On a Munich summer’s evening in the beer garden, everyone can agree on one thing. There are characters you will always meet there – a typology follows.
He is something of an institution among the various Munich beer garden characters. Almost motionless, he sits in his regular spot at the end of a bench near the bar. A stein within reach and a view of all the goings-on – the Urbayer needs nothing more. Nobody knows exactly how long he has been sitting there. Since sometime in the eighties, older staff claim. The Urbayer greets them – as he does the other regulars – with a nod that is barely perceptible to a stranger. They know each other, they greet each other, and then they observe a communal silence. After all, the others in the beer garden are doing more than enough talking for everyone. But this does not make the Urbayer antisocial: when anyone asks if the seats beside him are free, he answers by pointing towards the bench mutely with his chin. Sometimes, he also murmurs: "Ja hock di halt her!" (“Yes, go ahead and sit down!”) into his neat beard. Just like his Lederhosen, he started wearing that beard long before it was cool. The Urbayer doesn’t follow trends – if anything, he sets them.
Maybe he’s new in town or maybe it’s just in his nature: in any case, the affable stranger wants to make new friends. Full of purpose, he seeks out the table in the middle of the beer garden, where only one seat is free. He sits himself down with a loud, “servus mitanand” – “hi everyone” – quickly adding that being together like this is the nicest thing about the beer gardens in Munich: “You arrive as strangers and leave as friends”. And he is right: before too long, anyone who sits at a beer table with people often shares more than the bench underneath them. The affable stranger is especially happy in a beer garden with a brass band. Here, he swings his stein about with arm outstretched at every fanfare and, with a wink, asks everyone when they will get to standing on the benches: “Just like at Oktoberfest!” When the lights go out just after eleven, the affable stranger is disappointed at first, but usually manages to persuade at least one of his friends to move on with him. As they leave, they talk about “such a beautiful day as today”.
They have enough equipment for a four-week holiday: the Ikea bags hanging off the pram are piled with nappy-changing gear, sand toys and all kinds of Tupperware containers. They have arranged who will bring what for lunch with the other parents via a WhatsApp group. It’s been far too long since they were last in the beer garden. The theory: Instead of cooking, they will have a picnic lunch; the children can run about in the play area, and the parents can have a chat. In reality, Maya does not like the egg salad they brought, Leander really wants to drink out of the stein, and every three minutes a child shouts from the play area because he or she can’t get on or off something. So the usual parent and child chaos. Just after six, the children have tired themselves out: Maya accepts the potato salad and Leander the sippy cup. Peace reigns. Since the evening is so nice and mild, bedtime is delayed repeatedly, by half an hour at a time. In the end, it is ten o’clock by the time the kids are in bed and the parents are lying on the sofa – sweaty, tired but happy.
The beer garden is her chosen setting for the big production: together with her two best friends, she has retired to the quieter area of the beer garden. Giggling, the three squeeze up together on a bench to discuss the best background to use. The bar, the pretty chain of lights or the cute boys at the table next to them? The three already know exactly why they came here: the beer garden is a virtually endless source of great photo opportunities. First, straighten out the off-the-shoulder t-shirt, then pull the huge sunglasses away from the eyes at the perfect angle, and finally, lift the glass of Radler towards the lips. She glances at the selfie stick and at her friends for a final check – yes! That looks good! Click! Soon, the first likes start rolling in on Facebook and Instagram. If the hunk from her year at school sends a heart, the evening – actually, the entire week – has been saved! #gaudi #lovethelife #beergardenfeeling #wonderfulyouth
These generally arrive as a group. The men wear dark suits and polished leather shoes, while the ladies appear in pencil skirts and high heels. Their faces are tired from hours spent staring at screens in dimly lit offices, which makes it hard for them to adjust to the merry atmosphere of the beer garden straight away. Each of them has their thoughts elsewhere – focused on the briefing they need to finish, or the email that popped up on the screen at the last minute. Fortunately though, every one of them had the invite in their Outlook calendar – including the note “No excuses!”. OK then: toasting each other with a fresh stein amid the crowds in the beer garden will not only refresh their tired faces, but will also boost their team spirit. Soon, the ladies have quite literally let their hair down and the men have opened the top two, if not the top three, buttons on their shirts. Conversation moves on from work, to the last trip to the mountains, and the next day they receive a group email with the subject line, “Sore head!”, which reads: “Great evening! Must do it again soon! Best.”