Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oktoberfest in Munich

September 25-27, 2009

Finally, we have the opportunity to go to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. The one that All other Oktoberfest celebrations are modeled after, the original. Since we waited so late to start planning our trip (only 4 months in advance) almost all but the most expensive hotels and hostels were fully booked. We found the only cheap option left available in Munich, a campground. So we each reserved a tent at the camp and prayed it didn't rain. It did not. In fact, the weather was wonderful the whole weekend. It did get pretty cold at night (around 50), but the days were sunny and warm, and most importantly dry.

Erin, Jake, Anna, Chad and I decided to get train tickets because we couldn't bear the thought of spending 8+ hours in a car. Toyer and Dayrina drove. Our first adventure came Friday morning when we found that the first leg of our trip from Rotterdam to Venlo was cancelled due to an accident on the tracks. So, we had to scramble and get a new itinerary from the ticket office which routed us another direction, with 3 additional train changes. Luckily it only put us in Munich 2 hours later than our original itinerary. However, because we were on a new train, we also did not have our original assigned seats for the 4 hr leg from Dusseldorf to Munich. So we had to switch seats often as people kept kicking us out when they had reservations. We ended sitting on the floor in one of the doorways. But, we had beer, so all was good.

After getting checked into our tents, we made it to the Oktoberfest festival around 8 or 9. I was immediately impressed by the size of the festival. I had pictured more of a county fair type of atmosphere (albeit much bigger). But this was essentially a full amusement park, with rides and games, attached to row after row of gigantic beer tents. These "tents" were more like semi-permanent structures that could seat up to 7-8,000 people inside, and around 3,000 outside. They were massive. Each had a different theme of sorts, so it was interesting to see how the buildings were decorated. And, since we arrived late at night, there were large masses of drunken people stumbling around. Many of them in the traditional Bavarian clothing.

When we finally found Toyer and Dayrina, they were needless to say, a bit drunk, as they had been at it since around noon. We grabbed a table outside at the Augustiner beer garden and enjoyed our first Mass (liter) of beer. I think it worked out well for us that we had a short night on Friday, because it allowed us to get up bright and early Saturday for the big full day ahead. The plan was to leave the campground at 7:30 am, so we could get to the festival by 8 am. Since we did not have reservations in any of the large beer tents, we needed to get there early to get in line for the non-reserved seats. I was surprised at how many people were awake and getting dressed up in the campground at 7 am. Guess they had the same idea as we did.

Saturday was an amazing & fun day. We ended up getting there around 8:45, and we really lucked out by getting in to the Hofbrauhaus beer tent and finding a spot at the standing tables. I was really excited that we got into this tent, because Christy and I had visited the beer garden when we had been in Munich back in 2002.
If we had arrived even 15 minutes later we wouldn't have had a spot at the table. Our first liters of beer were served at 9:08 am (as documented by the picture of Jake's watch), and by 11:15, we had declared ourselves tipsy. ;) Being inside the tent was an awesome experience. There are close to 7-8,000 people inside, between the standing areas, seated tables, and balconies. One section would start chanting or singing, or holding up their glasses in a Prost, and it would soon spread through the entire tent.

The Bavarian band came on stage around 11:00 and played the usual selection of Bavarian music, intermixed with some modern songs such as Country Roads (of course), Hey Baby, and others. Every 15-30 minutes or so (I don't know exactly how often because time was a blur), they would do a group toast singing "Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit... etc" everyone would hold up their glass and cheer. We also ate good food in the tent, including sandwiches, giant pretzels, and the best half a roasted chicken you will ever taste! When we finally decided we had had enough of standing in the tent (which was getting hotter and smokier as the day went on), we rolled out into the daylight. We found Tim and his fiancé, and Dayrina and Toyer, and we decided to leave the festival grounds and go to a quieter grassy area to enjoy one more liter and some food. This would be the last stop of the day for Chad and I, as we retired quite early at 6:30 once Chad's liver delivered the important message to his brain that said "This is it, I am done."

On Sunday we met up with Anna's friend Sabina, who lives outside of Munich. We ate a nice German lunch, then walked through Marienplatz (where the Glockenspiel is) to the train station to catch our train. We were very thankful at that point that we could get on a train to go back home, instead of driving for so many hours. The girls played Rummikub for the entire 4 hr leg from Munich to Dusseldorf, and the guys slept, read, and actually had a beer. We were all pretty tired on our last hours on the train, but we had fun laughing at ourselves.

After our time in the beer tent on Saturday, we were fully satisfied with our Oktoberfest experience. It was more fun than we had hoped it would be. I don't know if we will go back to the huge festival in Munich again, but we may look into going to a smaller town in Bavaria and experiencing a more "local" type of festival. We'll see. It's too soon to tell, for now we are just enjoying the memories and the funny pictures from this year.


Pics from Oktoberfest: