For those of us that are abroad, we are missing out on one of the best weekends at Fairfield Beach that Stag nation is preparing for: Oktoberfest. But I, who have spent the last month in Florence, was lucky enough to attend the well-known event in Munich, Germany. And let me just say, I would experience that horrible hangover every weekend for the rest of my life if it meant I could spend more time in one of the huge tents of Oktoberfest, or known to the locals as “Wiesn.”
I don’t want to be one of those people who comes back “all cultured” as I’ve been called already, but America is not doing Oktoberfest right.
The event, which originated in 1810, began as a celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich were invited to celebrate this event that eventually concluded with horse races. These horse races continued to occur in the years to come, eventually giving rise to Munich’s Oktoberfest. Now in 2015, the horse races have been done away with, but have been replaced with 14 enormous beer tents and your classic hometown fair (just 10 times the size) with over 140 restaurants.
The beer tents have to be one of the most impressive aspects of the fest and it’s where I started my Friday morning at 8 a.m. after being on a coach bus for 10 hours traveling from Florence to Germany. Unless you’re a true Oktoberfest champ, arriving anywhere between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. is virtually the only way to get into the tent and find a table. The tables can be reserved a year in advance of the event due to its popularity, so while the locals stroll in when they want, the Americans crowd the tents hoping to get one of the few open tables. Unfortunately, sitting at the table is the only way to get served, so it’s either a table or a sober sad self.
Luckily, the 8 a.m. arrival scored us a table at the Hackerbräu-Festhalle, the tent known as the Heaven of the Bavarians. Although I was caught up in the hustle of the event and maybe one of my three beers, there was apparently close to 9,300 people packed in there and I’m pretty sure 8,000 of them were sporting the traditional Bavarian clothing. I heard German, Italian, English, maybe something else, but we all had the same intention in mind.
The one piece of advice I was given was “Do not try to keep up with the locals.” No problem, I didn’t try to keep up — I got ahead. And with my breakfast of only half of the traditional German pretzel, I was winning the game by 10 a.m., but losing by 1 p.m. The beer served in my tent is a traditional Oktoberfest beer called the Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest. It’s nothing like our American beer or “water” as the Germans call it. It’s about 6 percent alcohol and in each liter stein of beer, it’s the equivalent to four American beers or eight shots of the German liquor Schnapps. Two liter steins in an hour and a half was probably too much, but when everyone is screaming and chanting and cheering on the brave who stand up the tables to chug the entire liter stein, why not?
By 1 p.m., I personally had purchased a 12 euro flower crown, a 4 euro gingerbread cookie and two beers that go for about 11 euro each. I had zero cares in the world and from the amount of pictures I had taken, I did not regret my outrageously-priced flower crown. Just sitting in the tent was an experience in itself. We had made German friends who came straight from high school to enjoy the festivities (not something you can do in America). We watched the locals snort some white powder and we questioned when coke became legal in Germany. Our local friends soon informed us that it was not cocaine, but rather a flavored tobacco, which just wasn’t as shocking anymore.
As I finished my roommates’ only liter stein, the waitress came walking over and politely informed us that if we were no longer drinking, we were no longer staying. Balling on a budget, we decided that it’d be best if we headed home, which the next day, ended up being a horrible idea since we couldn’t find a seat on Saturday. Before we stopped at a Starbucks in Germany — a real treasure when you’re in Europe — I waved goodbye to probably the best day of my life as I finished (as I was told later on) the best cinnamon bun I have ever eaten.
Although I’ll probably never be able to experience that cinnamon bun for the rest of my life, I’ll always have my 98 pictures of myself and of course, the sheer memory of sitting in a tent at Munich’s one and only Oktoberfest.