Eins. Zwei. G'suffa.
That's German for "chug-a-lug," the signal for the thousands of people packed into the bunting-draped beer halls at Munich's annual Oktoberfest to raise their mugs and pour the dark local brew down throats made dry by singing. As the Bavarian band plays on, people start to schunkeln, linking arms and swaying to the music in the ingenious German way of waltzing without getting up from your seat. The smell of fresh fish grilling on a spit mixes with the pungent aromas of sauerkraut and weisswurst. The rollercoaster rattles and roars. Clowns cavort and a bird imitator coos and chirps.
You can still catch a plane to Munich and catch the closing hours of this year's Oktoberfest, which, despite the name, actually begins in September and ends 15 days later on the first weekend in October. Or, you can stick around and sample the Washington area's multitude of Oktoberfests and October festivals, most of which actually take place in October. Well, after all, our weather is milder than Bavaria's. And, though the local versions may not be able to duplicate Munich's intoxicating revelry -- once an entire Yugoslavian trade delegation walked out of a beer tent and immediately defected -- gemuetlichkeit is guaranteed. If you get carried away by the Oktoberfest spirit, you may want to stage your own, with our help.
Hereabouts, there are Oktoberfests with a "k" and October festivals with a "c." Some follow the Bavarian tradition quite closely, opening the festivities with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg of beer. In Munich, it's the lord mayor, or burgermeister, who does the honors, using a wooden mallet. (In return, he gets the first keg all for himself.) At the WASHINGTON NATIONAL OKTOBERFEST, which opens this Friday at 4 on the Georgetown waterfront, the first keg will be tapped, symbolically at least, by Prince Heinrich zu Furstenberg, whose last name just happens to be the same as the name of the 800 kegs of beer that will be served in the 25,000-square-foot beer tent every afternoon and evening through October 9. There'll be an estimated 20,000 pounds of sausage consumed during the ten-day celebration and lots of music to dance it off to. One band, the Wendelsteiner Baum, is billed by the promoters as "so authentic they speak only German." A $5 cover charge gets you into the tent at 34th and K streets NW.
Washington's very first Oktoberfest, held in 1947, took place at MAX BLOB'S PARK, up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at Jessup. Blob's Park is better known for its polka parties, but in October the music takes on a definite oompah beat. The year's fest opens this Friday night at 7 and continues on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 10. You can either watch the dancing or take a turn yourself, and there'll be lots of wurst and, of course, beer to fuel your feet. Cover charge is $3 on Friday and Saturday, $2 on Sunday.
Munich's Oktoberfest may be pretty much an inner-city affair, but here we also celebrate October down on the farm. On Saturday, take your choice of two rural revelries: The Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm in ACCOKEEK, MARYLAND, or the Octoberfest in BOYDS, MARYLAND. The Accokeek event has more of a German flavor, with Bavarian dancing by the Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattlers and German food. Haywagon rides will be a local addition to the tradition. The admission fee of $2 furthers the Alice Ferguson Foundation's environmental education program. To get to the festivities, take Indian Head Highway south from the Beltway to Bryan Point Road and turn right.
The fest at Boyds focuses on local specialties. A pig from one of the local farms will be roasted, and bean soup, hot apple butter and fresh cider will help usher in October. Local craftspeople will demonstrate their skills and sell their wares; farm animals will allow themselves to be petted, and clowns and musical groups will entertain. After gorging on home-baked goodies, you may want to hike to Gum Spring, once the town's sole source of water and still a gusher. Take I-270 to the Germantown exit and follow Route 118 toward Damascus to Klopper Road. Turn right and continue to the Boyds School grounds.
Our neighbor to the northwest -- FREDERICK -- is ushering in October with a fall festival at the historic Rose Hill Manor and an ethnic festival at the National Guard Armory. At Rose Hill (take U.S. 15 north from Frederick to exit 8, then follow signs), visitors will be able to tour the 1790s manor house and enjoy a country butchering demonstration, colonial craft displays, children's games and hay and carriage rides. Everything's free except the food, and the fest runs from 10 to 5 on Saturday and from noon to 5 on Sunday.
German, French, Irish, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Scandinavian cultures will be highlighted at the ethnic festival Saturday from 12 to 6. In addition to music and dancing, you'll be able to sample the cuisine of each area. Admission is free and a food sample ticket is 75 cents. To get to the armory, take U.S. 15 north from Frederick and get off at exit 7. Follow West Second Street to where it meets North Bentz Street.
