The day before I left for Germany, my German friend from class made me promise her three things:
- 1. To eat as many pretzels as possible
- 2. Not to mess with the security guards
- 3. To remember that not all Germans are as crazy as the hundreds I would see at Oktoberfest
Having planned this trip many months ago, it was one trip I had highly anticipated and was practically mandatory for any American student studying abroad in Europe in the fall. The weekend definitely lived up to and exceeded all of my expectations and I was so glad that I got the chance to experience such a crazy scene. In addition to my German friends rules, my friends and I had also heard some American rules of our own:
1.) Cram as many people as possible into one hotel room.
We definitely followed this rule- cramming 5 people into our 2 person hotel room. However, we were surprised to see a king bed as we had all gotten used to the standard tiny twin beds that are typical to Europe. We were able to fit 4 girls in one bed, no problem. A little awkward when the 2 of us when to check in and asked to leave 5 bags of luggage... but it worked out fine.
2.) Go to the Hofbrau Tent.
There are 14 beer tents spread out along the huge Oktoberfest fairground and each is sponsored by a different brand of German beer. Most of them have different stereotypes for the people that attend their tent. The Hofbrau, or "HB", tent is known as the international/American tent and is the one that all of the American students look forward to. It is also one of the biggest tents and has a huge raised stage where a band played American rock music, mixed with the occasional German chant, all day long.
3.) Get to the tents as early as possible.
The doors to the beer tents don't open until 9am, but in order to form our 'Richmond' block of tables and to make sure we could all get seats, we had to get to the fair grounds at 7am to get a spot in line outside of the tent. Still dark out, we waited both Friday and Saturday morning in a crowd of people (mostly American college students) to be the first ones in. When the doors finally did open, there was a mad rush to find tables near your friends. Once the two minutes of panic and chaos ended, we waited, again. The beers were not served until 10:30am which yes, seems aggressively early to start working your way through a 5 pound beer, but we had already been awake and in line for what seemed like days and were anxious to get the experience started. The time passed quickly filled with our first of many giant pretzels (they are even better than they look) and catching up with all of our friends. And then the beer came. The whole tent (at least 2,000 people at this point) erupted into cheers as the beer ladies made their first rounds. I am still in awe at how the beer girls are able to carry so many beers. My hand was sore for days after holding just one and these ladies carry 8 or 10, continuously, all day long. The tent began to fill even more as the day went on and we were definitely glad that we had listened to rule #3 and gotten there early. Inside the tents was pretty overwhelming- the beer ladies who were trying to deliver beer and food had whistles that they would continuously blow to push their way through the crowd. And if you didn't get out of their way they would have no problem shoving you aside or just hit you in the head with their food tray. Vendors lined the sides of the tent selling food and souvenirs. In addition to the music being played, every 20 minutes or so a brave person (mostly men) would take a full beer stein, stand on top of their table and attempt to chug the entire beer. This would quickly attract the attention of the whole tent and everyone would cheer them on- screaming if they were able to finish it, booing if they couldn't.
4.) Try a" Radler".
The beer that the beer ladies were carrying around was all the standard HB draft. However, you could ask to order different types of beer and they would bring it to you. One of the types you could order was called a Radler and was half beer, half lemonade. Although sounding kind of disgusting when I first heard about it, I was very pleasantly surprised. By mid-day it got pretty hot inside the beer tents and a Radler was just the refreshing drink that I wanted.
5.) Go on the Flying Swings. (BEFORE you have many beers)
In addition to the beer tents, there are tons of fair-like activities: games, shops, food vendors and lots of big rides. I had heard from many people who had been to Oktoberfest in the past that I had to go on the flying swings because you get elevated high into the air and can see all of the fair grounds and some of the city as well. I was definitely glad that I took the suggestion and the swings were lots of fun and although it wasn't a very nice day out, it gave us a great view of the city.
And then my German friends rules..
- Eat as many pretzels as possible
I definitely took this suggestion to heart as I found myself eating pretzels for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were delicious. Enough said.
- Don't mess with the security guards
I kind of just laughed when she originally told me this but I quickly could see what she meant. The guards were SO aggressive and scary. I understand that they had to be all around and had to be tough and not put up with any drunk people but I think they were a little power hungry and took things to an extreme. I literally saw them dragging people out by their necks and throwing them onto the ground outside. They were all huge and had tattoos and were really intimidating too.
We went to the tents both Friday and Saturday and explored the fair grounds as well, and unfortunately I had to leave Sunday morning so wasn't able to see any of the actual city. But the weekend was definitely worth all of the hype and I can see why everyone says it is a necessity if you are abroad.