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My Oktoberfest Experience

So last Sunday the roomie, some of her work colleagues, and I headed to Munich for Oktoberfest. Both of us had never been, so it was  certain to be an experience for both of us.

We caught the first train to Munich with a bunch of other dirndl-wearing folk, and by the time we got there, the train had picked up so many other people on the way that it was standing room only. It was a popular destination even on Sunday.

Basically, by the time we got to the Wiese where the fest was set up (basically like a regular Volksfest with carnival rides and carnival food, but bigger and with more beer) there were already a ton of people there. The crowds only grew as the day went on. The Wiese was ringed by beer ‘tents’ though that isn’t quite the right word. Imagine giant, impermanent buildings, with hundreds of tables and benches inside. There were at least 10 beer tents, each sponsored by a different brewing company that sold only its beer within, and only one kind at that. All for the low, low price of €10,30 per beer. (At the ‘celebrity tent’ they were more than that).

We found a tent at 11 in the morning and sat down. Basically, that was our only goal. If we’d come any later, we wouldn’t have been able to get seats anywhere. Beer is served in one size, a liter, and you also have some traditional German/Bavarian meals to choose from to go with your beer. Pretzel sellers stalk the beer tents, too, along with a few other merchants trying to get drunk people to make questionable purchases (the stereotypical felt hat, for example). Someone will occasionally stand up on their bench with a fresh Maß (liter of beer) and attempt to drink it all in one go. If he succeeds (yes, he, no woman are attempting this), the whole room cheers. If he fails, everyone boos and throw pretzel pieces at him. Dunked in beer. Do not sit in the line of fire.

We walked the Wiese a few hours later before choosing another tent after trying and failing to catch sight of any celebrities. Every ten minutes or so the band inside plays “Ein Prosit”, the song about cheering your neighbor and taking a big drink. I think this is an attempt to get people to drink their beers faster, and to feel left out if they don’t have one. Everybody sings along.

Other music choices include the typical German “Oompah” music, some popular German hits, and some American oldies. For example, I heard Hey Jude, YMCA, and the Summer of ’69 all once during the last 3 hours, and Country Roads twice. By late in the evening, everyone is standing on the table benches to dance and sing, because there’s not enough room to actually dance on the floor. People were milling between tables, trying to find bench space, and introducing themselves over and over again. It seemed like someone from every country in Europe was there, and the only word you really needed to know how to say was “Prost!”

At the end of the night, my roommate and I said goodbye- neither of us particularly like beer, or standing on benches, or getting squished by complete strangers- and head out to catch the last train home… Which was cancelled. Fortunately, the one before it was 45 minutes late, so we managed to get on that one, and made it back to the apartment some time after midnight. I almost snuck a Stein out for a souvenir- I feel like the eleven Euros would have justified it- but it was simply too big.

It was kind of fun experience, and I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve been to Oktoberfest. Would I go again? Meh. Haven’t made up my mind yet.

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