At the Byrd Vineyards Wine Harvest Festival in MYERSVILLE, MARYLAND, Saturday and Sunday, the music will be German but the beverage of the day will be wine. And there'll be enough to really get your feet wet -- and even purple. Visitors may give the winery a hand -- or a foot -- in the grape-stomping process, tour the winery and the vineyards, go on a hayride and, of course, eat. A woodcarver will demonstrate the rare art of carving a scene on a wine barrel, and Byrd's 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon will be released for tasting -- and buying. The admission price of $7.50 for adults entitles you to taste that and other wines. Accompanied children get in free but aren't allowed to tipple. Take I-270 to Frederick then head west on I-70 to exit 42. Take a right onto Main Street and another right onto Church Hill Road, which leads to the vineyards.
At the Octoberfest at the CHEVERLY Community Center (6401 Forest Road) this Saturday, some 35 craftspeople will demonstrate their skills and sell their wares. The fest runs from 10 to 3.
Put on your lederhosen or lace up your dirndl for a mountaintop Bavarian Gemuetlichkeit Bierfest at WINTERGREEN, VIRGINIA. Bairisch und Steirisch, a Bavarian and Austrian dance company, will both perform and teach guests how to dance to an oompah beat. The fest begins Saturday night at 8:30 at the resort's Mountain Inn, and the cover charge is $5. A "Grand German Buffet" will be served in the nearby Copper Mine Restaurant, including oxtail soup, herring with sour cream, marinated smoked- tongue salad, roast pork loin, sauerbraten with egg noodles, red cabbage with apples, Black Forest cheesecake and apple strudel. Cost is $15.75 for adults, $8 for kids. To prepare -- or to recover -- from all this festing, take a people's walk, or volksmarsch. It's a 10-kilometer course, but you can go at your own pace. Meet at the Mountain Inn Saturday or Sunday morning at 8. Wintergreen is 43 miles southwest of Charlottesville. Call 804/325-2200 for reservations and directions. Meanwhile, back in the city this Sunday, the Schuhplattler dancers will stomp their Bavarian shoes in front of the Eastern Market on CAPITOL HILL.
The Market Row Association's October Festival will also feature hot-air balloon rides, puppet shows, child acrobats, craft demonstrations, food offerings by local restaurants and the Marine Corps Combo. The free event takes place on Seventh Street SE between Pennsylvania and North Carolina avenues and adjacent to the Eastern Market Metro stop. Hours are noon to 6; the rain date is October 9. You don't have to confine your Oktoberfesting to weekends, either. All through October, many local restaurants are celebrating with special German dishes.
The BOOEYMONGER, at Wisconsin Avenue and Jenifer Street NW, for instance, is featuring bratwurst, bauernwurst, weisswurst, and knockwurst with sauerkraut, German mustard, potato salad and German beers. For $4, you get one entree, a salad and a beer.
At the CAFE MOZART, 1313 H Street NW, the $8.75 dinner includes smoked pork loin, bratwurst, weisswurst, red cabbage and potato salad, followed with the traditional almond "bee sting" cake and coffee. Beer is extra, but old German songs on the piano are thrown in free. If you come Thursday, October 6, you'll be treated to a concert of schrammelmusik, "the most Viennese of all Viennese music, the kind you hear in the wine gardens in Vienna," according to the cafe's Viennese proprietor.
BALTIMORE has lots of German-American residents and many of them pitch in to stage a spectacular Oktoberfest each year, complete with zithers, alpine horns and the Langenkerls, a precision drill team representing the Revolutionary War troops of Baron Von Steuben. This year's Oktoberfest runs from 1 to 1 on October 8 and from 2 to 10 October 9. Admission is $2.50 for adults; children's admission and parking are free.
It all takes place at the Fifth Regiment Armory at Preston, Howard and Hoffman streets in Baltimore. From the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, turn right on Pratt Street, left on Calvert, left again on Preston. German-Americans also settled in FREDERICK, and one of the best remaining examples of the homes they built here is Schifferstadt. The old farm house, built in 1756, will host an Oktoberfest October 8 from 10 to 5 and October 9 from noon to 5. German dancing, wood-chopping demonstrations, bluegrass and folk music, tours of the house and a juried craft show will be among the attractions. Everything's free except the food and beer. Take I-270 to Frederick, then head north on U.S. 15 to exit 7. Schifferstadt is right at the exit.
While you're in the area, be sure to take in downtown Frederick's "In the Street" festival October 8 on North Market Street. Festivities run from noon to 10 and include a champagne race; country, bluegrass and rock music; a military band concert; square dancing; walking tours; hayrides; jugglers and drawing chalk pictures on the street. A shuttle bus will run from a parking lot at the Frederick Fairgrounds. To reach the fairgrounds, take I-270 to Exit 1-B.
The Bavarian Brass Band strikes it up on the Wilde Lake Village Green in COLUMBIA on October 8 from 11 to 5. The free event will also include dancing, crafts and foods of many cuisines. Rain date is October 15. German food and beer, a pumpkin patch, homemade candy and an auction will be among the highlights of the Octoberfest and bazaar to benefit St. Martin's Church in GAITHERSBURG on October 8 from 9 to 4. It will take place at the church, Route 355 and South Summit Avenue.
