Oktoberfest truly is the party of the year.
Thursday evening, my friend Nicole and I boarded an overnight bus to take us to Munich for Oktoberfest. 14 hours later we arrived in the center of Munich and headed to our campground. When I agreed to stay at a hostel campground for Oktoberfest I imagined “glamping.” In my mind I pictured proper semi-permanent tents with cots and lockers inside, maybe even some electricity. But no, this was real camping and the only thing supplied was a semi-blown up air mattress and a smelly sleeping bag. However, this was not to ruin our spirits and we quickly changed into our “dirndls” that we had bought at the discount store in Amsterdam for €18, and hoped on the subway for a quick ride to the fair grounds.
When I thought of Oktoberfest, I imagined it as a bunch of big beer halls with a bunch of drunks, but it is a totally family friendly event complete with fair rides galore. For those of you from the North Shore, imagine a really fancy Topsfield fair, I know that’s hard to imagine, but really, it’s fancy. We walked the grounds for a little and grabbed some pretzels, a traditional Bavarian (the state in Germany where Munich is) food, especially in Munich around Oktoberfest.
We were able to get in contact with some of our friends from our university in Amsterdam and met them at the Schottenhamel tent. This is the tent where the entire fair starts every year by the tapping of the keg by the Munich Mayor. It is also the tent where many students enjoy the festival. When we walked into the tent, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was being played by the band and I instantly was overcome with joy and felt I was in exactly the right place. Out of a crowd of 10,000 people we were able to find our friends right next to the band. Soon we were up on the tables dancing with liters of beers in our hands singing along and chanting “Prosit” which means cheers in German. We hung out here for awhile until it was time for those with dinner reservations to come to the tables. Luckily we were able to find a table outside at the Augustier Brau tent and enjoyed the surprisingly warm evening sun. After the sun had set we walked around the fairgrounds to enjoy the lights on all the rides. Once back at the “hostel” I was able to put on all my clothes and cuddle up in my tent and slept very soundly.
The next day when we woke up at 8am it was quite cold but again we were just happy to be there. Quickly again we changed back into our dirndls and headed over to the fairgrounds. The gates open at 9am and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to get a spot at a table in one of the tents. Everyone was already lined up in a queue that stretched far around the corner. As we were debating heading to the end we were blessed with another wave of luck. As we were standing there, exactly at 9am the opening bell rang and everyone started sprinting to the gates past the queue, we ran as fast as we could, beating the queue, all the way to the Hacker Fetzelt. Here we found the last semi-empty table which happened students from our school happened to be sitting at. Instantly we joined them and ordered a round of beers from the kellneirn (German waitress). She came back carrying 10 liters of beer at once! They must work out all year just to be in shape for Oktoberfest. As the day went on, you could feel that atmosphere shift. At 10am everyone was still sitting trying to warm up and nursing their first beer, but once people had one beer down, all the fun starts. Soon different people would jump up on the table signaling that they were going to attempt to chug the entire liter of beer at once. Surprisingly many people did which led to a round of applause, but if you failed at drinking the whole thing, everyone would boo you and throw half eaten pretzels at your head. Me nor anyone I knew even attempted this feat. Once people start chugging everyone else was also drinking more and soon everyone is standing on the benches singing and dancing, having an absolute ball. I genuinely really enjoyed the atmosphere there, plus everyone is super friendly and just there to have a good time. I even got to meet up with my friend Dan who is studying abroad in Barcelona, somehow he was able to find us in the crowd of 10,000. I am fairly certain the event would not go so well in America. The entire weekend I only saw 3 people get taken out on stretchers. After a whole day of drinking we headed back to our tents but the night was much, much colder.
Sunday morning all we wanted was a hot shower, but when we found out you had to pay to get hot water we decided that a shower would have to be put off another day. Our plan for Sunday, since the rest of the students from our university had gone home the night before, was to explore the city of Munich. We took the subway to Marienplatz which is the most famous square in Munich located directly in the center and home to the Glockenspiel which is a beautiful building complete with a massive cuckoo clock, another German specialty. We arrived to the square at 10:45 completely unknowingly that the cuckoo clock spectacle starts at 11am. From the spot we choose to grab breakfast, which while we were at found out was the original spot where the famous white sausages were made, we were able to enjoy the whole show which draws a huge crowd each day. After breakfast we decided to climb up the stairs to the top of St. Peter’s Church which offers a 360° view of the city. We probably should have waited until later in the day until all the beer was out of our system but the views were worth it. The city stretches in every direction and is home to spectacular architecture. After our descent, in search for something to relieve our completely parched mouths, we realized that just about every shop is closed on Mondays. Luckily we found a shop close to St. Michael’s church, but it must have been the only shop open since the line was out the door. From here we walked around the city finding Karlsplatz with a rainbow arching over the fountain there, we continued to Alter Botanical Gardens, back to the fairground to grab some souvenirs, to Hofgarten, then to the English Gardens where they have an artificial surf wave, originally I thought that sounded out of place in such a historical city but in the park the crowd was really enjoying watching the surfers. The entire day was sunny and warm until the evening when we got to Max Joseph Plaza where the Residenz (former home to the king) and the National Theatre are it started to downpour. We were not even phased and figured we probably could use a shower anyways. After seeing just about all of the city by foot, we hopped back on the subway to grab our bags from our tent and board our bus home.
After another long overnight bus I was ecstatic to take a shower, eat some good food, and spend the day in bed. Even now my legs and feet are still sore from all the walking we did.
Overall, Oktoberfest was probably the party of a lifetime and I really hope to go back. I got myself a traditional clothespin with my name engraved on it as a promise to myself to return to have a chance to wear it. Munich is beautiful and all the people are really nice. I didn’t even get a stare wearing my €18 dirndl that was more like lederhosen, but next time I will be sure to get a proper dirndl to partake in the festival. Much love for Munich, I will be back.