We arrived Thursday evening, Sept. 20, in Munich, Germany with a hard-set determination to decipher the German U-bahn (the subway) system and maps to get to the campground where we would be staying. Two line changes and a bus later, it was midnight when we checked into Stoke Travels, where we stayed in tents for the weekend. At check-in, we were immediately handed a plastic cup filled with sangria by drunk employees and given a small tour of the campground with promises of the parties that Stoke Travels put on over the next few nights.
During the night, the temperatures dropped to as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I had never worn so many layers to bed. Regardless, we woke up early and left to explore the city. We explored the Marienplatz, where the famous Glockenspiel (the clocktower) with the dancing figurines that move three times a day is located. Then we found the Hofbräuhaus and stopped there for our first German steins and bratwurst. (To give you an idea as to the size of a stein, it can hold 32 fluid ounces. The standard can of beer in the U.S. is 12 ounces. That is two and 2/3 beers in one stein.) The historic building was marvelous to be in, and the traditional German band only made it cooler.
Saturday morning rolled around and we were all up bright and early, decked out in our dirndls and lederhosen, to hop on the bus and head to Oktoberfest like some “Into the Woods” musical number. We headed to our first bier hall, and claimed a table on the back patio to watch the parade go by. On the first day of the festival, the kegs don’t open until noon, when the first beer is poured by the mayor. When mid-day came around cannons, I kid you not, cannons went off and everyone cheered. The men and women serving the beer carried somewhere between six and 10 steins in their hands like bodybuilders (to give you an idea of how difficult this is; each beer-filled stein weighs approximately 5 pounds). They came over to our table and we bought our steins, immediately turning to one another to toast. “Prost!” We shouted, slamming those surprisingly durable glass mugs together in the center of the table and drinking up. Occasionally, someone in the bier hall stood atop their table and chugged their full stein to the last drop as the hundreds of people around them cheered and banged their mugs on the tables. They chugged 32 fluid ounces (four cups) of beer in one go without stopping for a breath, because, should they fail, they would find themselves boo-ed and having bits of pretzel and food thrown at them.
The German pretzels were huge, and absolutely delicious. However, nothing compared to the mustard-coated foot and a half long bratwursts that we had for lunch at a stand just outside of the bier hall. Once we were fueled up again, we simply rushed to the next bier hall to find a table, grab a stein, and cheer “Prost” on the beer-covered table. It was an incredible experience that I would 100 percent recommend that others try, and something I will definitely try to do again in the future.
On Sunday, Sept. 23, before I left on the plane, I was lucky enough to meet up with my friend, Vivian, and her family in Munich. Vivian is from Markdorf in southern Germany and is two years younger than me. She stayed with my family and I a few years back for an exchange program my younger brother, Cian, was involved in. We all had such a blast. We climbed up St. Peter’s Tower, and the over 300 stairs in the old clock tower just behind the Marienplatz showed us the most amazing 365-degree view of the entire city. Afterwards we split off and Vivi and I explored the city and each of the old arches and stunning cathedrals. As we walked, we saw a huge parade that wound through the entire city full of bands, dancers and so much more before we all met up again for lunch and the best homemade ice-cream I have ever had.
While I am not fluent, I was elated to be able to have an opportunity to practice my German and converse with native German speakers. It certainly made getting around the country 10 times easier and a lot more fun. I cannot wait to return to Germany and see what adventures will come my way.