I would say it’s safe to assume Oktoberfest is the most internationally recognized festival. What other festival can boast bringing thousands of people from the over the world sharing the same common interest: beer?
I’ll try to explain my 40 hours in Munich to the best of my ability in this post, but it’s truly something you must see to understand. Oktoberfest was everything I thought it would be and nothing I could have ever imagined at the same time. Alright, here it goes…
The night before we left, my roommates and I tried to put together our perfect German outfits. My beer maid costume is safely stored in the Buffington garage, so I had to throw that idea out of the window. As I stepped out of my room wearing a flannel, leggings, and badass boots, I realized that I mixed up “German” and “lumberjack”. Oh well. I went with it anyways.
On Friday afternoon, we flew into the Memmingen airport, which is about an hour or so outside of Munich. We flew through Ryan Air, what I like to call “the school bus of the sky.” It’s bright yellow. There aren’t assigned seats. The seat you manage to find has crumbs on it. The flight attendants kind of look like the weird bus driver lady. But it’s cheap, and it got me there, so I’m okay with it.
We had absolutely no plan as to how to get from the airport to our hotel in Munich. As soon as we walked from the plane and into the tiny airport, there was a both with a sign that read: “Headed to Munich?” Behind the booth was a German man who spoke perfect English who directed us to a bus that took us into downtown. Clearly they’ve dealt with American college students before.
An hour bus ride later we were dropped off in Munich. We hailed a cab to take us to our hotel. As soon as I sat down in the cab, I thought, “Wait a second, did I get in the wrong car??” A brand new Mercedes isn’t your typical cab in NYC….in Germany, pretty standard. Dumbfounded and impressed, we made our way to the Holiday Inn. (Yes, we were chillin’ at the Holiday Inn).
Not wanting to waste any time, we headed straight to Oktoberfest from the festival. I guess the best way to explain it would be to compare it to a fair. There are carnival rides and booths and people selling stuff. Then throughout the entire festival there are giant tents (more like buildings actually). Each tent has its own name and theme. Inside each tent, thousands of people are crammed together drinking beer and singing songs.
If you’re smart and on top of your game, a few months before you go to Oktoberfest you reserve a table within one of the tents. If you don’t, you stand outside in line trying to fight for the public tables available…
We were in the latter group. As soon as we walked into Oktoberfest, we were greeted with a downpour of rain. The lumberjack outfit worked out after all. We made our way to this outside bar. We immediately got our first beer of the weekend. We were served a .5 liter beer…half the size of the beer steins, but still extremely large. Oh, I guess I should mention their beer is about 12-14% alcohol.
So we get our beer and I turn to see this group of Italians singing and banging their glasses. They’re clearing having a great time, so I join in on their song. Little did I know, the song was actually a drinking game. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but essentially you sing and then someone points at you and you chug your beer while the group chants something equivalent to the jeopardy countdown.
Before I really comprehended what was happening, the Italians are pointing at me and chanting. I look around hoping someone is going to save me…no chance. Not wanting to disappoint my new friends or let down America, I look down at my completely full .5 liter beer, say cheers, and chug. Thus began Oktoberfest.
From the bar, we head over to a tent. At this point we’re soaking wet and freezing cold, but extremely dedicated to make it inside. If you don’t make reservations to a tent, people arrive at around 8:30 am to make in a tent. We rolled up around 7:00 pm.
Trying to be rule followers, we get in line hoping that they’ll let us in. After 15 minutes in the rain, we opt for plan B….aka: put on a smile, look cute, convince the security guards to let us in. (It’s a fool proof system in the states). The Germans haven’t really picked up on the whole “we’re cute girls, so let us into the bar” act. But I’m pretty sure the security guards got so sick of us standing there and annoying them that they eventually let us in.
Well, they didn’t exactly let us “in”. They let us behind the rope…so now we’re in the outside area of tent. Basically you can get served beer, but you’re not inside. It sounds like a lovely concept when it’s not pouring. We order up our beer steins…yes, one liter of beer in giant steins that literally hurt your wrists to hold.
You know that image of the hot, blonde beer garden girls with big boobs serving you beer? Replace that image with middle-aged, large badass women with bigger biceps than most men I know. Those are the women that serve beer. They are absolutely incredible. Our waitress walked out with 7. Then she compared herself to Arnold Schwarzenegger. She’s my hero.
