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Culture Shock #3 – in which our hero fests Oktober and enters diplomatic limbo

So what else do I know about Passau? Well, the town was diplomatically flattened in 1663 and rebuilt by Italian architects specially commissioned from Venice. As a result there’s lots of old cobbled pedestrian lanes and arches all over the place, and at this time of year when the weather is still mild and in the low twenties, the town centre looks genuinely stunning. The skies are a pristine blue, the buildings are various shades of sandy gold and the hills (no kidding, they’re actually Austria – the hills are alive with the sound of musiiiiic!) are rolling, lush and verdant. It’s a sight to behold; or at least, it is right now. This time next month it will be proper Winter and the town will have a metre of snow, while the hills above will be subject to eight feet of it or more. I also know that Passau is home to a frivilously decorated railway station marking the border stop on the main line from Munich to Vienna, and is a two-hour railroad away from the former. There are worse ways to get to Oktoberfest than pay €25 for a five-person travel ticket valid for all of Bavaria.

Oktoberfest is, in a word, madness. It’s even more of a sight to behold than Passau is. There are endless amounts of übermarquees, and brigades of four-foot women wearing breast-crushing Dirndls (again, think The Sound Of Music) carrying several times their own body weight in Maß (one litre) tankard glasses. Trust me, the average punter can lift no more than one per hand. These people are actually known to inject themselves with cocktails of steroids and concrete. Anyway, to make a long story short, we got up at 6am, fare-dodged on the most packed tube train in history, got a table outside a tent, met some Italians, had some spillages, were tipsy by noon, ate some Bratwurst, met up with some of the other Erasmus heads from Aachen, and had a cracking time (despite the old guy who sat beside us on the last train home and was obsessed with licking Carla’s toes while she slept. Don’t ask). We immediately resolved to go back the next weekend.

So return we did, and, well, to be honest, it was pretty much exactly the same as first time, except we booked a room for an overnight (yes, that’s A room – a double room, for five people) and managed to swipe six of the Maß glasses as souvenirs of our weekend. Of course, there’s always a catch of some sort on days like that, and on our last day at the Fest – the one day I wasn’t drinking, and instead sampling more of the food around the place. At some point I arbitrarily put my hand back to the inside pocket of my jacket and… yes, you’ve guessed it – no more passport. Uh-oh. There’s a diplomatic nightmare on my hands, but needs long explanation so it can wait ’til next time.

For now, I’ll just tell you that Carla, Sandy, Clem and Neil – and our five similarly named goldfish – send their regards, and we’ll catch you again soon. Stay tuned for more diplomatic news…