I’m taking it upon myself to convince you why you have to go to Oktoberfest before you die:
Convinced? No? Well, an offering of 70 million liters of beer ought to do it. And not just normal beer, we’re talking six percent, strong-as-an-ox, knock-your-socks-off, you’ll-never-go-back-to-Natty-Lite liters of the good German kind.
I don’t even like beer, and I tolerated it. For five days, I tolerated it. For 10 hours a day for five days, I tolerated it. And then I went out at night when they booted us from the grounds at 11pm. (Rough life, huh?)
After a week of freezing my tush off in Iceland, I landed in Munich on a Saturday night to find it a balmy 65 degrees out. Heaven. Ever since my first encounter in 2003, Munich and I have been involved in an illicit love affair. And really all of Germany. So much better than that dreadful Holland, yuck—sorry Dutchies (reason #502 I’m not a fan of the Netherlands: on this same trip, some security guard in Schiphol allegedly swiped my BlackBerry—and no one in the airport even cared enough to help me!). It’s so pretty, so clean, so efficient, so German. Transportation runs like clockwork: if we were taking a 6:37 train to the fairgrounds, we would leave Viola’s at 6:33, arrive at the station at 6:36 and the train would roll in less than a minute later. NOTHING like the New York City subway where you could spend anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes waiting for the next train.
The Wizards—the 19 of us who endured the yearlong Europe in the World program in Holland and Denmark (also how I met SVV)—had vowed to convene for an annual reunion. That’s easier said than done when four of us were scattered all over the States like a barrel of peanuts on a Logan’s restaurant floor, and the other 15 remained it relatively tight quarters in Europe (Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Scotland, Holland – all different countries, but all within an hour or so flight nevertheless). Still, nine of us were able to finally convene a year and a half after we all went our separate ways, and it was well worth the wait. One of our two resident Germans, Viola, picked me up from the Hauptbahnhof, and we hopped the U-Bahn back to her flat, where Christoph, the other native, was cooking chili con carne for the rest. Helle, Kristian and Hanna had already arrived that morning, and Hanna’s friend Anna and Christoph’s girlfriend (another Anna) also joined us. Other than seeing Helle in the Big Apple a year prior, I hadn’t seen any of the rest of them since leaving June 2006 so it was a welcomed reunion. Teunis and Per Christian Selmer-Andersen arrived in the following days.
I am proud to say I made it to the Fest every single day, including a 12-hour+ stint on our first full day in Munich. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Upon first arrival to the grounds, it’s kind of uncertain whether you’ve landed at the world’s largest beer festival or a Tennessee state fair. Rollercoasters, carnival games and roasted nuts greet you upon ascending from the U-Bahn station. We got there as early as is feasible to arouse 10 people staying in three separate flats from an alcohol-induced slumber and have them convene at a planned meeting point. When Viola and Christoph said we needed to get there by 11 to secure our spot in “the tent,” I was expecting a tent tent complete with dirt floors, not 14 elaborate beer halls – the largest of which housed 8,000 beer-slinging attendees – complete with wooden floors, kitchens, the works.
Another thing that took me by surprise was the men. DONNING TIGHT LEATHER PANTS. OK, OK, I’m a travel writer by profession; of course, I realize this is an old-school Bavarian costume, but I honestly did not expect to see guys, men even, in their 20s and 30s wearing ass-clinging leather britches.
Helle couldn’t control herself and had to smack many a random lederhosen-clad German dude on the ass.
The women wore adorable, albeit busty, milkmaid dresses, and should I ever go back to Munich between the end of September and beginning of October, you better believe I’m investing in one of those. You know how I love dresses—and showing off cleavage.
My favorite part of the whole festivities comes as no surprise—the singing. Oh, the singing. Every 2.5 seconds, the band would strike up a song—and there were no more than 10 songs that played on a rotational basis, so even the ones in German you got to know within a couple hours, and it was surprisingly not annoying, the repetition, because everyone was having such a good time, not to mention drunk off their rockers – and everyone would join in, whether they were sober enough to enunciate the words or not, and the whole hall would erupt in joyful exuberance as people from every corner of the globe jumped on top of the table and clinked glasses with their neighbors. Because there was such a shortage in seating, you kind of just squeezed in wherever you fit, and unlike any American bar, where you’d be met with eye daggers should you decide to join a random group, everyone in Germany loved you all the same. It was kind of like one big round of Kum Bay Yah, only with less hand-holding and more booze.
And now, since you all would probably much rather view some jovial (read: intoxicated) photos as opposed to reading my mundane narration, I’ll leave you with that.
Teunis, the youngun of the group, tried to steal frosty beer mugs several times. And he was promptly escorted out by security, several times.
There were daily parades through each tent—and who doesn’t love a good parade?
The cheers-ing—or Prost! as it is in Deutsche— all got to be a little much. Five times over the course of the day is fine; five times over the course of five minutes is what I call overkill.
What do you get when you put a German, a Dane and an American at a table altogether? This, apparently.
Another? Don’t mind if I do!
Team Deutschland! Our resident German tour guides, Viola and Christoph. Can you imagine having to do this for two weeks straight every fall?
Apple streusel for lunch…and breakfast…and dinner…yuuuum.
Brad, who graduated UT the same year I did and now lives in Munich, came and met us at the bar one night. That’s right, we would go to bars after allll day at the fest.
These were the typical Oktoberfest souvenir hats. Some Greek guy came and gave me his at the bar. I’m not one to turn down free gifts; that would be just plain rude.
Hannah, an NYC friend and former coworker, came down from Hamburg where she’s living with her boyfriend to visit me for two days. We couldn’t rally up any troops to go back with us, so we ended up drinking alone. Because we’re hardcore like that.
This wasn’t at the fest grounds – obviously – but across the street from Viola’s flat. I just found it hilarious: an entire bar dedicated to my girl crush? Where do I sign up?
I fully intend to go back and do Oktoberfest again at some point in my life, only with fewer inhibitions and a much better camera and likely donning a dirndl 😉