Oktoberfest — Munich, Germany
Tuesday, September 20th, 10:30PM
I wrote most of this from a coffee shop just outside the city center in Munich, Germany. It was 55 degrees & raining degrees outside. I was right by a window watching the end of the Oktoberfest parade. It felt like a proper place to chronicle one of the greatest weekends of my life. Here’s my Oktoberfest weekend, day by day.
I left Florence at 5PM, with just a backpack for the weekend. The first awesome part of weekend traveling while abroad: all you need to bring is a backpack. No need to check luggage, I got from the entry of the Florence airport to my gate in 5 minutes. When booking flights the cheapest one I could find was through Amsterdam, so off I went to Amsterdam.
During my layover in Amsterdam I met an American, traveling from Florence, with a connecting flight for Munich as well. He was 30 and travels the world as a consultant. Second awesome part of weekend traveling: you go from “so, where you from” to learning their life story in 10 minutes.
Got to Munich at 10pm. My taxi driver was from Italy, so I used Italian & English to practice how to say things in German — he found this quite amusing. Trent was in Munich for the final stop on his trip with Cal Poly’s business school, so I found a place to sleep that may or may not have had the following characteristics: on the ground, cheap (some might even say “free”), & near (some might even say “in”) Trent’s hotel. The “I’m 21, traveling the world, & living day-by-day feeling” was strong in this moment.
Trent’s group was visiting businessses until 4pm, so I had half a day to take in Munich. One does not waste a half day in Munich, so I took a look at Trent’s weekend itenerary and saw one option for his group was a bike tour for the next day. I figured this tour was offerred on Friday too, so I copied down the address where that tour was meeting, plugged it into Maps, took some screenshots of the route (didn’t have cellular data in Munich), and went to find 15 Marienplatz. Through a combination of my screenshots, handheld map, and the gracious citizens of Munich I found the bike tour. The tour wasn’t leaving for fifteen minutes so I explored Marienplatz, home of Munich’s new city hall. Marienplatz is where the Glockenspiel is. This is a show in the building’s tower that combines bells & life sized figurines to tell a story.
Next was the bike tour. In line people were talking about how they’d booked weeks in advance & how this, Mike’s Bike Tour, was THE bike tour in Munich. A huge shoutout to my guide Matt who said “just hop on the back of mine and pay at the end”. Great guy.
The Friday before Oktoberfest begins, Mike (as in Mike’s Bike Tour) gives the intro to the tour. Here he is giving an introduction to the city.
He also gave Oktoberfest advice. His best one, the 15 Gulp Rule: after returning from Oktobefest put your head under the faucet and take 15 gulps of water…then wake up at 3am and do the same thing. This would prove useful.
The bike tour was one of the highlights of the weekend. We covered a huge portion of the city center, my guide Matt had great history knowledge (especially on WW2 and the Third Reich), we went to a beer garden, and even saw Munich’s manmade surf spot in the English Garden (a park bigger than Central Park). In 5 hours I went from not having a plan for the day, to learning about & seeing almost every historical thing in the area. Here are some pics:
That night Trent & I grabbed dinner and walked around for a couple hours. I got a plad shirt for Oktoberfest, and a Bayern Munich jersey. Went to bed at 1AM…Oktoberfest wake up was in 6 hours.
Woke up at 7AM, threw on my plad shirt, and we headed to the Oktoberfest grounds. This Saturday was the 1st day of Oktoberfest, which only magnified the Oktoberfest’s combination of chaos and pagentry.
We g0t to the grounds and got in line for the Hofbrauhaus tent — the undisputed best beer tent on the grounds. It was 8AM, we were in a line outside, it was 50 degrees, and pouring rain. Any other day and standing in the rain for hours wouldn’t have been so great, but this was Oktoberfest — we were hyped.
We waited outside for 2 hours minutes, during which time Trent destroyed me at US Presidents trivia; this was expected, that dude knows a lot about the Presidents.
We got in the tent at 10am. By the grace of the beer gods we found Cal Poly students who were also on Trent’s trip. The 1st keg wasn’t going to be opened until noon, but our table was in the heart of the tent — life couldn’t have been better.
Now, we’ll descend into bulleted highlights from the rest of the day.
- The 30 minutes leading up to noon were wild. The entire tent of 10,000 people would descend into insane claps or chants. It was like being at a sporting event, except we were cheering for beer. It’s hard to share how loud the chants would get.
- At noon the 1st keg was opened. The 5 minutes leading up to this was essentially a riot within the tent.
- The Oktoberfest dignitaries handed free beers down from the platform where they opened the 1st keg. This led to a huge scrum right below the platform. People climbing on other people to get a free liter of beer. My height & indifferent attitude towards mosh pits seemed to lend itself to this, so I jumped in and came out with a free liter of beer.
- Throughout the day we would share toastes with people from Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and more. I don’t think there was an unhappy person in this tent.
- Each table had a waitress. These waitresses would come with 10 steins (1 Liter = 1 stein) in their arms.
- Every 2 or 3 minutes someone would stand on a table, demonstrate that their stein was full, and attempt to chug it. If you finished it, you were the temporary king of Oktoberfest, and the tent would rock as people celebrated your feat. If not, everyone would chuck wadded paper balls at you.
- This went on for hours. By 3pm the tent was in a collective state of drunkenness. People puking off the side of their tables, random people dancing with random people. In 1 minute the person next to you became your new best friend. And those waitresses, they just kept bringing the beer. I’ve also never seen an enviornment so accepting of public puking. This was a life experience in every sense.
We would leave the grounds around 7pm, had some delicious pizza at 8pm, and went to bed around 2:30am (because Oktoberfest). Trent & I both adhered to the 15 Gulp Rule, and woke up feeling not awful — a definite win.
Trent & the Cal Poly kids flew home this morning (leaving the hotel at 3:30am…so if you see a kid sleep walking around Cal Poly right now, you’ll know who it is), so I was on my own in Munich. While I don’t aim to do it all the time, traveling on your own is super rewarding in spurts. It’s just you, your backpack, and the world. The simplicity of it is just fun.
I watched the Oktoberfest parade for an hour, climbed the 300 steps to the top of St. Peter’s Church for a panoramic view of Munich, ducked into any building that looked remotely interesting, and met a guy from Georgia who was traveling on his own through Germany. I swear everyone you meet traveling Europe is super interesting, the nicest person you’ve met, and full of great stories. This guy was no different.
Someday I’d like to work abroad for a year or two, and Munich is a city I could envision myself working & living in someday.
Oh, and that consultant I met on the way to Munich, we saw each other as we both got off the plane in Florence late Sunday night. We both just grinned, Oktoberfest does that to you.
Thanks for reading,
Tuesday, September 20th, 10:50PM