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OKTOBERFEST!

06 Oct

Hello everyone!

As the title of this post suggests, I have returned from my Oktoberfest adventure in Munich, and would love to tell you all about it!

I suppose I should begin by telling you how the whole Oktoberfest journey came about. When I was at the teaching orientation back in August, I spoke with multiple people about Oktoberfest. Practically everyone expressed a desire to go, but only one person had actually booked herself a trip already. A few months back, she and her boyfriend had reserved a bus trip that included their transportation and accommodation. She told me about how trying to find your own accommodation by that time of the year (a month away from Oktoberfest) would be practically impossible – even cheap hostels would charge 100 euros per night, because they knew that everyone would want to stay in Munich for Oktoberfest. I very quickly realized that Oktoberfest probably wouldn’t happen for me – I hadn’t booked accommodation, and had no desire to pay mass amounts of money for the experience. Sebastien also described to me how the event itself was so extremely crowded, you would have to get in line for the beer tents at 7am if you expected to get a table. Once we left orientation and formed Facebook groups based on where in Germany we were staying, the other foreigners continued to discuss Oktoberfest plans, but no one could really come up with an ideal solution. All accommodation was booked, and transportation looked fairly expensive.

I was not overly disappointed with the idea of not going – I knew that Sebastien and I would likely go to a smaller Oktoberfest in Berlin, and in his opinion it was more fun to do that then go to the huge one in Munich anyway. I also figured it would be better to save the money for other things. I decided that if anyone took charge and told me an exact plan, I would take part. But if not, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.

One day I was looking through the Facebook group posts, and noticed that one girl had posted a very detailed plan about how we could make Oktoberfest happen. She told us a bus company we could book with for only 22 euros each way (since it was still a few weeks in advance) and she provided the details for a campsite where we could stay in tents in groups of four, and only pay 45 euros for a total of three nights. While other Oktoberfest ideas I had heard of involved me leaving on Sebastien’s birthday, this plan involved the Monday to Thursday afterwards – all of us teachers have two weeks off this month so we could go during the week. Considering that it was fairly cheap, arranged by someone else, involved a fun group of people, and might be my best chance to ever experience Oktoberfest, I agreed to do it. The only unfortunate thing about taking the trip was that Sebastien would be unable to come. His thesis due date was coming up fairly soon, and by the time we had to make our campground reservation, he still didn’t know whether he would be done or not. I wished that he could come with me, but we agreed that this was a great chance for me to experience Oktoberfest and I should still go. In the end, we really enjoyed the Berlin Oktoberfest together, and I made sure to call him regularly from Munich.

The group ended up with a total of three tents (so twelve people), and I booked my bus trip for early Monday morning with the group, and 1pm on Thursday back to Berlin. I didn’t realize the rest of the group had booked their trip on Thursday for midnight – I figured it would be nice to get home at a decent hour and sleep in a normal bed that night.

So I showed up on Monday at the bus station, all ready to go. There were 11 of us travelling on the same bus, and a spot was saved for me on the second level. I had horrific memories of last year’s bus journey from Berlin to London, but this bus ride was extremely pleasant! The group had a great time talking together, and we resorted to “I spy with my little eye” when we got bored. A few people almost got left behind at the rest stop when we were only given ten minutes to find food and use the washroom, but luckily we were able to get the bus driver to wait for them. I had brought enough of my own snacks to last almost the entire trip, so I was all set food-wise. I thought it was so cool to travel on a double-decker bus!

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We were all a little groggy when we arrived at the Munich bus station, and I was very happy that I had managed to pack my belongings in two suitcases. Some people had their sleeping bags and other pieces of luggage loose, and it got a bit tricky to keep track of everything while we tried to figure out which train to take to our campsite. It was a very crowded station, since it was the same one people used to get to Oktoberfest. Needless to say, there were loads of people in dirndls and lederhosen every way we looked! Eventually we found our way, and were soon at the campsite and checked in.

