Surviving and Thriving: Oktoberfest

Munich, Germany is known for many things. It is one of the gay bar capitals of the world, has really famous and delicious Weisswurst, and is the third largest city in Germany.

Okay let’s be honest, though, the only thing Munich is actually supremely famous for is being home to the largest beer festival in the world known as “Oktoberfest.”

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest is one of the most celebrated Bavarian traditions that offers steins filled with 2 pints worth of authentic German beers, pretzels as big as your head, and a Bratwurst around every corner.

steiny.jpg

For size reference, please compare my head and these very larger beers.

Each year over 6 million people attend Oktoberfest, and approximately 220 of those people are Wake Forest University students. I have had this trip planned for months because it is somewhat of an unspoken tradition for people from Wake to meet up from their respective countries.

Arriving at the Munich airport, I quickly met up with a friend and we encountered the tricky task of figuring out the German underground. Deciphering the underground in a foreign country is difficult, but when every single station name is something like “Wettersteinplatz” or “Garching-Forschungszentrum,” it adds a fun new layer to reaching your destination.

munich underground

Simple, right?

After getting on two of the wrong trains, we realized that the trick to getting anywhere near Oktoberfest, and subsequently our Airbnb, was to get to Halpenhoff Station. Halpenhoff is one of the most important stations in Munich, so if you ask anyone where it is they will most likely know.

My pal and I decided that the best course of action for our Thursday in Munich would be to scope out the festival before all of our friends arrived so that we would have a good grasp of what was to come that weekend.

My first sight of Oktoberfest brought me back to my childhood; 10 years old again, on my way to an amusement park in New Jersey with my dad. This was not exactly the case considering that the entirety of this festival centers around getting drunk off of beer and almost everyone is smoking cigarettes, but you get the gist of my comparison.

hofbrau

Just some casual beers with a couple of friends, nothing too crazy.

There were massive carnival rides, a countless number of aromatic food stands selling candied nuts and foot long sausages, and everyone was decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls.

The Hofbräu tent is typically frequented the most by students from Wake Forest, so we took a peek inside and were not disappointed. The ‘tent,’ which is more of a moderately sized building, contains hundreds of long picnic tables where people can drink their steins and have good times all day long.

With excitement for the next day mounting, but exhaustion from a day of travel setting in, we went in search for a late night dinner and were pleased to find a magnificent Burger King. After chowing down on our healthy and authentic German meals (I am entirely kidding, we both got double cheeseburgers and fries), we settled in for a short night of rest before a 5:30 am wake up.

Oktoberfest Tip: Do the 5:30 am wake up.

It will be miserable peeling yourself out of a warm bed and rising before the sun has had a chance to even peek up through the sky, but just grit your teeth, put on your dirndl, take a shot, and get your ass in line.

By the time we got into line at 7:30 am, there were already about 200 people in front of us. We waited patiently until all of a sudden, an official-looking man blew a whistle and started beckoning for us to enter.

You would’ve thought there were free bags full of money and puppies and everything good in the world inside by the speed at which every young adult around me was running. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I managed to keep up with my peers and be one of the first to reach the Hofbräu tent, pushed and elbowed by other people claiming that their friends were lost and alone at the front. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book and should not fool you for one second so stand your ground.

At 10 AM, the doors opened and all hell broke lose. College students were hurdling tables and using their bodies as human placeholders to save spots for their cohorts. Beer began sloshing and it only took about 2 minutes for someone to stand on a table and chug their entire stein.

Overwhelmed, but exhilarated, I ordered my first stein and went to work saying hi to every one of my peers that had been jet-setting the world for the past month. It was wonderful to see everyone, but it also felt as if I were at a more upscale, more expensive fraternity. At the end of the two days, I can honestly say that Oktoberfest was one of the best times of my life.

After this draining and unique experience, there are several tips that I feel obligated to tell any future festers:

1. Only bring a little bit of money.

If you are like me and get caught up in the hype of any kind of exciting event, Oktoberfest can be dangerous territory for your wallet. I would recommend only bringing about 30 euros each day because a stein is 11 euros and most of the food is 5-6 euros, so this leaves you with the opportunity to get two steins, a hearty lunch, and maybe even a water bottle.

2. Wear the authentic German clothing.

You may think that dirndls and lederhosen are weird, but in this case YOU will be the weird one if you are not wearing one. Plus, it is very fun and oddly flattering.

dirdl

See? Look how happy these two random people are as they run through a meadow in their dirndl and lederhosen!

3. Ride at least one ride

All of the rides at Oktoberfest are ridiculously expensive and typically I would say to avoid them altogether, but I went on the swings and, I won’t deny it, they were incredible. Going up on the swings gave me the opportunity to see all of Munich, which I had not gotten the chance to do considering most of my 3 days there were spent inside the tent or napping at my Airbnb.

swings.jpg

If you look realllllllly closely and squint really hard, you might be able to see me screaming in joy.

4. Keep your phone on airplane mode as much as possible

Unless you are expecting a very important text or trying to meet up with someone, the best move is to keep your phone on airplane mode. When your phone is not on airplane mode and you have Wifi turned on, your phone will constantly be searching for Wifi to connect to and that drains its battery. With so many people in one place, your phone will be working so hard to connect that it will dead by 1 pm.

5. Wear really comfortable shoes (that you are okay with getting dirty)

The most outrageous thing that I saw at Oktoberfest was not the man passed out on the ground with a half-eaten bratwurst or the entirely legal cocaine looking powder being sold everywhere (called Wiesn koks). The most outrageous thing was a girl wearing 5-inch heels proudly walking into the slippery tent, who would inevitably be standing for the next four hours. Please, do yourself a favor and wear a pair of sneakers or converse so that you can enjoy the festival without thinking about how bad your feet hurt.

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