We left Florence exhausted. It had been a non-stop two weeks with Becky and my Mom and we were heading to Munich for Oktoberfest. I think we were both a little nervous that one or both of us were going to buckle.
As we sat in the airport in Florence waiting to board our plane to Munich, I noticed some people drinking beer. Mind you it was 7:30 am. I wasn’t sure if I found this impressive or worrisome. For them and us. I did observe this throughout our stay in Munich. Whatever time of the day it is, beer is being ordered and drank. It clearly seemed like beer was a substitute for water, coffee, breakfast, you name it.
We landed in Munich and were shocked at the cost of a taxi to our hotel – everything in Germany is just expensive. We checked into our hotel where the lobby was alive with activity. It was the day before Oktoberfest’s opening ceremony so you can imagine what a busy and exciting time it was. Despite the madness, our receptionist answered all of our questions. He pointed out a store right next to the hotel where we could purchase our traditional garb (lederhosen for Peter; girndl for me) for the next day at an “affordable price.”
That evening we took a timeout. We went to the spa and treated ourselves to a massage – I got a pedicure too. It has been awhile since I indulged in one of those and it felt great. We ordered room service, watched a movie and tried to get to bed early. We had a couple of big days of beer drinking ahead of us.
Day 1 Oktoberfest
We attended Oktoberfest on the first day of the 2014 season. It lasts for 16 days. In hindsight, I would not recommend going the first day. Your best bet is to simply go during the week during the day. This is the best way to ensure getting inside a tent and getting a table.
We slept in, despite being told you need to get there at 6am in order to get inside a tent. We knew if we did that, we wouldn’t survive past lunch. We needed some shut eye to recharge and to properly take on Oktoberfest.
The garb. At first we were skeptical about buying the lederhosen and girndls as we didn’t want to stand out as the tourists. But as it turns out, you almost felt left out if you aren’t wearing one – its mostly the tourists that aren’t wearing them. So that morning we walked over to the store that was recommended to us to buy our outfits. The store was insanely packed. While shopping, Peter and I separated while we searched for the proper fitting lederhosen and girndl. To my delight, we coincidentally bought matching outfits which I thought was pretty adorable.
Off we went to explore a world that attract 6.4 million people over a 16 day period who drink 6.7 million liters of beer. Our hotel was in a thankful walking distance to the tents.
The receptionist had told us that Hackerbrau would be the tent for us. We dodged through festival goers until we stumbled upon it. There was a rather small line out front that was roped off to get onto the patio outside the tent. We waited around and tried to ask some questions. After about 30 minutes of no movement we decided to look for another entrance.
With our best confused tourist looks on our face, we found a group of people being let in by a security guard and snuck onto the tent’s patio. Now, the bigger challenge – how do we get inside the tent which was heavily fortified and completely closed at capacity. Some guards explained that no more people would be let in today while some pointed to an entrance line quoting an estimated waiting time of 2 hours. We waited in line. At one point, a guy from Munich who had been inside the tent went out for a smoke and now wasn’t able to get back in. He was furious as he had been with his friends all morning and now was locked out. They were serious about crowd controls.
We all waited in the line outside the tent until an aggressive security guard started to push our entrance line outside the patio area. Realizing our initial progress was about to be dismantled, we scrambled to find a patio seat and forget about the tent for today. We were thirsty.
Even finding a seat on the patio for two was challenging. The grounds were packed and no one was getting up. Even if there was a little space, people spread out – no one really wants to be crammed in while drinking German beer all day in Oktoberfest. We circled around and around. Then out of nowhere an entire table stood up right in front of us and left. We went to grab it but got snaked by a group of men who slid in right past us. Thankfully, there was a bit of room on the end of each bench for Peter and I to sit. It took us a few hours but we finally did it. We found a seat on the first day of Oktoberfest. We ordered beers and the festival began.
Below is Peter’s first beer at Oktoberfest.
The men we ended up sitting with were a group of friends, mainly from Denmark. The group comprised of two older men, a son of one of these men, and the son’s friends. There were also three students that were from a small town in Southern Germany, each who could speak four languages.
Over the next several hours, these men became our friends. They taught us how to clink our beers with force. Lots of force. Those glasses each of us are holding are thick and heavy, almost unbreakable. At first Peter and I would lightly cheers our friends, but they would have nothing of that.
