My trip to Oktoberfest was pretty disorganized and last-minute, to say the least. That being said, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that I’ll always look back on and laugh about.
First some background: At Tulane, it’s pretty common for the people spending their fall semester abroad in Europe to go to Munich for Oktoberfest one weekend and meet up. It’s always sounded like a cool idea to me, though I was never completely sold on it because 1) I’m not into beer and 2) Most of my best friends aren’t spending the semester in Europe, or if they are, they didn’t really feel like making the trek to Munich. People reserve airbnbs and flights months in advance, so when this period of time passed and I had no plans, I assumed that it just wouldn’t be happening for me. When I arrived in Paris, however, a number of people said they were interested in going, and when Daniella just happened to find a super-cheap airbnb just one minute away from the Oktoberfest grounds, well, let’s just say that I tried booking it myself but was told it was unavailable because she had gotten to it first.
We had housing secured, but how would we get there? Trains and planes were both in the multiple hundreds of euros range, which is typically not a price I like to get involved with. Renting a car started out as a joke, but for some reason, rental car companies in Europe actually trust college students to drive, so that’s what happened. After quite a bit of confusion surrounding what cars were and weren’t available, one day before our departure, we finally had one booked. It was official, but because of all the unknowns still up in the air, I tried to not get my hopes up too much.
We met underground at the Les Invalides Eurocar information desk and began our journey, only two hours behind schedule. Ruth was driving, even though we had decided Patrick and Daniella would do most of it, since she was the oldest of us (21) and her name was at on the paperwork. She felt confident as we drove out and got Daniella’s sim card from a gas station, but as we circled the roundabout at Place d’Italie, well, a Porsche slammed into the side of us and someone screamed “We are NOT going to Munich!”
But, nevertheless, we did, in fact, go to Munich. We got it all worked out with the driver, even though he was angry about missing his meeting and being pressed for time and so obviously trying to take advantage of us and lie on the report that people passing by intervened and put him in place. And so we drove. We were pretty far behind schedule at this point, and not being able to read German road signs and part of the highway being closed did not exactly help. Patrick was so tired by the time that we got there that we almost ran a red light and Daniella had to parallel park for him. We finally got to our airbnb around 4am and fell asleep at 5.
Alarms went off at 7, then 7:30, 8, 8:15, etc. We got up and out, ready to move our car and find some breakfast and dirndls (the classic blouse/dress/apron combos you see girls wearing to Oktoberfest events). The biggest shock was approaching the bakery counter realizing that we couldn’t communicate with anyone. It all worked out in the end, however, seeing as my medium coffee was bigger than any coffee I’ve seen in Paris at this point. Finding dirndls in the area was actually easier than expected, and once we found a store with reasonably priced outfits, we tried them on and wore them out of the store. Little sleep + sugar and caffeine from breakfast was not the best combo, and everyone was a mix of nauseated and jittery and exhausted, but adrenaline kept us going.
And so, we made it to the venue and walked through the main entrance of Oktoberfest! The people, the food, the rides, the giant tents full of beer… everything was overwhelming. I was texting my friend Eva to try to figure out where she was, but I was so out of it that all I could do was get us into a random tent. And oh my. Music in the middle, tables everywhere, and at every packed table of people in Bavarian garb, there were giant pretzels, entire chickens, and, of course, beer. Everyone had at least one liter-sized glass mug with them. It was around noon when we showed up, so it was so crowded that we stood around in an aisle rather than being able to sit down. When a waitress came by and asked if we wanted beer, we were relieved that we’d finally get to sit down, but that was not the case. Instead, we stood around holding the heavy glass mugs full of bear. I felt so faint that I didn’t want to drink at first, but after a few sips, we were all good to go. Singing, dancing, drinking; pretty ideal if you ask me.
Eventually, it was time for some real food, at least something more than the sugar and caffeine we had taken in that morning. We each got a half-meter-long bratwurst, and in that moment, it was the most satisfying thing we could imagine. Daniella was unresponsive because she was so invested in her food. As we turned around or got close to one another, we forgot how long the bratwursts were, resulting in condiments everywhere. Once these were consumed, we left for beer tent number two.
The second tent was different, yet everything was still the same. Beer. Music. Nowhere to sit. We got beers and loitered in the aisle. I was pretty over it and frustrated that I had paid for a drink I never wanted, but as we saw a group clearing out, we fought our way through and got a table! A group of four German boys behind us asked us if they could join, as every other spot in the whole tent seemed to be taken, and we were happy to make some new friends. They were all from Germany but not from Munich, and one (Franz), was actually planning to spend the next semester in the U.S. at Northeastern. We chatted and drank together, eventually standing on our seats and singing/dancing along with the music. Someone came up to us saying we only had a few more minutes because this table was reserved and cost the people 400 euros, so we gave it some time, but once they were adamant about our leaving, we cleared out.
We hung out with the guys for a while discussing our next move, and eventually, we headed to one of the carnival rides (Ruth had been complaining about wanting to go all day). Is was clear that the boys were talking about us right in front of us, just in German so that we wouldn’t understand. One of them asked where I was from and when I said Virginia, he said that he knew of Virginia from… the show Moonshiners (not Williamsburg or Jamestown or the Founding Fathers or anything like that, but the show about rednecks making alcohol in the same small town as my high school). He also asked again what my name was. I responded Robin, and laughed about how it’s usually a guy’s name in Europe, but he responded that no, it actually reminded him of Robin from How I Met Your Mother, and mentioned that in the first episode, Ted says to Robin, “I think I’m falling for you.” And this was happening as he got closer and put his arm around my back. Maybe it was the pop culture references, or maybe it was the beer, but I was pretty into it. Unfortunately, he went off with the others to the ride and I never saw him again.
I was impressed no one vomited on the ride (which flipped them up and over and around) after eating a half-meter bratwurst and drinking two liters of beer. We said goodbye to the two Germans who came back to us, bought some souvenirs, and went to grab dinner. I was exhausted and starving, ready to eat something quick and get to bed. Ruth, Patrick, and I got chicken kebabs and fries and found our way back home while Jenna and Daniella went to a nicer restaurant. I showered and chatted with Patrick as we waited for the others to get back, but Ruth had fallen asleep already. Needless to say, we all slept so well that night.
We got up and packed before 9 and left Munich, stopping at a McDonalds for breakfast. We drove, drove, drove and stopped in a small town for lunch, where I got seafood pizza. I was in the front seat for most of the trip, acting as Daniella’s personal cheerleader and trying to keep up the positive energy. The ride back was less eventful than the one to Munich, but still took almost 12 hours start-to-finish. Daniella somehow drove the entire way back, with Ruth complaining about how she wanted to listen to the Brother Bear soundtrack and Jenna totally zoned out. When we made it back to the rental company, we were just proud that we had brought the car back in one piece and that we had made it all the way to Munich and back alive. Who thought this was a good idea to begin with anyway?? But all in all, it was worth the hassle, and I guess we have some pretty good stories to tell.
Leave a Reply