Sunday, September 21, 2008
Munich, Germany - Oktoberfest 9/5,000,000 beers
What a great night's sleep! The cupboard under the stairs was amazing. We both think we get a lot better rest when we're not in a hostel, big shock right?
A day that starts the same as most, the evil alarm goes off and we fight it for a good hour. After we clean up it's off to Oktoberfest. Looking back we really doubt we needed ANY direction on how to get there: follow anyone dressed in traditional german get up. Florian wasn't really interested in going so he told us the train station to get out at. On my gosh we crammed like cattle onto this train full of fest-goers.
When we rode the escalator up we were smack in the middle of the fest, no worries about finding our way. Oktoberfest is so much more than we expected. It's like the Minnesota state fair minus the animals and 100 times the beer. When they say beer tent they don't mean tent, they mean really nice buildings with tables as long as the eye could see. It was wonderful! We aren't sure who would want to go on rides they had there (really big carnival ones) cause just watching how fast they were going was enough to make our head spin.
We both felt a bit embarrassed by any american man under 30, you could spot them just acting like idiots... typical college boys.
First day of Oktoberfest goes something like this.... at 11:30 a big big parade goes down the street with each brewery having a band and a bringing all their kegs to their respective tents. It's really amazing to see, even the horses are dressed up to the 9s. 6-7 breweries run the tents or beirgartens and only serve their beer in there. Getting in is the trick. You need a reservation made in at least February and those are spendy IF you can even get one. We of course did not have one and just tried our luck.
Beer is beer right? Well that's what we said for the day, we took off our beer snob hats and sort of slummed it. All the beers here are light in color lagers, really nothing exciting with a lot of taste but oh well :) With beers coming in 1 liter glasses weighing around 5 pounds, not much to stick our noses up at.
All said and done, we made it out of Oktoberfest very cheap. If you think you need to make table reservations early you might want to look for a hotel for Oktoberfest a few years ahead of time and then still expect to pay a second mortgage. Ahh but we are cheap,... ugh I mean smart. Since we are staying for free with Florian and it's free to get into the fest and the tents really all you need to do is buy beer and food. Beer and food were not bad priced, around 8 euros for a 1 liter of beer (about 38 ounces or more than 3 cans of beer) and 1/2 meter brats on baguettes only 4 euros. Those brats kind of put our state fair foot longs to shame, not to mention the delicious mustard that goes on them. It was a really smooth, creamy dijon style that was a bit sweet.
We walked around eating a brat, corn on the cob and a small bag of popcorn. I think food is a universal language. Without a word we were exchanging homemade pretzels for popcorn and raising our glasses in a toast with friendly italian men.
At the time we didn't know it, but we got in a tent and witnessed the tapping of the first keg, but as young fools here for the first time, we left the tent in search of.... we don't know really?! This was also where we first saw the women who served beer carrying our 10 or 12 liters of beer at a time! We were very impressed with their strength and ability to weave through the mobs of people without spilling.
Now onto serious business trying to get into a tent! We would like to add that it was unseasonably cold this day too, Charlie is quite the gentleman and gave his vest to Heather (aka the freeze baby). We stood in line at a few different gartens but no one was getting in, they were full up (even a 20 euro handshake didn't work for one guy). One of our favorites had a giant lion over the entrance growling the name of the brewer and taking a swig from his giant beer mug. The best we could do was get a table outside a garten and make more friends. We found two spots and jumped on them fast. We sat with a german couple, another german man and on the end a few guys from New York. The german woman was very nice in answering all of our oktoberfest questions and translating the menu. One of the traditional foods to get is 1/2 a chicken. We probably should have eaten more than splitting a brat and popcorn earlier. The german couple ordered a wonderful looking desert made of apples and raisins and like a fried donut covered in powdered sugar. We aren't sure of the name of it, but we regret not getting one, and might go back monday night just to eat food.
Our first liter of oktoberfest beer!!! (the previous beer was only a 1/2 liter) There was much toasting, and all those drinking songs we heard on the train were everywhere too. We probably sat out there an hour or two. The only thing to complain about at Oktoberfest would be the lines for the bathroom. Heather was gone for over 40 minutes once... and we guess they could exist somewhere we didn't see but we could not find the "vomit-torium" as we read somewhere. While sitting outside the table next to us was full of italian men who gave us cheese and crackers, and Heather stole a bite of brat. After they left some younger kids from florida sat down, and we made friends with them and exchanged travel stories and suggestions (including the wonderful bar in Brussels).
Because of the weather we think a lot of people didn't show up the first day and around mid afternoon we caught a break and weaseling inside to the WONDERFUL HEATED Paulander beirgarten. Again, more friends to be made. And yes things may get a bit fuzzy. We kept saying how great it would be to have all our friends and family here at this celebration. Inside there are long wood tables and benches. The benches are really not for sitting on, everyone stood on them arm in arm and danced for the rest of the night. The next few hours were filled with beers and laughter. Our table was occupied by a woman from Austria and 2 younger girls, one assuming to be her daughter, a man from turkey, and a german couple. Heather was trying to play love connection with the austrian woman and the turkish man, who promptly told her they just met 3 hours ago! Like stated earlier, the benches were merely a suggestion to sit on, their real purpose was to stand on and sing and dance. We were waiting for them to break, as they would bow a lot in the middle with 5-6 people standing and dancing on them at a time. Not to mention they got very slippery with all the beer being sloshed around and spilled on them. One thing we liked was all the covers of older american songs. We heard Frank Sinatras "new york", sweet home alabama, summer of 69, and of course country roads take me home many many times. The next few hours were spent dancing on tables and benches, singing, drinking beer, and making friends from all over the world. One thing we did notice was we looked like the funny ones not dressed up, so we made a promise to dress up next time we go. Something like 80% or more of the people were dressed up in traditional clothing.
All good things must come to an end, and drinking hours are fairly short here...9am til 1030pm, so we found our way back to the subway and caught the next train back to our host home. Waiting for the train Heather took a seat next to a german man named Didi, who shared his snacks with her. She's good at looking hungry or thirsty to strangers if it involves anything free. When we got back, Florian and his roommate Andreas were quite proud of us for living through our first unsupervised oktoberfest, finding our way back, and for each consuming 4.5 liters of beer. We had heard that during oktoberfest, 5 million liters of beer our consumed, so we felt proud to drink 9 of those 5 million. We declined their offer for one more before bed. It was only about 1030pm, but it had been an eventful day, so sleep was much welcomed. We cant wait for next year!!!!