“Probst,” they would yell and then slam their beer mug, bulldozing it into ours. It became a game to not break the other persons beer mug, but to hit it hard enough that it almost would.
We ate together, laughed a ton, ate eachothers food, took many pictures. They all worried about me when I took a trip to the toilet that seemed too long. The bathroom situation isn’t great and you need to head to the toilet about 45 minutes prior to needing to go. We received marriage advice. “Accept eachother. You are two different people.” One simply suggested, “flowers.” But mainly we drank a lot of beer and had a lot of fun together.
Besides the company we also really enjoyed the German Kitchen. The bratwurst, saurkraut, chicken, (yes chicken not just bratwurst) and pretzels bigger than my head were all delicious and a great coating for all the beer we were drinking.
Hours later the group of men said their goodbyes to us. Peter and I decided to roam around the outside of the tent and try our luck at getting inside again. We were at one of the side doors and noticed people walking through so we decided to follow the crowd. Peter led the way and walked in with the same confused tourist look on his face used earlier.
Just as quickly as he was in, he was out.
The moment his foot landed in the tent, a huge, roided-out, German bouncer grabbed him by his lederhosen’s suspenders and pushed him backward about 40 feet until Peter was officially kicked off the premise. Outside the patio once again.
I was dumbfounded. Seriously, what just happened? I explained to a different bouncer, that “my husband didn’t do anything” and to “let him back in.” The guy wasn’t budging. I continued these two phrases over and over again, louder each time until the rope bouncer could see and hear that I meant business and ”no” wasn’t going to be an acceptable answer for me.
He let Peter back in.
My relief of getting him back in was short lived when Peter said to me, “I’m going to go talk to the bouncer,” and headed back in the direction of said bouncer. I immediately regretted my decision of insisting he be let back in.
Once Peter found him, however, he politely asked for a reason for the bouncer’s behavior. He was ignored. Peter then insisted that the bouncer apologize. Again ignored. Our theory is that people were sneaking in all day and that Peter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the bouncer finally hit his frustration limit.
We decided that the tent had bad mojo and we should take off anyway. We walked around the tents and faced the same sort of situation of being able to sit outside the tents, but no way of getting inside. We walked around a bit, taking in the festival sights, and mobs of people and called it a day.
When we arrived back at our hotel, I made the decision to see if the hotel could make us a reservation at a tent for tomorrow. We had been told that two people shouldn’t be a problem getting inside, but it obviously was for us our first day. We didn’t want to risk not getting in a tent the next day, also our final day.
The concierge kindly made us a reservation at the Paulaner tent for the next evening at 5:30 pm. We would get a table and two drinks with our purchases and joined by other guests of the hotel. Perfect. We were in.
Peter and I went to our room where he decided to order a plate of fries and then proceed to fall asleep. An hour later he awoke and wondered about his fries that “never” came. He called room service a little miffed and was explained that they did come by and knocked and rang for awhile. I missed this due to being in the other room listening to my headphones. They redelivered the fries. Peter tipped the guy handsomely.
END OF DAY 1
Day 2 Oktoberfest
We let ourselves sleep in till we wanted since we had a reservation and we knew we would eventually get in a tent.
We put on our sweaty, dirty outfits from the day before and headed out around noon. This was a whole different ball game. Calmer, quieter, and way less people. We noticed right away that the tents were open and you could just stroll right in. No reservation needed. At that point, Peter and I really wanted to see the inside of a tent, any tent. So we hopped in the first tent in a long line of tents, Marstall.
Marstall was nothing like we expected. It was quiet, civilized, and family oriented. Nothing like what you would envision an Oktoberfest tent to look like. We were confused. Peter and I walked around for a bit and decided to keep moving.
The next tent we entered was Hofbrau. It was exactly what you would imagine the inside of an Oktoberfest tent looking like.
It was loud. It was crowded. People were wasted. Live music was pumping tunes like “Sweet Caroline” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” One of the first things we noticed were two bouncers escorting out a drunken man who couldn’t hold his head up. We had officially arrived at Oktoberfest.
The tables were packed so we walked around until we found one with a couple seats open at the end. The table was full of students from New York who were all studying to be pharmacists; they were currently part of a study abroad program in Rome. They had been at Oktoberfest for hours already and had gone to bed at 3am the night before. They were going big. We had a great time getting to know them and toasting them with our big mugs. Today with more force because of what we learned yesterday from the men from Germany and Denmark.