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I think we all experienced a moment of fear and dread when we realized just how small these “four person tents” were. There was a bit of an outer part where we could put our shoes and suitcases, but then within the tent there was only enough room for our sleeping bags.

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That’s a picture of the four people in the tent next to mine. In our tent we slept with our heads opposite the entrance, but the fellow in this picture was too long to fit that way, so they slept sideways.

Once we got all set up, the situation looked better. We realized we wouldn’t spend our “downtime” hanging around the tents, but it would suffice for a place to sleep. Also, I had been dreading a situation in which there would be no towels or soap or toilet paper available in the bathrooms, but all three things were there and accessible. Even better: the soap wasn’t just plain, but a lovely coconut scent.

We went to the small cafeteria-like place on the campground for a bite to eat (although personally I stuck with the multiple snacks I had brought) and decided to head out shortly after. The way from our campsite to Oktoberfest was fairly simple – it was a bit of a walk to the train station, but once we boarded, there were no transfers involved. Once we got off the train, it was very easy to follow the mass amounts of people headed towards the event.

My first impression of Oktoberfest was that it was extremely similar to the Calgary Stampede. There were interesting foods available, overpriced rides, and a few corny games.

first look into Oktoberfest

first look into Oktoberfest

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It was really interesting to see all these different things, and smell the overwhelming sweetness coming from the stores selling candy apples and sugar nuts.

But of course, the major difference between the Calgary Stampede and Oktoberfest was the lack of horses, and instead, the multitude of beer tents. I had no expectations of being able to get into a beer tent that evening – like I said, Sebastien had me under the impression that you could never find a table if you were not there by 7am. But what neither Sebastien or I knew was the fact that a Monday is not nearly as busy as the weekend. I will never forget that first moment when I walked into the beer tent; from the outside it looked so unassuming, but once I was inside it was a whole new place. There was live music playing, and it was decorated in vivid colours. People in lederhosen and dirndls were all dancing on benches, and it was a rather inviting atmosphere.

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Our group was separated into two as there were only segments of benches available for sitting (dancing) at, but we were still pretty close to each other. We quickly ordered a round of drinks, and before long were also dancing on top of the benches. The band played everything from traditional German songs to more recent things such as “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. I never thought I would hear that song from trumpets and trombones, but there you go. And of course, there was a round of “Ein Prosit” once in a while, at which point everyone would cheers with everyone else around them.

our friends dancing on benches

our friends dancing on benches

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It felt as though things in that tent shut down fairly early, but in reality I think we had just arrived quite late. But we then went back outside and checked out a few rides. The only ride I did was the swings, which went extremely high. It was 5 euros for a pretty short trip, but it actually provided an amazing view of the city.

the swings!

the swings!

Shortly after that, we began the journey back to the campground. Getting changed and ready for bed was interesting, but with my sweater and socks on I didn’t notice the cold too much. I woke up once or twice in the night because my head felt quite cold, but I was able to tuck it in my sleeping bag and fall back to sleep without much difficulty.

The next morning, we headed back to Oktoberfest for more merriment. While hardly anyone in my group had worn their lederhosen or dirndls the night before (it was too cold and dark by the time we set out) basically everyone did that day. The two guys who had not bought lederhosen decided to take the plunge and purchase them, so they were off on their own for a good part of the morning. I still decided not to buy a dirndl – they were 50 euros minimum from what I could tell, and it was too cold to wear one anyway.

no entry fee!

no entry fee!

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It was pretty amazing to see Oktoberfest in daylight! We did a bit of walking around the event, before settling on a beer tent with a big huge lion out front. Not a real lion of course, but one that moved it’s tail and once in a while made a “euuuuuuuuuhhh. euuuuuuuuuuh” sound that was supposedly similar to a roar.

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Once again, the inside of the beer tent proved to be much more fantastical than the outside would suggest. And luckily, we were able to find a table for our entire group! We ended up staying there quite a while (although we were mostly sitting instead of dancing, since it was still early) and enjoyed absorbing the music and the atmosphere.

