Oktoberfest in Munich
Drinking beer at Oktoberfest in Bavaria has been on my to-do list for a long time. I love the authenticity associated with it, just as the Dixie Chicks teach us ‘drink with the Irish, smoke with the hippies.’ I carried out this particular travel aspiration in October 2009. I had just moved to London and my friend, Heather was coming to visit me from Canada. She arrived with two Benelux/Germany EU rail cards in tow and we were on a night bus to Belgium a few hours later.
It wasn’t long before the Inter City Express (ICE) trains started to feel like home, they even earned themselves a pre-boarding melodic chanting of ‘ice, ice baby.’ We rolled into Munich’s central station some day in October and it was bustling! We showered, dressed, bought cans of beer and waited in the queue for overflow luggage-check i.e. paying for our backpacks to be tagged and quite literally tossed into a large metal box outside the station. After the logistics were taken care of we set off to find the fairgrounds and not long after that we were eating our first sausage and pondering over which beer in which to indulge.
At this stage it was nearly 12:30 pm and getting into an actual beer house was hopeless. A beer garden was our only option, we chose Paulaner in the end. We soon realized the beer maid only serves you if you are siting down and beer comes by the litre. So Heather jumped up on the bench between the tables and walked about 10 people deep before I followed. Together we went another 10 people towards the center and squeezed our bums onto the bench. Thanks in large part to Heather’s bold maneuver and her seating selection success, we made friends (who will become increasingly integral as the night goes on)! One guy in the group could speak English very well and adopted the role of translator willingly. He facilitated our getting jugs of beer as well as ordering us traditional German dishes when the drink became too much for out weak Canadian bellies.
The unbelievable amount of people made lateral motion of any kind absolutely impossible. Our movement over the following indefinite amount of hours was constricted to siting, standing on our seat and switching seats.
I attempted a washroom break just once. I successfully made it out of the land of the tables and onto the fairway, which turned out to be not navigable in the slightest. It was completely jammed with people. I had a go at it but ended up wedged amongst the crowd with my feet up off the ground. I was at the mercy of the mob and began shifting like a tetter-todder, only vertical. I felt like the inflatable toy that Donatello mimics in the opening scene of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze. I was horrified and wriggled out of the crowd the next time I found myself standing (or floating) vertically. I went straight back to the land of the tables, found the group and decided to hold it.
We had enough Paulaner at some point in the evening and decided to venture out into the common ground i.e. the area between all the beer houses. At this stage Heather and I had to go to the toilet so badly that we blunderingly tried to sneak across a wee (roped off) green patch to get to the port-a-loos as fast as we could. We felt it was an emergency, the police officers who witnessed it did not agree.
We were manhandled (in the morning we discovered the bruises to prove it) and physically removed from the green patch which was apparently forbidden. In our intoxicated state any explanation we attempted was leading these two foreigners to the German equivalent of a drunk tank. Luckily, our new friends noticed the ordeal from afar and came to our rescue. We were released after an intense exchange between parties.
After all that, we were wise enough (in the loosest sense of the word) to avoid anymore trouble and head home. We hadn’t bothered trying to book accommodations for the night so we called the departures lounge at the train station home. The whole place was swarming with like minded individuals. It was a fall night in Germany, there was a chill in the air and I am not ashamed to admit we ended up spooning complete strangers on the cold hard floor under a row of orange plastic chairs. I awoke in the morning because a police officer kicked my foot and said something which I took as ‘get the hell out of here.’ We decided we would catch the 6:15 am train to Hamburg. We collected our backpacks from the large metal box and waited on the platform. We couldn’t even find the energy to do our ritual chant. The baby found no ice that morning.
It took the entire length of the journey to Hamburg (which is no quick trip as Munich is south and Hamburg is far north) before the situation became completely hilarious. We rested, washed and ate delicious fish and chips in beautiful, sweet, calm Hamburg. After all we had Berlin to prepare for.
Written By: Katie Chesher