Oktoberfest 2014 was our third Oktoberfest and it was our best Oktoberfest.
We arrived in Munich on a Friday night and were met at the airport by one of Peter’s colleagues. The colleague, who I’ll refer to as Juan, is an American who lived in Munich for about four years (now lives in London).
Peter and I emerged from the arrivals hall and were greeted by Juan who was holding bottles of beer. We then walked a short distance to the biergarten at the airport, uncreatively named Airbrau.
We wasted no time in getting into the swing of things. With our first beers down the hatch, we ordered a round of beers whilst we waited for the two members of our makeshift Oktoberfest family.
It wasn’t long before our family was made whole with the arrival of Adam (Australian) and Heather (Canadian). Adam and Heather both reside in Sydney. Heather lived in Munich for two years (at which time she met Juan) and it was Adam’s first time in Europe. Adam’s flight landed a few minutes after our flight landed but the big difference is that Adam had been travelling for nearly 24 hours.
Adam sat at the table and ordered a beer. What a trooper that guy was.
The five of us spent the next three days together as an Oktoberfest family. We wore the same outfits every day and we even bought family S/U-bahn tickets because who doesn’t like to save a Euro?
The only time we were separated was at night. Peter, Juan, and I were staying at Juan’s friends’ apartment. His friends had fled Germany for a safari in South Africa to escape the madness that is Oktoberfest. Adam and Heather stayed at another friend’s apartment.
We were in Munich for three full days with the first full day being Saturday and instead of going to the “Weisn” – short for Theresienwiese, the park where The Oktoberfest is held – we made the very long trek to a monastery with a brewery named Andechs.
We were part of a group of about 15 people headed to Andechs. It was a multi-leg adventure to get to the monastery. Our first leg was a 45-minute train from Munich city centre to a train station southwest of Munich near the “trailhead” to Andechs.
The hike to the monastery was described to me as “less of a traditional hike and more of a slow climb up a half-paved residential road, through a flat meadow (very Sound of Music esque), over a bridge, and up some stairs.”
The “hike” was as described but it was missing a very important detail. The hike took ONE HOUR. A taxi to the monastery from the train station is five minutes.
When we arrived at the meadow, I felt like I was in a scene from the Sound of Music. I thought, “Oh, this is nice and flat. We must be close to our destination now!”
Little did I know that the meadow was the halfway point and as magical as it was, it was hard news to swallow. Due to my inappropriate footwear, the skin on the backs of my heels has torn off and they were bleeding. Every step was excruciatingly painful.
After another 30 minutes of agony, we arrived at the monastery. We were thirsty and hungry but our first stop was the toilets.
Bladders empty, we slowly trickled into the cafeteria-style foodhall and independently ordered food and drinks.
The weather was pleasant and we sat outside at a big picnic table and tucked in.
Peter loved the pork knuckle but I wasn’t a huge fan. It was too difficult to eat with that giant bone/knuckle. The potato salad was delicious (it’s served cold) and has a bit of a sour taste.
We spent enough time at Andechs to start feeling like we’d been in the sun a little too long. We departed via taxis down the hill to the train station.
I have so many regrets with this day and I would really like to have a do-over but I am not sure I will ever have the opportunity.
First, I wish I had worn athletic shoes. Beginning about five minutes into the hike, the only thing I could think about was the skin being ripped off of my heels. This was day 1 of our vacation and not only was it terribly painful but I’d have to deal with this issue for the rest of our trip.
Second, I wish I would have taken more photos. I took one photo of the pork knuckle and that’s it. It’s such a shame because the Sound of Music moment in the meadow was really something special.
Third, I wish I had been more in the spirit. The pain I was enduring from nickel-sized patches of missing skin on my heels that my shoes rubbed against with every step honestly just made me want to cry.
We arrived back in Munich in the late evening and turned in for the night.
Oktoberfest day-drinking timeline
On Sunday, we woke up literally before dawn to begin our big, long, and “blind drunk” day at the Weisn.
