The alarm sounded at 5:00 a.m. My wife and I looked at each other through bleary eyes. "Are we really doing this." she said. I grumbled a yeah. We rolled out of bed. I began to look for my lederhosen as she went to make the first attempt at waking the kids. Thirty minutes later, after some protesting on everyone's part, we were dressed in our finest Bavarian servants' attire and heading out the door.
Christina had heard about the Kocherl Ball recently. We, always ready to dive into local culture and tradition, were eager to check it out even if we were second guessing our decision at the appointed hour. The ball takes place at the base of the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) Beer Garden in the English Garden on the third Sunday in July. Music begins at 6:00 a;m.. It was only a ten minute walk from our apartment, but participants start showing up well before that in order to grab a seat at one of the tables.
The participants, on the whole, dress in traditional Bavarian costumes or what we call them in Munich, clothes; lederhosen for the men and dirndls for the ladies. Paying homage to the 19th century domestic servants who originated the ball in the 1880s, many dress as maids, coachmen, errand boys, soldiers, manservants and cooks. The name "Kockerl" means cook in Bavarian. Back in the day, in order for the servants to party like P. Diddy, they had to begin early in the morning so that they could be at their work stations in time to prepare their masters for the day.
The servants were permitted their annual early morning revelry for a few years, but in 1904 the privaliage classes used a police ban to end the fun. On the 200th anniversary of the English Garden in 1989, however, the tradition was revived. Now, thousands get up before the sun in order to waltz, polka, sway and spin around the beer garden. By one account, as many as 12,000 people showed up a few years ago.
Breakfast options such as soup, sausages, bread, eggs and strudel are sold from the food stands, but many people choose to bring their own nourishment as is the tradition in beer gardens. Beverages, however, must be purchased from the beer garden.
Our family was lucky enough for find a table on the edge of the fun. The kids had a snack while Christina and I enjoyed a coffee from the sidelines. Before long, however, we were all dancing and laughing as the sun stretched above the trees. A short while later, in true Bavarian tradition, Christina and I were holding a liter of beer which naturally made my dance moves more fluid.
The music ends promptly at 10:00, which after my second breakfast beer, was an appropriate amount of fun to have before heading home to nap.
English Garden Munich, Germany
3rd Sunday in July (unless severe weather or a global pandemic get in the way).