stumbled beneath the ‘Danke für Ihren Besuch’-sign he sighed in relief. « Time for the young indeed. This old one is going to bed ».