At the bigger tents, you'll find live traditional bands, and the biggest tents have live bands along with local highlights, including the mayor and local young beauties who have been crowned as queens, princesses, and all assorted manner of wine royalty or sausage sovereign. The party really starts when an outbreak of dancers converges upon the dance floor to execute the chicken dance. No one's dozin' wearin' the lederhosen. Now this is hip-hop, I think to myself. Nearby, a lady with a crown toasts the audience with her schoppen of white wine. The people-watching here is world class.

As you make your way through the many wine tents, don't forget about your stomach. There are ample options to attack hunger with a drooling passion.

"There will be selections like blauer zippfel [a pork sausage boiled in water with vinegar, a bay leaf, and onion] served with some of the broth," says Frederic H. "Fritz" Sonnenschmidt, legendary chef, instructor, and sausage maker, and the former longtime dean of the Culinary Institute of America. "Look for wiener wurstel or frankfurter bock [like American franks, but sweeter] served with kartoffel salat [German potato salad]." He should know. He apprenticed in Munich from 1949 to 1952 and to this day is a renowned sausage specialist. His latest book is Tales and Tastes of a Chef: Stories and Recipes (Prentice Hall).

With some luck, you will stumble across saumagen (stuffed pig's stomach presented with sauerkraut and farmer's bread). Or blut wurst, a type of boudin or blood sausage that can be served either hot or cold. And save room for some sülzen (head cheese). This will often be served with essig and öl (vinegar and oil).

"You will find a variety of bratwurst, fine or coarse, smoked or grilled, maybe sautéed," says Sonnenschmidt. There will be vendors with signs advertising their half-meter-long bratwurst. Insert an off-color sort of joke here, should you desire.

Or cut to the chase and procure land jäger, an air-dried or smoked (geräuchert) meat similar to jerky. Your megameat shakedown would not be complete without leber würste (liver pâté) served with essig gurken (pickles) or with raw zwiebel (onion). And don't miss out on the laugen brot (pretzel bread) or vollkorn brot (whole wheat bread). Don't ask detailed questions about these exotic items, just do what I do: Eat and stroll, drink and stroll, repeat.

As you take in all of the festivities, keep in mind that there is no last call during the event - a good number of revelers have been known to frequent the food and wine tents until dawn. There is, however, a last call for trains. So it's a smart idea to make a note of the final departure times for the train back to Mannheim.

I conquered, boldly, the brats and wiener wurstel. I somehow avoided the stuffed pig's stomach. I was never without a glass of wine. My biggest surprise was that I crossed paths with a number of old friends who were also in attendance. The local poet Karl Räder was indeed correct, "The Wurstmarkt is the only festival where you meet old friends you've never seen before."