So there we are, standing outside in the pouring rain with our giant beers. We approach our next set of security guards…hoping to actually get INSIDE the tent this time.
The security guards finally agree to let us in, but we’re not allowed to bring in our beers….our full 1 liter beers. (And I have two since we somehow ended up with two extra).
There I am facing the ultimate moral dilemma: stay outside in the pouring rain and finish two liters worth of beer OR sacrifice 20 euros worth of beer to go inside the warm, fun tent.
As I stand there contemplating one of the most difficult decisions of my life, I see a group of 10 or so German kids. They told us earlier they were 18 (so actually 15-16). I decide to donate my beer and enter the warmth of the tent. I love charity, what can I say?
Finally I entered the Hofbräu Festzelt tent…an experience similar to what I imagine entering heaven must feel like.
I walk into a warm, dry, giant tent filled with thousands of happy people drinking and singing Sweet Caroline. Of all songs to be playing…Sweet Caroline??? God Bless America.
In order to be served beer, you must be sitting at a table. I don’t specifically remember asking people if we could share their table. We just walked up, started a conversation, said cheers, and drank beer. We ended up at a table with NYPD cops and British med school students…talk about a solid combo.
The night progresses…we drink some more beer…I break a liter glass by “cheersing” a little too enthusiastically…
We leave Oktoberfest and realize we are STARVING. We didn’t think to get food in the actual festival, so we start roaming the streets looking for a great German place to grub.
20 minutes later we’re in a Chinese restaurant. Apparently, Asian food is the only type of restaurant that remains open after midnight….I ate fried rice in Germany.
Flash-forward: Saturday morning. We arrive back to Oktoberfest at 10:00 am (two hours later than we intended). Once again, pouring rain. Don’t worry…I’m still in my lumberjack costume. Come to think of it, I slept in that outfit too. I’m classy.
Once again, we’re without a reservation. After standing in line for multiple tents and getting turned away for about an hour and a half, life was pretty rough.
That’s when I decided to put my game face on.
We manage to sneak back into the outside area of the HB tent. We loiter. We scope out possible entrances. (I’m pretty sure I can be a successful bank robber now).
I spot some authentic Germans walk out on to take a smoke break. I walk up. I schmooze. I casually ask if my group can walk back in with them. They don’t mind at all. Golden.
Literally within two minutes of being inside HB, Sweet Caroline plays again. Life is so good.
It’s truly impossible to explain the tent experience. It’s absolutely amazing. I made friends with people from all over the world. We sang songs on tables (Germans love American music as much as the Spaniards). We learned German drinking chants.
Considering we entered HB around 11:30, by 6:00 we were pretty ready for some fresh air.
Finally we were ready for authentic German food. I definitely had the best bratwurst, sausage, hotdog, everything of my life in Germany. I’m not trying to hate on my fried rice from the night before, but German food is delicious.
We eventually made it back to the same outdoor bar where we had our first drink/chug of the weekend. There we meet our favorite British friends ever. I talked in a British accent the whole time, and they tried to do American accents. It was bloody brilliant.
Also at the bar we spotted the two most perfect German men. We took pictures. It was creepy.
This is the perfect segue into a discussion of German superiority.
Before I begin, here’s my disclaimer: I don’t intend to be offensive in any way. All of this is said in good fun.
Alright, so the Germans really have this whole superiority thing down. First of all, beautiful. The men are tall and buff and blonde and blue eyed and chiseled. The women are blonde and blue eyed with striking features and perfect skin. I think they might be robots.
Then there’s German efficiency/engineering. The buildings are perfect. They drive Mercedes for Taxis. Their metro (S-BAHN) is not only free, but nicer than any train I’ve ever been on.
Finally there’s German kindness. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? I expected scary, intense people yelling in German. Instead, everyone I met was incredibly helpful and nice.
Oktoberfest was great. Germany was incredible. Granted, I was only there for 40 hours. The only thing I can compare it to is my first kiss/first love…8th grade, at a Bat Mitzvah, I had braces. Perfect. But also the last time I saw him. He might actually be lame, or boring, or a Republican, but since it was left on such a high note, he will always be perfect. He’s perfect. Germany’s perfect.