A Guide to Oktoberfest, Munich. More Steins Please!
When Tom and I were discussing how to respond when asked "How was Oktoberfest?" by our friends, we basically came to the conclusion that it was really fun, but not something that one could repeat every year, or for more than a couple of days. Oktoberfest was founded in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married, and his dad basically threw a massive party to celebrate. It is a huge part of Bavarian culture, and the locals are fiercely proud of their Wiesn. As such, the atmosphere is incredibly friendly, and a huge proportion of those in attendance are from Bavaria.
There were seven of us at Oktoberfest, the first five decided that it was a great idea to catch a flight at 7am, and therefore we suitably tired by the evening. Those five enjoyed the fine weather that Munich had to offer to match the fine beer. They went on a couple of rides at the fairground, and generally had a good time.
When I arrived in the evening (sensibly catching an appropriately timed 5pm flight from Heathrow's Terminal 5 courtesy of our favoured British Airways, we decided that we would join the Bavarians in lederhosen and do our best to see what the festival grounds had to offer.
Sadly, it was a bit like a trying to get into a club in central London when in fancy dress and with no girls...impossible! We had left it too late to get into any of the main "tents", and we had to settle for a beer in a slightly peripheral setting. Still, it was a calm introduction to Oktoberfest and we were all very excited for what was to come over the next couple of days.
As one would expect from 6 men let loose in Germany, things started off quite heavily on the morning of the second day. The "tents" I referred to earlier are giant structures that aren't much smaller than your average football pitch. They seat up to 5000 people on trestle tables and benches and each is designed to match the breweries history, tradition and aspirations. In order to get a seat in these amphitheatres of beer, one must arrive early. Approximately 10.30AM to be honest. Once everyone arrives, there isn't a seat in the house until the changeover of tables at 5pm, where everyone who hasn't booked is kicked out, and those who have booked are welcomed with fresh steins of beer.
Anyway, as I said, things started heavily and kind of went downhill from there. To say the day was hazy is an understatement. All of us were safely tucked up in bed at our hostel at 5pm for our nap-time. The main cause of this is roughly 6 litres of Hacker-Pschorr's finest beer spread over 5 hours.
Finally, all 7 of us were in attendance at around 7pm, and we headed off for the fest through some pretty serious rain. Again, accessing a tent at the later stages of the day was more difficult, and therefore we had to drink our first (actually 7th) stein outside before finally making our way in. It was during this outdoor stein that we were greeted by an old German gentleman who said that we "looked thirsty" and gave us 10 coupons for free beer. 10 steins of Lowenbrau is the equivalent of €100, so this was either a very generous gift, or we did indeed look very thirsty. Nonetheless, spirits were lifted, and a good night was had by all. That was until we returned to our hostel.
James had spent the entire time sleeping, and as such was probably feeling better than most. Until he got punched by Dom in a rather amusing outburst! Dom had the misfortune of being very drunk, and therefore got angry at the fact that he had jut been sick on the floor of our hostel. The other 6 of us, of course, were pretty angry also. What a room of 7 boys definitely doesn't need is another reason to smell like the devil's own toilet, and here was yet another reason that we could soon be heading towards waging chemical warfare in German soil.
Anyway, the fundamentals were that James got punched, Dom felt a bit sheepish (and lightheaded), and the rest of us felt nauseous. All in all, a good day.
After the success, and then quite quick failure of Day Two, we decided that maybe "taking it a bit easier" was a good idea. Naturally, we still went to the festival at 10.30am (we want to get our money's worth), but this time we approached drinking with more military precision. We had a pacemaker, much like they do in the marathon, who was charged with deliberately drinking slower than everyone else, ensuring we slowed down as a group and didn't leave a man behind. FYI - Top Tip there!
We also ate. This is a surprisingly effective way to ensure that one doesn't become too inebriated, and therefore can actually stand up after 5pm. Once again, this organised, and more jovial drinking occurred in the Hacker-Pschorr tent.
At 5, we left Hacker, and went off the Lowenbrau, confident that our 10 free steins were proof enough they needed of our intentions and we were granted entry. A table was found with prime view of the band, and fantastic times were had. There were a couple of injuries sustained. Mainly falling from tables due to impressions of the Can-Can, but other than that we had a brilliant time singing, dancing, drinking and laughing at each other. Very occasionally we laughed with each other.
Day Three was the biggest success of the trip, and as such Day Four was the biggest washout.
Never have I seen a group of grown men reduced to such a withering group of children. We all collectively stank, despite showering. We had nothing in our heads other than McDonald's might help (it didn't), and we had to check out of our room before flying back home to London in the evening.
Jack actually had the worst shopping trip ever, where he purchased a large bar of 100% dark chocolate and some biscuits that tasted like someone had added sawdust. Neither were tasty, and together they cost €15!
There was one highlight, and that was our trip to Europe's largest bowling alley. Dream Bowl Palace is absolutely incredible. it has fifty-two lanes (one for each week of the year), and an 18 hole indoor mini-golf course that is actually all UV-lit. It is a temple to unnecessary sports. Bowling became our safe place. A place where hangovers couldn't really penetrate the soul because we were acting like we were children again. I think we bowled for 2 hours before heading off to the airport.
So, overall we had one fight, several bruises, and a hell of a lot of beer. I have to say though that despite it being an awful lot of fun, it is not a trip that I could repeat all that often, or for longer than 3 or 4 days. Mainly I would be concerned that my body couldn't handle it. But I will definitely be going back, and hopefully soon!
Above is a little video made by the very talented Tom (who also has a great camera and from whom I have borrowed some of the above photos).