When we started planning our year long trip, we used a very specific and practical method of choosing each location – where the parties were! So of course, after Austria, we headed straight to Germany for the infamous Oktoberfest. We had done some research, but our planning was maybe not as thorough as we had hoped. Accommodations were expensive and out of our tight budget, attire shopping was only mildly successful, but we were excited to join in this world renowned party! With my parents in tow, we took a train from Salzburg to Munich, Germany.
Matt and I had searched thrift shops in Vienna to assemble our outfits, although we can say they were far from the traditional attire and looked more like Halloween costumes. On our way to the festival, my mom decided to join the fun! After a quick shopping trip, we were decked out and ready to go! When we arrived at Oktoberfest, the entrance looked more like a carnival complete with rides and games. Heart shaped cookies, pretzels, chickens and sausages lined the walkway with inviting smells. We stopped at a small bar towards the entrance of the park and grabbed our first liter of beer. Yes, a full liter of beer per person! And at 10 euro a piece, I guess the price matches the size. We drank our beer, grabbed a sausage and kept walking further into the mayhem.
A little further into the park, we saw a long street of beerhalls with thousands of men in lederhosen – yup, we made it! We started at Pauliner house with a few liters of beers and a couple chickens! The hall was packed, so we sat outside and enjoyed a bit of people watching with our meal. The beer was not my usual “bud light” but it seemed to go down much easier after the first pint. In fact, my mom who NEVER drinks beer was pounding them down like lemonade! We moved on to Lowenbrau, and finally got seats inside the coveted tents. The “tent” had ornate wooden walls with yellow and white tapestries hanging from the beams on the ceiling. There was an unexplainable energy inside the tents between the long tables filled with strangers, the umpa bands playing strong, and a joyous noise that no doubt had some influence from alcohol. We found 4 seats squeezed tight among the other partiers and ordered our next liters of beer! When the band started to play an apparently familiar song (not apparent to us), the crowd rose to their feet and starting jumping on the tables. Beer sloshing, shoes stamping…what are 4 tourists supposed to do? Obviously, we had to join in, or risk getting trampled on! So we drank, we danced, we stomped our feet on the table! We met people from all over the world, from German teenagers skipping school, to Brazilians and Russians on vacation! I wish I could tell you more, but my memory is stored mostly in the photos we took. That’s what will happen after 4-ish liters of beer!
The next day started much later, as we all needed time to recover. We went back to Oktoberfest at night for some dinner, and far less beer than the day before. We headed to beer tent alley, and got our beers and chickens. The food was amazing, and I wish I could make chicken as juicy and tasty as theirs! But the atmosphere was a little less appealing than it had been the day before. The first zinger was receiving our beers. They smelled a little fruitier than the day before, and also were quite warm. After we took a sip, we realized we had been given the Radler, a half beer half lemonade concoction that just wasn’t good, especially warm. We alerted our server that we were given the wrong thing. Now, maybe I should have guessed that a waitress working Oktoberfest for multiple weeks, wearing a tight dirndl and dealing with drunk idiots all day might be less than accommodating. Needless to say, we were stuck with our Radlers, same price for half the beer (and half the enjoyment). It’s possible that this left us in a funk, but I can say that the later the hour, the less appealing the atmosphere of Oktoberfest becames. The drunk to sober ratio was definitely skewed, and we feel securely on the sober side. Lots more fights, vomiting, men in lederhosen now horizontal in the streets…but honestly, what can you expect after 12 hours of drinking liters of beers!?! It’s safe to say that unless you are as intoxicated as everyone else, the party is pretty much over. We stayed for one more round and then made our way home. While it sounds like our last day of Oktoberfest was a drag, we all felt so excited to be part of it, and glad we were able to come! PROST!
If you are thinking of venturing to Oktoberfest, here are some suggestions from us:
- Book a hotel EARLY, like 9 months out! Things get taken up and expensive very quickly so if you are on a budget, plan well ahead!
- Smaller groups can get into the tents without too much waiting, but larger groups can be trickier. Look at reserving a table if you have more than 4.
- Beware the Radler! They really only serve beer and radlers (half beer, half lemonade) at Oktoberfest and they are the same price. Smell your beer before, and if it smells fruity, ask for another! We got radlers when we asked for beers, but because we took a sip, we had to keep them. Same price, half the beer…just watch out!
- If you dress up, go all the way! They can spot a tourist from a mile away with the Halloween, dress up costumes. If you want to fit in, try to get as close to the real Lederhosen/Dirndll as possible. Otherwise, be prepared for the well-deserved mocking!
- Eat, drink and be merry! There is so much to explore at Oktoberfest and so many happy people to meet! Don’t get too stuck on drinking beers that you become a mess, no one likes that. Trust me, you will get your fill of beer, but take it slow, enjoy the chicken and have fun!
- As always, make a plan to get home and to stay with your group! It’s a crazy ton of people and even simple things like going to the bathroom can separate you! Have a place to meet and a plan that even your drunk self will remember!