Going to Oktoberfest this weekend has not only been the highlight of my study abroad experience thus far, but it was also one of my favorite weekends ever. Saturday was absolutely amazing: I was fortunate enough to travel to an absolutely beautiful city – München – and I got to go there with my friends to one of the largest festivals in the world. But I won’t gush anymore over last weekend, instead I will just let you know what all we did!
Our trip started Friday morning with us getting up at five thirty so we could be get out the door and to the airport to catch our flight. While it was definitely an early morning, it wasn’t long before we were in the air and on our way to Memmigen, a small town about an hour and a half by bus outside of München, which was way cheaper to fly into. I won’t bore you with the details of the airports and bussing into München, but I will tell you how cool it was landing in München. As soon as we walked off the plane it was clear we weren’t in an English speaking country anymore (though most Germans speak fluent English). I know that is a really obvious thing to say, but it was absolutely surreal to see countless phrases written in a language I’ve been learning. In all honesty, even just reading the simplest ads in German was exciting for me. It’s cool for all those hours studying a foreign language to pay off when you actually get to use it.
The real fun started when we got into München. The bus dropped us off at the train station, and it was clear right away that we were in Germany. Pretzel venders were everywhere! And there was lederhosen displayed in every shop window! We knew right away, that we were in for an amazing weekend. After we got off the bus we found our hotel, which was only a block away, and we checked into our room. Our room was incredibly nice. After we checked into our hotel we decided to go exploring. We walked from our hotel to the Marienplatz, which is the central square in the city, and has been since 1158. While in the area we were able to see the Jesuit Church of St. Michael, the Frauenkirche and the Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel tower. We also tried to find the Hofbrauhaus but we were unsuccessful, though we did stumble across a farmer’s market near the Marienplatz. This farmer’s market was huge and incredible, and apparently it happens everyday, which is pretty cool. When we were in the farmer’s market we heard someone calling our names, and sure enough, it was a fellow Georgetown classmate of ours! She is studying in Italy and without even knowing it we all ran into each other in the center of München. Below is a picture of the Neues Rathaus.
After this chance meeting, our friend had to leave and we we figured we had to go get some authentic Bavarian garb for the fest, so we found a cheap (compared to the stores) vender outside the train and bus station and got some clothes. We weren’t sure how many people were going to wear Bavarian garb, but it turned out to be a good call, because it seemed as though at least half of those at the fest were wearing either lederhosen or a dirndl (the girl’s dress). After our Bavarian garb shopping, we decided it was time to eat. We had all had a pretzel upon arriving in München, but now we wanted a real German dinner. The first restaurant we tried was totally booked, which isn’t hard to believe given the sheer number of people who arrive in München for Oktoberfest. The second place we went to had space though. The server sat us with an elderly couple, who were from München. How do I know this? Because I spoke with them in German, which again, was just amazing! It’s pretty awesome to be able to study a language and then go speak in that language to complete strangers. I had the Bavarian Sauerbraten which came with potato dumplings, cabbage, and cole-slaw. It was absolutely delicious. I finished most of my food (only the cabbage was left). Now, being totally stuffed, we walked back to our hotel to get ready to go to Oktoberfest on Saturday.
We woke up on Saturday at about 7 AM so we could get to the fest early to make sure we got into Schottenhaml, the tent where Oktoberfest starts. Schottenhaml is where by tradition, the Mayor of München taps the first keg, and right afterwards the servers begin to bring out the Beer Steins. It is precisely because this is where the festival starts, that we decided to go here. We were a bit worried at first because the line was huge! But we managed to get into the tent and sit down with our fellow Georgetown classmates, who had arrived from Italy, Hungary, Scotland and England all to experience Oktoberfest. We got into the tent by 10, and since the Mayor didn’t tap the first keg until 12, we started by drinking water and eating. The traditional white sausage was served, but I opted for the currywurst. A giant brat covered in a curry sauce served with a roll. It was amazing, which is a bit unnerving, because I’m afraid American brats just won’t measure up now. When the mayor finally did arrive the tent was incredibly anxious. It was clear everyone wanted their steins of beer, and that they wanted them now. The mayor kept his talk pretty short though and within about ten minutes of his arrival, the first keg was tapped. Soon, the waiters were each carrying about 10 steins out of the kitchen at one time. Each waiter seemed to be able to carry at least 12 steins. five in each hand, with one balanced on top of those five. It was nothing short of impressive. After this we really spent the rest of the afternoon talking, meeting new people, including Canadians, Germans (who I spoke in German with), Dutch, Australians, Italians and many other people. Everyone was very friendly and just wanted to enjoy the fest. We were kicked out of the tent at 3, because everyone without a reservation is kicked out at 3, because they want to give others the opportunity to come inside and sit down, as well as bring in new people to drink and spend money. After this we walked to another small beer garden which we stayed at briefly, and then we eventually got into the beer garden of one of the larger tents where I spoke for a while in German with a girl from München. After staying here for a while, we made our way back to our hotel to crash, as we had been at Oktoberfest from 8:30 AM until 9:00 PM, which was a long day, but an amazing day. Oh and on top of all the delicious German beer (Paulaner, Franziskaner, Spaten) we had even more German food! We ate candied walnuts, Bratwursts with Sauerkraut and of course, more pretzels! No words can do the day justice though, it was an absolutely amazing one of a kind experience.
On Sunday, we woke up at about 8 and proceeded to get moving, for we had to catch a bus back to our airport at about 11:45. We didn’t have too much time so we tried to go back to the farmer’s market for breakfast only to discover nobody was there. So instead we found a German chain store that had baked goods and coffee. I got an Apple Strudel and like all the other German food we had eaten, it was delicious. We all enjoyed our breakfast while just sitting overlooking the Marienplatz, which was a pretty cool experience. It was also drastically different compared to friday, because Friday it was packed with people, almost shoulder to shoulder at certain points, but Sunday was a different story. The square was nearly empty because people were either at Oktoberfest or they were still sleeping off their visit to Oktoberfest from the day before! We tried to find the Hofbrauhaus again, but we couldn’t find it. Not due to a lack of effort though, but due to a parade running right in front of us! We were sad we had to go catch our bus back, because the parade looked like it would have been a lot of fun to watch. But, we had to make our flight, so soon enough we were back on the bus, and even later we were back on the plane to Dublin (for those curious, the flight from Dublin to Memmigen was only about 2 hours).
Both Oktoberfest and München were amazing! München was a beautiful city and I hope to go back there and explore more of it. As far as Oktoberfest, I only hope that I am fortunate enough to go back there one day.
Below is me in the morning at the entrance to Oktoberfest (you don’t have to pay to get onto the grounds or into the tents, you only have to pay for food and drink – though you can reserve a table in a tent for a few hours if you do so far enough in advance, and this costs money.)
Below is our tent from the morning and afternoon, though I’m not sure tent is an appropriate term for it given its size! Schottenhamel can hold 10,000 people.
Below is a photo of me with some steins!
And below is a photo of the exit sign.