This was our timeline.
|6:15am||Woke up. Showered. Ate breakfast.|
|7:00am||Departed the apartment for the U-Bahn station.|
|7:15am||Boarded the U-Bahn and picked up Adam and Heather at a station on the way to the Weisn.|
We reviewed the two drinking rules for the day.
1) There shall be no drinking alcohol before we are inside of the tent.
2) There shall be no drinking alcohol after we leave the tent.
|7:45am||Arrived at the almost-empty Oktoberfest grounds.|
|8:00am||Took our place in the queue for the Schottenhamel tent.|
The Schottenhamel tent is the largest tent at the Oktoberfest with ~10,000 seats. It’s also where the keg is tapped to kick-off the festival.
|8:30am||Watched the beer be delivered to the tent via a tanker truck. |
This surprised me a little bit even though it makes total sense that such a vessel would be required given the amount of beer that is consumed.
|8:50am||Began to slowly move as security started allowing people to enter the tent. |
I thought I was being a hero when I pointed out to security that a large group had jumped the queue. To my satisfaction, security tossed about half of the queue jumpers out of the queue.
|9:00am||Entered the tent and found the non-reserved section in the middle of the tent near the stage.|
|9:01am||Got bummed out when all of the tables in that non-reserved section were occupied.|
|9:06am||Started walking toward the front doors of the tent and noticed a huge non-reserved section with no one in it. Confirmed with the servers that the section was indeed non-reserved and then selected a table, got comfortable and ordered a round of beers.|
Protip: Select a table adjacent to the big aisle (versus buried in the sides of the tent) for ease of bathroom breaks.
|9:07am||Prost’ed our first round of beers!|
|4:00pm||Were informed by our server that we were not ordering enough beer and that she’d found some people to join our table. |
The reason why the server was upset about the decline in our beer consumption was not because of a decline in tips but because servers pre-buy x amount of beers to sell during the 16-day festival. Servers keep all of the money from their sales so they must sell all of their pre-bought beers in order to break even.
Protip: It may be possible to snag a table between the hours of 4pm and 5pm when all of the day-drinkers are starting to die-off and servers are looking for “fresh drinkers” to fill their sales gap. We rolled with this strategy the following day and we did find a server who tried desperately to find us a table but ultimately failed. She did serve us a round of beers though after Heather sat her ass down at a random table and ordered.
|5:00pm||Was informed by Peter that he was “blind drunk.”|
I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant but I knew it meant that we had to leave NOW. We miraculously made it back to the apartment without any injuries or getting lost.
|6:00pm||Arrived at the apartment and watched Peter pass out. |
Peter and I each drank five litres of beer during our 9am-5pm day-drinking shift.
Here are a few photos of our day.
Life in a tent
So what’s life like in a big tent at the Okoberfest?
-It’s very loud. People are talking and yelling, the band is playing, and steins are clanking. It’s very, very loud.
-It’s happy and cheery. People are laughing, playing cards, and smiling. It’s a very jolly atmosphere.
-It’s crowded. You are going to get bumped and beer is going to spill on you.
-It’s smelly. It smells like beer and stale beer mixed together. Additionally, your clothing smells like beer and potentially body odor from wearing the same outfit multiple days in a row. (The male toilets smell particularly awful.)
-It’s a Goldilocks temperature inside the tent. In the morning, it’s cold because the tents are not heated. Like jacket-wearing cold. Goosebumps cold. In the late afternoon, after thousands of bodies have been inside the tent for hours, it’s warm.
Would we revisit the Oktoberfest?
We had a completely different experience this visit than we did during our prior two visits. A lot of this has to do with being shown the ropes by people who know how it all works.
We learned that it’s fairly easy to get a table without reservations and it’s fairly easy to get a beer (and possibly even a table) if you time your visit around 4pm and kindly ask a server to assist you.
So, yeah, we’d do it again in the heartbeat.