The village of CLIFTON, VIRGINIA, calls itself an American Brigadoon, and it will come to life on the 16th Annual Clifton Day on October 9 from noon to 6. There'll be a flea market, an art show, craft demonstrations and lots of food. Germany and German-Americans are a lot more than beer and sauerkraut, and on Saturday, October 15, the UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND will host a German-American conference, with lectures and exhibits on German settlers in Maryland. In commemoration of the 300th anniverary of German settlement in America, there will be book exhibits, genealogy booths and an onomastics booth -- where you can find out what your German name means. The day begins at 9:30 in the Architecture Building and ends at 4:30 with a concert by a German youth orchestra. All events are free. For information, call 454-4302.
With a name like GERMANTOWN, you really have to have an Oktoberfest, and the people of Germantown, Maryland, are setting up a striped tent for their celebration Saturday, October 15, from 111to 4. Music, dancing, a craft fair, an auction and homemade food will be featured. Admission is free.
The tent is next to the Germantown Commons Shopping Center at Route 118 and Middlebrook Road. Just take I-270 to theifer Stree Germantown exit and follow Route 118 toward Germantown. And the folks of FREDERICK, barely recovered from their Oktoberfest, will be staging a Bavarian Fall Festival at the Frederick Fairgrounds October 15 from noon to 3 and Sunday, October 16, from 1 to 6. Three German bands, a hundred or so craftspeople, a marionette show, pony rides and clowns are among the attractions. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children. Just outside of Frederick, Berrywine Plantations Winery will be celebrating the grape harvest, and the public is invited. The wine festival, Saturday, October 15, from 10 to 6 and Sunday, October 16, from noon to 6, will include mimes and clowns, craft demonstrations, ethnic foods and helicopter rides. The festival is free, but a tasting tour of the winery, for adults only, costs $2. To get there, take I-270 to Frederick, then take I-70 east to exit 60 and follow Route 75 to the signs for the winery.
Saturday, October 15, is also Country Spirit Day in THE PLAINS, VIRGINIA, just off I-66. The spirit will manifest itelf in a pig roast, an antique car show, a model railroad exhibit, a petting zoo, pony rides, horse and carriage rides, all accompanied by music. Admission and parking are free. In nearby ALDIE, the subject of the celebration is the harvest.
Attractions include quilting and spinning demonstrations, barbecued chicken, bluegrass, country and gospel music and the fruits of the harvest: apples, cider, pumpkins and relishes. Admission is free. Take I-66 to U.S. 50 and head toward Middleburg.
The harvest will also be celebrated right here in the city at LAFAYETTE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Broadbranch and Northampton streets NW on October 15 from 10 to 2. Pumpkins, cider, apples and mums will be on sale, and there will be craft booths and a giant flea market.
If you're tired of all the beer and wurst and want to try something different, drop around to the Middle Eastern Food Fair and Bazaar sponsored by Sts. Peter and Paul Church. The feasting on Lebanese and Syrian food begins October 14 from 11 to 9 and continues Saturday from 10 to 9. It's at St. Francis Episcopal Church Hall, River and Counselman roads in Potomac, and admission is free. If you were never invited to H.L. Mencken's Baltimore rowhouse, you'll have a chance to tour that and 11 other BALTIMORE GERMAN LANDMARKS on Sunday, October 16. The tour bus, which leaves from the City Hall Plaza at noon and costs $5, will also stop for homemade pastries. Call 454-4302 to reserve a place.
Nine GERMAN LANDMARKS in WASHINGTON -- such as the Heurich Mansion, Concordia United Church and the Steuben monument in Prospect Hill Cemetery -- will be the focus of a tour on October 23. For reservations on the bus, which costs $5, or for information on the tour stops, which are open free to the public, call 454-4302. The day will end with a free concert by the Washington Saengerbund at 6 at The United Church, 1920 G Street NW. If you want to bring all the gemuetlichkeit home with you and celebrate Oktoberfest there, many Oktoberfest foods are available at local gourmet groceries and supermarkets.
THE GERMAN DELI, at 1313 H Street NW, has a large selection of wursts, German breads, sauerkraut, red cabbage, homemade potato salad and Oktoberfest beer. There are discounts on quantities if you want to throw a large fest, and you can buy a "bee sting" cake that serves 60 people for $32. The store also has a large selection of German music on records and tapes.
And Linda Pryor-Diarra of the BAKERY POTOMAC METRO at 1238 Pennsylvania Avenue SE is baking up some lebkuchen herzen, or gingerbread hearts. "The children wear them around their necks at Oktoberfest," says Pryor- Diarra, who grew up in Germany and Austria. She will also bake six-person "bee sting" cakes on 24-hour notice. Phone 543-2960.
So, oompah, guten appetit, and, above all, prosit!