My journey to Oktoberfest began at 3am on Thursday the 17th. I hadn’t really slept the night before because I was so excited to get this adventure started. I walked downstairs with my friend Colleen around 3:45 to meet Becca and Kat and the taxi that was going to take us to the airport. We arrived there at about 4:30 because there was no traffic at all, which is a rare thing in Rome. Going through security was a breeze and we found our gate and camped out there for the two hours before our flight. The flight was only 90 minutes long which wasn’t bad at all! We landed in Munich around 9:15 and figured out the subway system so we could get to our hotel. Kat has been to Munich before and without her I don’t think this weekend would have been a success without her there to guide us. It was so weird to be in a country where I wasn’t able to read any of the signs or speak the language. I can read and speak Italian and if I can’t fully understand something I usually use context clues to figure it out. We got on the subway to get to our hotel and when we got there we were informed that we couldn’t check in until 2:00, but they were able to hold our luggage for us. After we changed into fresh clothes, we decided to head to the Englischer Garten which is a huge park in Munich and it also has the 2nd largest biergarten in the world, which of course we checked out. Before we got on the subway, there was a bit of a mishap which could have been much worse than it was. The subway system in Munich is similar to that of New York, but some of the trains are older and have old fashion doors. On some you have to physically pull a handle and open the door, unlike in New York where they open automatically, regardless if people get on or off. The train pulled up and we couldn’t figure out why the doors didn’t automatically open and we looked down to the next car and watched a women open the door so we did the same. Thinking we had more than 15 seconds to get on the train, we took our time to open the door. Suddenly the door started to close and two of us were on the train, but two of us were still on the platform. Logically, I stuck my foot in the door thinking that there was sensor that would force the doors back open, but boy was I wrong… My foot was now caught in the door of a train that was seconds from pulling out of the station. I can’t even clearly remember what happened but, I do remember that I twisted my foot a bit in the door and somehow it came out. No more than 2 seconds later the subway pulled away with Becca and Kat on it and Colleen and I standing on the platform. We couldn’t help but laugh at what had happened and how it all happened in slow motion. I remembered that the station we had to get off at began with a G so I was sort of confident in my sense of direction and our destination. Colleen and I got on the next train and lucky for us Becca and Kat were waiting at the next stop.
We got to the garden and walked around to try and find the biergarten. Around 11:30 we were all hungry so we made our way over there and grabbed some lunch. It was a big outdoor buffet and you could pick whatever you wanted to eat. They had many different kinds of wursts, potatoes, salads, snacks, and drinks. I got a bratwurst and potatoes wedges. It was more expensive that I had expected, but it was really good. There weren’t a lot of people there which was surprising to me for lunch time, but my friend Kat told me that Germans don’t usually eat lunch until about 2:00.
After lunch, we walked over to the lake in the park. It was so nice to just sit there for a bit and admire the beauty of the park and the quiet. The water was so clear and we could even see huge fish swimming around. It was such a change from Rome and once again I was happy to see grass and not have constant city noise in the background. Let’s just say I felt like I fit in more in Munich than I do in Rome. Munich is more my speed; it is very clean, the fashion is similar to American fashion, and it just seemed quieter. There were people on bikes everywhere and they have designated lanes for bike riders and if you don’t get out of their way they get angry. While walking around the lake I watched a German Shepherd jump into the lake for a swim, and I couldn’t help but think about my own dog and what he would have done with such a big body of water in front of him. It was finally 2:00, so we decided to head back to the hotel and take a quick nap nap, which turned into us passing out for two hours. Thursday was Colleen’s birthday so we let her pick where we went to eat that night and we ended up at a Mexican restaurant (yes a Mexican restaurant in Munich). It was a very dark and loud place, but it was really good. After, we decided to wander around to try and find a bar where there would be other students, but we didn’t end up finding it and went back to the hotel because we were all exhausted.
