Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Notes from the stein age

It may be because I'm currently working on a conference presentation on alcohol and violence in the nineteenth century, but this article in Der Spiegel caught my eye:

Police at the Munich Oktoberfest say crimes such as rape and theft are down this year but attacks with glass beer steins are on the rise.

The heavy glasses that hold one liter of beer are a symbol of the annual folk festival. But they can also be deadly weapons. And at this year's fest they have already sent some to the hospital with serious injuries, such as concussions, and bleeding in the brain.

"At Oktoberfest it's happening unfortunately more and more," physicist Erich Schuller, of the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Munich University told SPIEGEL this week. "A stein like that weighs 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs) and thanks to the handle, it's easy to grip, and that makes it an effective striking tool."

But it's good to see that the amber nectar is serving to bring people and nations together:

One of the most serious cases this year of an attack with a beer stein happened on Sept. 18, when a 20-year-old resident of Munich got into a fight in a beer tent with a 29-year-old Canadian tourist. The German then hit the Canadian with his beer stein on his head. The beer stein broke, and its shards injured two of the Canadian's companions. The Canadian survived with a concussion, and the German remains in detention awaiting trial.

On the same day, two more Oktoberfest partygoers were brought to the hospital after being hit in the head with beer steins in beer tent altercations. One of them, an Australian tourist, had bleeding in the brain after he was hit by a Frenchman.


On Sept. 25, at 2 p.m., a group of French festival-goers and a group of Italians got into a brawl in which one Frenchman threw his stein into the group of Italians. No one was hurt by that mug, but the Italians then took their steins and charged at the French. One Frenchman was hit directly in the head and was brought to a Munich hospital with a fractured skull.

Of course, given that Oktoberfest attracts something like 6 million visitors and then quickly intoxicates them in crowded, sweaty tents, this seems pretty much like what you'd expect to happen.

No need to get overly upset about it. Overall, it seems like quite a safe event, at which the worst thing you are likely to encounter are washed-up celebrities and bad dress sense. (Though I've never attended myself. Your experiences may be different.)

And, if nothing else, the beer stein menace is serving the advance of German science:

Erich Schuller, of the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, said his lab has recently carried out tests in which they used brand new steins and hit them against human skulls. "The bones often will break, but we haven't been able to break the steins," Schuller told SPIEGEL. "A hard hit with a stein packs more than 8,500 newtons of power -- the human head in the parietal region breaks with about 4,000 newtons."

Man, I'm in the wrong line of research.

Just imagine the frustrations you could work out spending a day smashing steins against skulls. Sign me up!

1 comment:

headbang8 said...

My guess is that college students hard up for a quid provide the skulls.