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I say this with utmost surprise: I like sauerkraut.

I learned this new fact about myself tonight after going to the Oktoberfest held annually on the Spanish island of Mallorca.  The island hosts a couple of beer fests this month – one in the capital city of Palma and the other in the smaller village of Paguera.  With the amount of Germans who choose Mallorca as their top holiday destination, the Spanish ensure that the parties are big and loud.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect of the evening, as I jumped into my friends’ car and we drove to Paguera – the next village over and a short distance down a semi-winding mountain road.  As we made our way from the free parking lot into town, the outdoor restaurant patios and cafes were completely full; brightly lit shops selling everything from beach kitsch to leather jackets, were open late.  But a change in seasons became evident with the slight chill of the night air and a dining and drinking crowd that was much older (a sea of white hair) than the kids frequenting the party scene of summer.  Moreover, everyone seemed glued to a television screen watching football (i.e. soccer), which didn’t seem all that festive to me.  Maybe it was my American misunderstanding of the importance of football?

But then, like a shining desert oasis, the Oktoberfest tent stood before us – glowing, pounding, thumping.  Spanish written signs pointed patrons in the right direction and also praised the “auténtico espíritu” of Oktoberfest.

A sea of people – party-goers, kids, adults, grandmothers, smokers, teenagers, tattooed, lederhosen-donning, Heidi look-alikes, Spanish, German, British, and the other scattered few representing the rest of the world – all under one tent: dancing, eating, drinking, singing, and falling.  One guy fell off his bench seat, backwards – twice!  The band sang in all three languages, a mix of German and Spanish pop and classics (at least I think that’s what it was), good old American rock n’ roll, and 80s hair band covers.  They even threw in YMCA, while the stage crew went wild with some lights and smoke machines.  And it was loud.  I couldn’t hear a thing my friends said/screamed, nor could I hear myself.  Even now.

And of course… the food.  The beer came in liter or half-liter sizes and the food came in super sized gargantuan portions as well.  I had the codillo asado – a big piece of bbq’d pork leg (somewhat overcooked and a bit rubbery), that came with a heaping pile of excessively buttery mash potatoes and my new found love – sauerkraut.  The sauerkraut, seasoned with whole peppercorns and bay leaves, differed from anything I’ve tasted before (and I’m referring to stateside sauerkraut in comparison): finely shredded, crunchier in texture, and pickled but not heavily vinegary in taste.  I washed it down with a ginormous half liter of wheat beer, which I struggled to finish in the end.  And since I have not had a beer in well over a year, this one was pretty refreshing.  The Germans definitely know what they are doing as the surprisingly light but tasty beer paired really nicely with the extraordinarily heavy food.  

All in all, Spanish Oktoberfest was like one big mess of a party, rather than any sort of reflection of German culture at its best.  But, in the end – what’s a festival without a party?

The Paguera Oktoberfest runs from now until October 20th.

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