I’ve wanted to go to Oktoberfest for years, and thought this is it! This is my opportunity! I was super excited about the prospect, right up until the point that I realised single rooms on AirBnB were going for about $300. Ah that old frenemy, Supply & Demand.
All was not lost though, I hit upon the nifty plan of getting the train from Frankfurt to Munich during the day, leaving all my luggage in a locker at the train station, hitting up Oktoberfest and then getting the night train to Luxembourg once I was done with the beer steins.
The first thing that was obvious when the train pulled in, is that every man and his dog is in Munich for Oktoberfest. People everywhere were strutting their stuff in lederhosen and dirndls: lederhosen are the leather shorts we all know and love; dirndls are what the women wear, traditional beer wench outfit mixed with the kids from the Sound of Music. I didn’t need directions to the festival, just followed the costumes.
In Munich Oktoberfest is held in a dedicated festival ground space. It is enormous. I had seen maps of the different beer tents before but I was utterly unprepared for the size of the grounds. More than half of it is typical funfair stuff, scary rides (I found one that looked like it was a tame ride through Greek mythology so I figured I’d have a go on that. Oh my god it was hideous! It had all the worst bits of Greek mythology brought to life, and then at the end for seemingly no good reason at all a giant shark swings into your face and a man in a gorilla suit jumps out at you from the side. Culture difference, or just plain weird in any country?), roller coasters, vomit-inducing things that spin you around, and food stalls that either smelled glorious, or reeked of raw onion and sauerkraut. Which means that just under half of it is devoted to beer tents and beer gardens.
Why they’re called tents I do not know. They’re not tents, they are halls. Gargantuan feasting halls with built in wooden tables that groan under the weight of the food plates, and benches strong enough for man-mountains to stomp on with gusto. The beer gardens are slightly different, some are attached to the beer hall, but other are separate with a regular bar. They provide a welcome relief from the halls which are crowded, loud and hot, and if you haven’t reserved a table in a hall, it can be nigh on impossible too get served in them. Ironically I was at Oktoberfest for almost an hour before I found somewhere I could get a beer, after that though I was tipping over little beer gardens and wine and shot tents every five yards. To be honest that first hour was overwhelming. The first few halls I visited were full of screaming, wasted people, the stench was appalling of over-ripe bodies and salami plates that were sweating on tables. I found out later that I had most likely gone into the halls frequented by Americans, Brits, Aussies and Kiwis, which have a reputation for being the ninth circle of hell. There must be something to it because the halls that were further away, seemed much nicer, certainly smelt better, and had great live bands. I staked out some balcony space and subtly danced – i.e. stood in one space and happily bobbed up and down, like a dancing, dashboard Elvis doll – the hours away until it was time to pick my way over the unconscious people on the streets and get the train to Luxembourg.
I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Munich the city. I hear it’s quite nice, if I go back after Oktoberfest is over, I’ll let you know.