On Friday we all slept in and then headed back into Marienplatz to do some shopping and to walk around a bit. Marienplatz or Mary’s Square is in the heart of Munich and that’s also where the Glockenspiel is. It was drizzling and a little chilly, but we didn’t care. It was a nice change from the heat of Rome. We stopped at a little cafe for lunch and the waitress was very helpful in translating the menu for us. After lunch, we went shopping and there was an H&M every 500 feet and they were all different. I ended up buying a sweater because I hadn’t really packed anything heavy enough for the cool Munich evenings. I decided that I should reward myself with a famous German pretzel and it did not disappoint!
Soon it was 5:00 and we just happened to walk through Marienplatz on our way to an ATM and the Glockenspiel was chiming and the figures were dancing at the top. All of the tourists had their selfie sticks and GoPros out in an attempt to get a cool picture. That evening, we went had some halal food for dinner, which was cheap, but really good! We then headed over to the Hofbrauhaus which is a very famous, 3-story beer hall. The atmosphere inside was amazing! There were people seated at every table enjoying each others company and of course the liter of beer that was in front of them. Traditional German songs were being sung by anyone who knew the words and even if you didn’t know the words you tried to sing along. Some nice men saw us walking around trying to find seat and they waved us over and we sat with them for a few hours and then made our way outside to the outdoor seating. My friend Colleen started talking to an man out there and he mentioned that he was from New Jersey so of course I had to ask him where and he said Lodi! Who would have thought I would meet someone that lived so close to me back at home during Oktoberfest in Munich?! I honestly can’t believe that I finished a whole liter of beer by myself. My dad would always let me try his and I never liked it, but the beer in Germany tastes a bit different. Soon it was late and we headed back to the hotel. The whole subway ride back we were trying to decide whether or not we should leave really early to get a spot in a tent or leave a bit later and just got with the flow. After a little back and forth we decided to leave later and see what would happen.
Saturday was the big day! The first day of Oktoberfest! Once again we got on the subway and arrived at the festival grounds at around 10:15. We went into a few of the tents just to see what they were like and a few of them were already full of revelers, even though the first beer wasn’t to be poured until noon. There were also a bunch of rides and games, which was something I didn’t expect to see at all. And of course there were food vendors everywhere. To enter some of the tents you needed a reservation and we discovered later that people or companies pay upwards of $1,000 dollars two years in advance just to get a table. There was a tent owners and breweries parade set to kick off at 10:45 so we decided to watch. Each brewery had a very nicely decorated cart full of wooden kegs that was pulled by four or six horses. The carts would then turn into their designated tents and wait for the mayor to tap the first keg at noon. There were also a few carts that had people on them, some of them were probably important people in Munich, but of course I had no idea who they were. At noon the mayor tapped the first keg and Oktoberfest was off and running. When we first got there we noticed a nice looking biergarten so we walked back there to grab a beer and mingle a bit.
It was nice to be able to do whatever we wanted without being tied down to a table in one of the tents. Throughout the day we went to three different biergartens, ate too much food, and then around 5 tried to get a seats in the Paulaner Brewery tent and we were surprisingly very successful! After walking around in the tent for about 10 minutes we noticed two benches that had a few spots open and we rushed over to take them. When I say this tent was huge, I mean it was HUGE and filled with people from all over the world. I have never experienced anything like it in my life.
German music was played by a live band and everyone was singing along. Some of the songs and the German toast song “Ein Prosit” were the same ones that were played at Hofbrauhaus, so we had heard them before and did our best to sing along. By the end of the weekend the song was stuck in my head and still is! I was also amazed by the waitresses and their ability to carry 8 steins at once and not spill anything! Since we had an early flight we decided to head back to the hotel around 9:00, but we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything because we had spent the whole day there and had a great time!
Exactly 2 months ago I bought my plane ticket to Munich to spend a weekend at Oktoberfest with three other girls I had only talked to on Facebook, but I’m so glad I did! They are some of the nicest, most down to earth people I have met here and I feel like we’ll be even better friends by the end of the semester. I know it’s a big thing to say, but this might just have been one of the best weekends of my life.
Next stop: FIRENZE!