Wednesday, October 16, 2013

*Our First (and last?) Oktoberfest*

If I had to choose just one word to describe Munich's Oktoberfest, the largest beer fest in the world, I would probably go with "shit-show."

But since a blog post isn't super successful with only one word (or sentence, for that matter) I suppose I should go into a little bit more detail!

My amazing brother and his awesome girlfriend flew all the way to Munich from Chicago (they live in Cincinnati, so there was a long drive involved in their travel, as well) and arrived on October 3rd; just in time for the last weekend of Oktoberfest. The last weekend of Oktoberfest is also the only weekend of Oktoberfest that actually takes place in October (iiiinteresting). It is also known for being the Italian weekend of the fest because apparently all the Italians like to come up to Germany and party together on the same weekend, which we can attest to since we shared a fest table with three Italians on Saturday. But now I'm getting ahead of myself!
Anyways, we had rented an apartment MONTHS ahead, because Oktoberfest is a pretty big deal. People know it. Its very important. (Anchorman anybody?)  Said apartment was kind of tiny, but was big enough for all four of us, was super clean and cute, was a 15-20 minute walk from one of the fest entrances, was on a quiet residential street, and was rented out by a friendly and helpful Croatian man named Robert. All in all, I think we kind of hit the jackpot. Or he hit the jackpot since he got paid 355 euros for us to spend three nights in his mom's tiny apartment.... but I like to think that we did pretty well considering the cost of one cot, in a hostel, with a shared bathroom, during any weekend of Oktoberfest, is close to 100 euro a night.

Cody and I joined Chris and Angela (the above-mentioned brother and gf) on Friday, and we headed out into the streets of Munich to do some exploring. I was excited to see a restaurant that specialized in haxen (pork knuckle) when we got to downtown, and then much less excited to see that a whole haxen cost about 20 euro. Considering we can get haxen for about 5 euro from the cute roach-coach guy who sits outside our grocery store on Fridays, I was a bit disappointed. I began to mentally prepare myself for an expensive weekend. Have I mentioned that I am a total country-bumpkin now, and get overwhelmed by cities and also disgusted by how pricey everything is in said cities? Especially during such a touristy time as Oktoberfest! Anyways, we had a lovely meal (I skipped the haxen... come on, 20 euros??) and walked over to Haufbrauhaus to try and get a beer. It was absolutely packed, but I will say it was cool just to walk around the place. We continued trekking through the city and eventually got ourselves to the fest to scope it out for the next morning, when we were planning to attempt the task of getting into a tent without a reservation.

Upon entering the fest, I was absolutely amazed! These were no regular carnival rides; there were two full-sized drop towers, tilty whirly puke-makers, even the highest set of swings I've ever seen! Add in the gigantic fest "tents", the drunken people walking (or attempting to walk) the streets, the food and cinnamon nut stands, and random other attractions and sights at every turn, and we all agreed that we probably walked around like deer in headlights for our first hour at the fest. We started our day with a glass of wine on a cute little patio where we could acclimate and people-watch, but eventually found our way to the front deck of one of the large beer tents where we waited out an open bench and ended up spending about 5 hours.

I had an upset stomach the entire day, and knowing the liter beers that awaited the next day, decided not to drink and to just enjoy the scenery. We made friends with the Austrians at the table behind us (some of us better friends than others, cough Cody cough) and then all the people who flowed in and out from our table. Many glasses of German beer were consumed by all (except me) and lots of random conversations were had. I even saw an Australian chick in a dirndl hit a German guy upside the head for sticking his head in between her breasts while in line for the bathroom! But, eventually, the night had to come to an end, and after a couple of carnival rides, I convinced the boys we had to go home and get some sleep so we could wake up early and score a spot inside a famous tent the next day.
Cody and his new bestie ;)
The four of us all together
Saturday morning we got up bright and early (some of us easier than others) and grabbed some sandwiches and coffee while waiting for the bus. I knew to expect crowds waiting to get inside the tents and we were really pushing our luck, time-wise! I had a specific tent I wanted to try for, but since we were running a little bit late, we just jumped into the first crowd of people we saw outside the Lowenbrau tent. None of us knew what would happen, but I thought we would have to fight our way up to the doors, and I was almost right! When they opened the doors, the whole crowd lurched forward, but they only let in one or two people at the time and would close the doors if everybody started pushing. At one point, we got a few rows away from the door, when the guard outside yelled, "We are closed!" and they shut the doors and went inside.
What?! Did we really just not make it in?? 
Nobody in the crowd moved, so there was no way to get in the tent, and no way to get out of the mob of people, or to go try another tent. All we could do was wait, shoved up against everybody around us, and hope that nobody farted. Oh, and that they would re-open the doors soon. Luckily, they did open back up (AND nobody crop-dusted the whole crowd, lucky us!), and all four of us (Chris lagging behind and scaring the crap out of us!) finally shoved our way in and secured a bench. We thought the waitress said that we could have the table until 4:30, and since it was now just about 9:30, we figured seven hours of drinking would be plenty!
Entering the fest at 8:30am (yes those are cowboy boots)

In the crowd outside the tent

A fest tent is a remarkable place. There are thousands of people shoved inside, all drinking merrily, and once the band starts going, everybody is singing and dancing together. We sat at a table with three Italian men; one who we affectionately nick-named Jafar and who's laugh sounded exactly like the hyenas in The Lion King. Chris pointed out that nobody in the fest tent got into a fight, which made Cody and I realize that we have never seen a fight at any fest, or in Germany at all, for that matter. If you shoved a thousand people into close quarters and fed them liters of beer at a time in America, I can promise you that a brawl would eventually break out; why this isn't so in Germany, I don't know, but I am thankful for it! The hours went on and we drank and drank. I was only able to finish one fest beer and one Radler, as I was still feeling under the weather, and then around 14:00 I started to feel feverish and terrible and tired and sore and decided to try and take a nap at the table so I wouldn't ruin anybody else's time. Around then, the band started playing American music, and I was drawn like a moth to a flame, so I stood up to dance on the benches and sing along with everybody. What music do they play at Oktoberfest that makes everybody go completely crazy? "Sweet Caroline," "Hey Baby (I wanna know if you would be my girl," and "Take Me Home, Country Roads." For some reason, these three songs ARE really good drinking songs. And I have proof (watch video below)! Luckily for me, we had misunderstood the waitress and were getting kicked out of our section at 14:30, NOT 4:30, so I got to finally go back to the apartment (after a bit of a misunderstanding with a taxi driver) to crash, where I think I spent a few hours fighting through a fever. Thankfully, my sweet hubby came back with me, to make sure I was okay.
Me during my attempted nap, and my hubs making fun of me, haha

I know what you are thinking. I just drank too much and needed to man up. I assure you, I have been drinking enough years to know what drunk-sick feels like, and what sick-sick feels like, and unfortunately, I was actually sick. Did the drinking at 9 in the morning help the situation? Most likely not (although German beer does have some magical qualities). Anyways, I was thankful to get some sleep and take some Tylenol and I woke up feeling much more normal. Everybody else had a blast and came home talking mumbo jumbo about burgers and pummel horses, but after a bit of an afternoon nap, and then convincing Angela it was actually the same evening and not the next morning (haha) we were able to head back out and go to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant on our street.

Cody and I headed back home the next morning after grabbing a delicious breakfast and dropping Chris and Angela off at the trainstation to continue their adventure in Garmisch.

All in all, Oktoberfest is an incredible experience that I would never want to miss while living in Germany. BUT, after spending more time (and a lot less money!) at local, smaller, beer fests, Oktoberfest will probably stay a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Cody and I!