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Sorry to lump the photos all together, but it is way faster for me to do it that way! As you can see, pretty much everyone was all dressed up. Even though I wasn’t wearing my dirndl, I made sure to wear my Calgary Stampede shirt! There were people walking around selling things, and as you can tell in my photo, you could buy pretzels bigger than a normal person’s head. They were also selling Oktoberfest t-shirts and various souvenirs, and one of the more impressive (but overpriced, I’m sure) souvenirs was a hat that would twitch around and looked exactly like the sorting hat from Harry Potter. I can see how the event makes a ton of money when drunken people think these purchases are a good idea – I bet the plush lion-shaped hats will look like a great choice to wear out of the house on an everyday basis.

At one point, I ran into a group of people from Saskatchewan! We found this very exciting, and when I pointed out that I was wearing a Calgary Stampede shirt, they pointed out that they were wearing Saskatchewan Roughriders shirt. I would say “small world!” but everyone knows that Canadians love Oktoberfest.

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Eventually, our group left the tent. A few of the people with us had gone out because there was an hour in which all rides were half off. Usually I love going on rides, but I hadn’t exactly put “5 euro rides” in my Oktoberfest budget. But we got to walk around outside a bit, and at one point had a dancing session which several tourists thought was pretty cool. They kept taking photos of us, and eventually we were asked for our Facebook page. I guess we should have been asking for tips!

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some people in our group went on that!

some people in our group went on that!

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As of this point, our group was once again united. So we searched around for another beer tent. In the end, we settled in the beer gardens outside the Lion tent. Things were starting to get a bit more full! We stayed there for quite a while, and everything became funnier with the more we drank. But eventually we headed back to the campsite, although we were missing one person by the time we went to bed.

Unfortunately that night I woke up with cold feet, and once I was awake I realized I really had to pee. I lay there for probably an hour, trying to convince myself that I didn’t have to pee, but knowing that I would never fall back asleep until I faced facts and left the warm tent in search of the bathroom. But eventually I completed my quest, and the tent felt that much warmer once I returned. The bathrooms were quite toasty though – two people in our group found the tents cold enough that they slept in the bathroom for the three days we were there.

At 8 the next morning, the guy we had been missing finally turned up. He had apparently boarded a train for our campsite, but fallen asleep and finally woken up miles away from Munich. He then found out there wouldn’t be another train going back to Munich until 5am, so he spent the next two hours trying to stay warm in a bar and, once the bar closed, an elevator. At 5, he caught the train back to Munich, where he once again fell asleep and missed the stop for the campground. But finally he made it back to us, at which point he entered the tent next to ours and was told “don’t come in here with your shoes on!” He had a really terrible night, but it’s a pretty amazing drunken story to tell at parties.

On Wednesday, we broke into two groups – one that went sight-seeing around the city, and another that went back to Oktoberfest. I went with the Oktoberfest group, but perhaps would have changed my decision if I knew how crowded it was going to be. While Monday and Tuesday had been regular work days for most people in Germany, apparently Thursday was a holiday – and a lot of people started celebrating on Wednesday! In the morning, we got a table outside in a beer tent because of all the sunshine. Unfortunately it got cold fairly quickly despite the sun, and we decided to move inside. However, there was not a free table to be found anywhere. A lot of places were reserved, and we got shuffled around with all the other crowds also walking around. Eventually we left the tent, and continued in vain to try and find a spot for ourselves somewhere. One member of our group had the intention of meeting up with his friends inside a tent, but it was so full that he waited in line for an hour before giving up. And that line was just to get in the tent, not even a guaranteed spot at a table. My favourite part about that day was that we ended up seeing way more of the grounds than we had before, since we were trying to find tents further away from the entrance. I took a lot of pictures of different rides as we went by. I also ate a schnitzel on a bun that was absolutely delicious. Myself and the British people I was with agreed that food is better in Germany. Not that food is terrible elsewhere, but even on a fairground they still take their food quality seriously.