Below is Peter’s first beer on Day 2. I think he’s holding up well.
We learned from the New York pharmacists that this was the “party tent.” Specifically known for a lot of Americans and Australians to frequent. I didn’t know that each tent has it’s own vibe until seeing it myself that morning. There were less lederhosen and dirndl’s, a lot more shenanigans and the toughest security guards you’ve ever seen. They made the guy that kicked Peter out look soft.
Below is a video of our afternoon in the party tent singing an Oktoberfest favorite, Sweet Caroline.
And some pictures.
The New Yorkers said their good byes a couple hours later to take a nap which I thought was a good idea considering Nick, the guy sitting next to me, proceeded to ask me the same question five times in a row. Each time he would have a full reaction when I answered him and then asked again.
“Where are you from?”
“We live in Los Angeles, but are traveling for a year.”
“That’s so awesome!”
“So where are you from?”
Peter and I hung around for awhile longer, debating whether to leave this tent, due to the entertainment it provided, but ultimately decided to leave because of our reservation at Paulaner.
This tent was also a party tent. We were told it’s the party tent second only to Hofbrau, where we had just arrived from. When it gets this wild its hard to really distinguish the levels of the madness.
Our hotel held a couple long tables for guests with tent reservations. We were the first to arrive so we grabbed an open table. About 15 minutes later a group of huge men, literally 7 feet tall, charged their way up to our table like a bunch of bulls in a China shops and said, “Get up. This is our table.” We collectively decided to be non-confrontational and just move over to the other table which had a handful of American guys our age. I later discovered from Peter that these men are Afrikaners, Dutch settlers in South Africa. I had never met Afrikaners from South Africa but their reputation isn’t great. I am not one to stereotype, but their reputation proceeded this bunch.
The move suited us fine because the people at the other table were much more fun and nicer. We became fast friends with a group of three men from New York and a couple in their 50′s, Rick and Denise. The couple had just traveled from Amsterdam. Denise shared with me that they visited the infamous coffee shops. She ordered the local delicacies by the name of “Mind Eraser” or “Gone Baby Gone” and was excited to explain how the experience lived up to the name. In her normal everyday life, she never smokes, but they were on vacation in Amsterdam so when in Rome. She seemed so innocent which made the stories even more entertaining.
Later on the Afrikaans decided to make nice after their 17th stein, or something like that. They chatted us up. Asked us questions. Invited us to drink their whiskey. Things were getting good. Peter and I are really open so we were pleased with the turn around in attitude. I took a picture with the giants. See what I mean? Huge.
Shortly after this picture was taken, I felt a huge hand on my bum and then a squeeze. I quietly voiced my disdain. “Oh my!” Peter looked at me with his eyes and asked ‘what.’
“An Afrikaan grabbed my behind.” I mean what now. I certainly did not want Peter to engage these racist dinosaur sized men in any sort of escalation, but Peter was tactful but stern. Some words were exchanged. Peter asked the guy to apologize. At this point I was crawling out of my skin with discomfort due to the entire situation. This time Peter and myself did get an apology. As soon as we did, we walked away and joined the crowds in the middle of the tent.
In the middle of the tent was a rager.
People dancing on tables, spilling mugs of beer, making out with their neighbor. No one was sitting on the benches, but rather standing. I made friends with a group of girls that pulled me on the table to dance. Moments later a bouncer came by and slapped my leg 5 times in a row to the point that it felt like a bee sting. Note: do not stand on the tables, unless you want to get slapped by a strong, intimidating German.
Shortly after that a woman fell directly on top of me. Things were getting intense and sloppy. Peter decided for our own safely that it was time to go home. We felt confident that we had seen, felt and experienced Oktoberfest. In the picture below you can see that despite the bum grab, leg slapping, and being taken out by a drunken woman, we are still all smiles at the end of the night. Despite your best efforts, you can’t knock a good woman down…literally. Queue Elton John, “I’m Still Standing.”
We walked back to our hotel in the rain and fell asleep standing up in the elevator.
END OF OKTOBERFEST
The next morning at the airport as I stared down at the bruises covering my entire leg, (from the slap and the woman falling on it) I asked Peter if he was ready to leave Munich. Peter, looking at his own bruises on his arm from the bouncer, replied, “Yeah, I’m tired of drunk men hitting on my wife.”
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