I just got back from Oktoberfest, and to be honest, I think I’m still on an Oktoberfest high. I don’t know that this article can even attempt to do justice to what is Oktoberfest. In the first part of this Oktoberfest “series” I talked about what imagined Oktoberfest to be like, one huge fraternity party. And, after having returned, I’m afraid my expectation was not completely accurate. Certainly, there were aspects that reminded me of a Saturday afternoon tailgate at Sigma Chi, but there were plenty of things that didn’t. Like I had expected, the drinking and singing and dancing at 9:00 am happened immediately and no one even seemed to notice that it was 9:00 am, like many fraternity tailgates I have been to.
I was told by my tour leaders that if you want to get a table in one of the tents you needed to line up early. The gates officially opened at 9:00 am, but I found myself in line with hundreds of other people by 7:30. It was fun to see that many people lined up and waiting to do something so simple as drink beer. Once they opened the gate, the crowd started rushing toward the entrance and once inside the gate, everyone made a beeline for the beer tents. I, not being in great shape, was definitely the weakest link of the group, and I was really glad that no one was putting their faith in me to get a table for our group. Lucky for me, and the other slowpokes, some of our guy friends had played American Football in college and were both fitter and more skilled at running through crowds of people with one destination in mind, than the rest of us. As soon as we sat down, the beer started flowing and before we knew it we had downed one, two, or three steins. The atmosphere in the tent, we spent our day in Hofbrau Tent, was electric. As people stood on the table to chug a stein, the whole tent erupted in cheers and applause. Like I said, the atmosphere is truly hard to describe, and something you have to see to believe.
After a few hours in the tent, I ventured outside to get some lunch and explore the rides. In my opinion, the fair rides are the biggest aspect that separates Oktoberfest from a fraternity tailgate (or at last the ones I have been too). Outside the tent, it felt like the North Carolina State Fair on steroids. There were so many different rides and food stalls surrounding the beer tents I was a bit overwhelmed by the options. My friends and I opted for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, thinking that riding a roller coaster after drinking 2 steins was not the best idea. I would 10/10 recommend the Ferris Wheel because it gives you a great view of the whole festival and it moves slowly, preventing any nausea from the obscene amounts of beer you will have drank by that time. We then made our way to one of the many food stalls and enjoyed some traditional German sausages, of which I had no clue there were so many different types. I felt so “German” as I stood there in my traditional German dirndl eating a German sausage and drinking a German beer! The rest of the day was spent wandering around the festival, drinking MORE beer, and chilling on the infamous “hill.” I never learned what the name of this hill was, or even if it had one, but it was located behind the Hofbrau tent and by midday was filled with people laying, falling, and sitting outside taking a break from the beer. Before I knew it, it was already 9:00 pm and I decided I should return back to my hostel as I had been at the festival for over 12 hours at that point.
Aside from the festival itself, Munich is such a cool city and has a lot to offer. I mentioned in the last article that I was excited to explore the city during our bike tour on Friday, and I was shocked by how much I loved the city. The whole culture seemed so relaxed and the buildings themselves were a unique mix of modern and traditional architecture. My favorite part though was the amount of green space and parks that are located right in the city center. I think living in Florence, where trees are pretty much non-existent, has made me realize how nice it is to have grass and trees around. We rode through so many little parks and even stopped at the famous English Garden for lunch and beer during our bike tour! There were so many people relaxing on the banks along the river and I decided that I definitely wanted to come back to Munich in the Spring to experience the city in warmer weather.
All in all, my trip to Munich and Oktoberfest will definitely be the highlight of my fall semester. And don’t worry, if you are studying abroad in the Spring, Munich hosts a smaller scale type festival called “Springfest,” and the company I went with, Smart Trip, student travel tour operator, offers the same trip I took last weekend to Springfest. If you are spending any time in Europe during one of these two festivals, you cannot miss the best combination of a fraternity tailgate and a State Fair that Europe has to offer!