Who ever thought you could drink so much beer? The Germans certainly think there is a lot that can be done. Riding Lufthansa with a plane full of stag parties wearing lederhosen to Munich gave us a good idea of what was in store this weekend at Oktoberfest. The train from the airport was packed with even more, loud excited fancy dress party people. Arriving with our large tourist packs we browsed the Munich high street and the Lederhosen and Dirndl megastore. Your average piece of kit without the socks and hat would set you back about €100 – we were lucky enough to have some awesome mates who lent us theirs – Thanks guys! Our walk took us through the Viktualienmarkt to find an oily hot bratwurst, past some surfers in the river and through the English Gardens (basically a lawn and some trees) to the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Beer Garden) for our first beer.
Later we met at famous Hofbrahaus beer hall with Mike and Celine for a dinner of pork, dumplings and sauerkraut. The beer here only came in one size – the famous stein. One litre of pure Bavarian beer, made famous by the Reinheitsgebot “Bavarian Purity Laws” requiring beer to be made of barley, water and hops only. A taster for the next day.
We met up with the others at the campsite where our tent and airbed accomodation seemed reasonable. However, we weren’t prepared for the freezing cold at night. Waking up with a few grumpy individuals in the morning we found a few old faces from home next door. After a small detour en route to our next nights accommodation closer to the festival, we dropped off our bags and were looking good in our borrowed Bavarian breeches, made our way in. The scale of the festival was nothing short of epic. Apparently 6 million people make their way through over the 3 weeks.
Hofbrau tent. One of the largest and most popular. Famous for being the only tent where you can get a beer standing up. We got in late, but managed to secure a table near the back amongst hordes of Australians, American and Kiwis. The first round went down surprisingly fast, too fast, much too fast. From the first Prost, Tam found she enjoyed smashing her stein into others, with enough force to break the glass. Didn’t stop her drinking out of it and she ended up cutting her lip. Our group grew quite quickly (as it does once you have a table). Lederhosen make perfect drinking attire, the beer and stray fires in the mens urinal runs off the pig leather like water off a ducks back. Four steins down and we were eventually kicked off our reserved tables, out into the afternoon sun. Mitch was in a fair state by now and once back for check in at the hostel, fell in the first bed he found. Tam tried to wake him up to steal more money from his pockets and flatmate Jeremy also gave him a few slaps, but he managed to fight them off for a good 3 hour kip.
Meanwhile, the others returned to the carnival atmosphere to try a few other tents. Mitch eventually made it back in to join the group in ‘Oide Weisn’, the “German” historic part of Oktoberfest, less popular with the tourists but much more local and authentic, with a quality oompah band and folk dancing in the Herzkasperl-Festzelt tent. After a few conversations with German tram drivers and a few other Munchen locals everyone started fading fast from a long day of drinking. Walking out to the lines of German food, we had a small feast. Glazed half roast chicken, smashing pork knuckle sandwiches and salty pickled herring tempting from the stalls. A few got lost on the short walk back to the hostel, but not too bad for wear for the next day. Our other flatmate Sarah joined us late, coming after school for the weekend.
Round 2. Lowenbrau tent. We thought that pacing ourselves might be a better idea. Our particular weekend famously known as “Italian weekend”, this was much more the case today with chants of “Prego, Prego, Prego, Prego” rising up and down the hall. The Lowenbrau or “Lion Brown” tent was another monstrosity, taking 2 months to erect and break down. Again we got ejected early by the beer wenches, with tables reserved. About twenty of us were now ambling around outside joining the large queues trying to find a tent, or better still, a table.
We tried unsuccessfully to get into the Hofbrau, Paulaner and Augustiner tents. Tam, however was in her element, inventing ways to sneak into various tents.
Attempt #1: Paulaner tent: Tam grabs everyones hats, stacks them on her hand and pretends to be a hat salesman. SUCCESS. But everyone else is still outside…
Attempt #2: Augustiner tent: Tam and Candice collect empty steins and pretend to be beer wenches. DECLINED and the door.
Attempt #3: Waiting patiently at the back door. Andrew slides it open and is DECLINED by a furious beer wench. He later tries the same and only Tam and Candice make it in – SUCCESS…but not for everyone else!
For the rest of us, we used some faded stamps to sneak back in through the smokers area at Lowenbrau. Quite a feat considering the massive crowds all trying to get in. Making up for lost time, we quickly made friends with a German who had a table to himself, then ordered as many steins as the wenches could carry. Meanwhile Tam and a few others managed to share a table with a few German students. They were struggling to afford a stein at €10.10 each, so would take any opportunity to swipe one off the tourists. This year the price of a stein rose from €9 to €10.10. You would normally tip the wenches a euro, but now you needed a few gold coins to pay the tip. Give them a €20 note and they will decide their own tip! Dangerous after a few beers! Apparently they are rumoured to make up to €60,000 in tips each over 3 weeks – rumoured… They would deserve it putting up with all the drunken louts and heavy lifting.The others eventually joined us in the outdoor beer garden for some tabletop dancing and banter – a second day of drinking definitely rounded out more boozy and later into the night.
The shared hostel dorm the following morning was a bit of a bombsite, with chunks of fermented cabbage and pickled pork splattered over the floor and the unmistakable stench of a Bavarian brewery. A few had an early depart by car, or by flight, while we travelled by train to the Bavarian Alps for a day at Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau.
In short, Oktoberfest is a must. Even if you’re not a big drinker. Trust us, we’re not. The carnival atmosphere and German efficiency make a pretty good team. Expect us back again!