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A few people in our group found a spot to sit, and left us to try and find somewhere else. In the end, about six of us decided to leave the Oktoberfest and head to Marienplatz, which is known to have a spectacular beer hall. We saw some pretty neat tourist sites on the way, but unfortunately couldn’t find a spot in the beer hall (walking through it was quite cool though!) We settled on taking a break in “The Hard Rock Cafe” and then met up with the group that had been sightseeing all day.

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As you can tell from the photos, there was a live band inside the beer hall, and the ceilings looked pretty amazing! But it was nice to finally sit down in a restaurant and take a breath. We ended up breaking into two groups for dinner – a few of the people tried to go back to the beer hall but failed to find a spot again (go figure) and then resorted to a German restaurant. I went with a few other people for sushi – I know that it doesn’t sound like a very German thing to do, but it sure was nice to have fresh food with real vegetables again. Then we met up with the people in the German restaurant, found a bigger table, and sat and sipped beer for the rest of the evening.

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A few of the people had wanted to try going back to Oktoberfest, but I had absolutely no confidence that we would find a table there if we had been having such luck earlier in the day. We eventually headed back to the tent, and found that the others had also made it there safely. It was a gorgeous clear night, which unfortunately meant I had a very hard time sleeping because it was so cold. But I’m sure it was helpful that I was wearing my toque, sweater, and scarf in my sleeping bag.

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On Thursday morning, we all woke up and started packing our things. I made sure to charge both of my phones (I was very happy to discover there was a place to charge our electronics while we were there! Also, one day I had taken a shower, and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of hot water there was) and then ate some more of the food I had brought with me for breakfast. At the Oktoberfest itself there had been elaborate meals involving duck or chicken, but I’m still happy that I brought enough of my own food that I didn’t end up paying for that type of thing. Once we had all rolled up our sleeping bags and checked out, we were given our 20 dollar deposits back. It was a pleasant surprise to be 20 dollars richer again!

As I mentioned earlier, everyone else’s bus was at midnight whereas mine would leave at about 1:30. One other girl in the group was taking a bus at 3, so we headed to the bus station together while the rest of the group went to put their things in lockers so they could continue to explore the city. I later found out that they had gotten into the beer hall we had seen the day before, but had not enjoyed the bus ride at all. It was once again quite stuffy on the top floor of the bus, so they had a hard time sleeping.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip home! My one friend and I grabbed a bite to eat before my bus took off, and I got a seat on the bottom of the bus instead of on the top. As I suspected, it turned out to be way less stuffy on the bottom. I also lucked out and had two seats to myself instead of just one. One advantage of leaving in the afternoon was that I could see lots of cool things out the window – first in Munich as we were leaving, and then I got to see the rolling hillsides as the sunset approached. I made sure to be really quick in the washroom when we got to the rest stop, because I was terrified of being left behind!

When I reached Berlin, I gave Sebastien a call – I had been secretly hoping he would meet me at the bus station even though we hadn’t agreed on that, and indeed he was there to meet me! We stopped at a cheap pizza place on the way home, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first real meal in about three days (and left out the beer!)

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We then went home, and I have never enjoyed being inside a normal house that much. And sleeping in a real bed, with an actual mattress! I didn’t even have to leave the house to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, I was in heaven.

In conclusion to this marathon of a story, I had an absolute blast at Oktoberfest. I couldn’t be happier that I have finally experienced it for myself! It’s one of the few “bucket-list” things I had hoped to do someday. The atmosphere and elaborateness of the place were amazing, and it was so cool to be enveloped in so much culture. I don’t think I would need to go back to Munich for another Oktoberfest though – the crowds are a little difficult to take, and if I did go back it would not be to stay in a tent! But I was able to pull off the entire trip spending less than 300 euros for travel, accommodation, and food, and that was only possible because I’m young and therefore willing to sacrifice a few perks.

And thus concludes the most elaborate blog post in history. Thank you so much for reading about my adventure!

Tschüss!

-Robyn

But

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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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