I lifted my head to hearing the obnoxiously loud pots and pans through my thin thin tent walls. It was freezing, wet, and muddy. Time to put on a short sleeved dress! I barely made it all the way to the bathroom, pretty sure I may or may not (definitely was) still a little drunk from the night before. Strangely, those two hours of restless and cold sleep without water or food didn’t get rid me of the alcohol in my system. One day my body will work the way I need it to. Walking towards the breakfast line, shivering and partially sleeping, I realize it’s about 100 people long and we as a group refused to not get into a beer tent today as it was the last Saturday of Oktoberfest. The biggest day of all. We skipped breakfast, which would prove to be a poor decision later on but seemed right at the time. We took the bus to the train to the festival. Marched like cattle towards the Hofbrau tent with the other dirndls and lederhosen (and the properly dressed people with jackets and pants and scarves and hats that I gave the death stare to because didn’t you know the experience isn’t complete until you’ve suffered to look authentic?) We arrived to the side of the ‘tent’, which is really a giant well established building with bathrooms and kitchens and many closed doors guarded by large angry German men. It was 7am. Doors only open at 9am. I still haven’t eaten and can start to feel the feeling of, ‘holy shit. I need bread now or else these couple hundred people are in for a show that no one wants to see.’ This feeling was heightened by the drunk girl climbing over tables we all scowled at who eventually threw up 4 feet from me. Time moved at a glacial pace and the only thing I could repeat to my friends was ‘I really need a pretzel.’
When 9 finally (finally, finally) rolled around, we, like the cattle that we are, funneled ourselves into the doors so packed that my feet were occasionally lifted from the ground and I was carried by the crowd. Once past the doors it was a free for all – everyone running every which way in order to get a table and seats for friends. We found a nice little area where we all fit and even found some hilarious and non-english speaking Italians to chant the Bevo song with. The beer maids with their bionic hands carried out 5 steins in each hand and pretzels larger than my head. Never was I happier to see a giant, hard, soft pretzel in my life. We start to drink, chant songs, cheer the people who are brave enough to stand on tables and chug their whole steins, booing those who can’t finish.
What a happy 2 hours it was. At 11am after leaving the area for the bathroom, I realize we’re sitting somewhere that has reservations for 11. I stroll in and notify the group saying we have to leave here and find a new table to sit at. Why, let’s casually stroll out and look for another seat, you might think. Nay. Rather than that easy idea, large terrifying German gaurds with whistles begin screaming at the whole area that we have to go out the door on the wall closest, go around to the other side and come back in, we can’t simply take the three steps to the exit of the area, but MUST go around the outside. It’s now pouring outside. I’m cursing myself for walking past the windows earlier and slightly giggling at the people who didn’t get in yet, in the rain, some with and some without umbrellas looking like the lost souls of beer festivals. I look over and see two of my friends jump the little fence of our area into the main section without being detected. Being nearly 6’0 tall, sneaky is rarely my strong suit. We go outside into the rain and realize it won’t be as easy as they made it seem. There’s a mass of about 200 people all trying to get into the door they told us to enter, some waiting for almost two hours in the rain. I find a different guard, try to run across to him, step down off a bench and slip on the wet wood of the ground. Now I’m in a puddle trying to plead my sober case to a German guard who speaks not a lick of English or Italian. I take myself and my now wet and dirty dirndl back into line. After 30 minutes, a door opens and we all rush towards it. Two of us get in, three of us are still left in the rain, staring in the window like orphans on Thanksgiving Day. Refusing to be beat by this angry guard, I go around to the back door where the bathrooms are. An Irish girl informs me that you have to have a stamp on your hand to get in at all. I have no stamp. Somehow I charm her into licking her stamped hand and slamming it onto mine – doesn’t look great but it’s raining so at least I can use that excuse. Finally, I get back in. Now I’m alone without a working cell phone scanning the room of 10,000 drunk people in the same outfits.
By some stroke of luck, which is rare for me, I find half of my friends. We drink, we laugh, and I thank god I’m not stuck in the cold rain any longer. I later find myself outside again and a stranger with broken English picks me up, swings me over a fence and ushers me back inside after about 40 minutes of trying to get back in with a stamp. Thank you strange man who disappeared 7 minutes later. The day continues on, drinking stein after stein, making Austrian, German, Portuguese, and Belgian friends, eating a whole roasted chicken (which later resurfaced sadly), and dancing and singing on tables. I nearly became one of the brave souls to stand on the table and chug my stein which really would have put the icing on the cake for the day, but I realized the sheer humiliation of not finishing and being booed by 10,000 people was worse than the glory was good. At around 10pm, we’re all moving slowly, singing in a barely audible tone, and juuust barely sipping our steins. We decided to head home after a nice drunken ride on the ferris wheel. I was able to snag a stein from the tent, hidden under my dirndl. The rest of the night involved a terrible cheeseburger which I believe I found two bones in at the campsite, more beer that I begrudgingly drank, and more talk of birthing calves with the Irish farmer. Patrick was always nearby when I needed a good conversation.
I’ve always been a beer girl. And thinking back to how many times I must have said, “If only I could go to Oktoberfest once in my life, I would be happy.” And then it happened.
We boarded our bus at 11pm, gearing up for the 8 hour bus ride. Little did I know that every bus in Europe is made without people of height in mind as my legs barely physically fit behind the seat. As I unattractively and uncomfortably attempted to sleep which really equated to my head doing the embarrassing drooping action paired with my legs in the aisle and my head on my seatmate, we started the trip. The easy overnight 8 hour bus ride translated to a 11 hour bus ride with anxious 20 year olds and the recurring statement, “Really close guys, just a couple more minutes.”
Once we arrived, we found our tents, laughing with excitement, not even caring that it had just rained and mud was inevitable. Signing up and receiving our wristbands, 20 euro for unlimited booze at the campsite for the weekend, you turn around and there is a grungy, dirty, long haired Aussie pouring your first beer. It’s 9am. Receiving a judging look from him for not funneling the beer, we quickly go try to find dirndls and breakfast, conveniently located in the same place. With sleeping bags held up by string as the dressing room, I opted to change in the open for the sake of time. It was dark and dreary and I spent 63 euros on a pink dirndl that is now my Halloween costume for the rest of my entire life. We braided our hair, ate our weird Australian breakfast of beans, a hot dog and scrambled eggs and drank some more. The power of the wristband would be so helpful elsewhere in the world. Midday and you need another beer? Waltz up to the bar that’s underneath a clothesline of underwear in front of the Wheel of Misfortune. Feeling ballsy, two of my friends spin the wheel. That was enough to know I would not spin the wheel throughout this trip. One of my friends having to leave behind her underwear, we continue to drink and split up into different plans for the day. I was in the ‘let’s get really drunk and ride every ride we can while eating an exorbitant amount of carnival food’ group. A good decision on my part.
Sitting on the ride where you get into a little car and the ride picks you up and spins you around, like the German version of the scrambler, I had one of those moments again. Sitting with a strange German girl who spoke no English, the only way we communicated was laughter. Kicking our boots as the ride rose, I watched tourists walking, laughing, snapping pictures, eating and drinking, feeling the cold wind blowing, looking at my seat partner and giggling like a small child. The sun was setting. It was nice.
Once back at the campsite, we put on real clothes i.e. not dirndls with no jackets in 40 degree rainy weather, and heading towards the bar where there was a whole party unto itself. We met Australians, Irish, British, Italian, Belgian, and Spanish travelers, just in our little Stoke campsite. The free beer flowed and I stayed up till 4 am being taught how to birth a calf from an Irish farmer.
The next morning, we were woken up by pots and pans from the people in charge to make sure we would get into a beer tent at the festival. It was 6 am, cold, and I was hungover in a dirndl.