Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Germany Part 1: Oktoberfest

13. Go to Oktoberfest
This one is a no-brainer. I don't need to write a lengthy discourse explaining my reasonings for wanting to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. 

Statistics time, kids! 

100% of people who had attended previously told me that it was the best weekend of their lives. 50% of those said they would go back every. single. year. The other 50% said they couldn't go back as their livers have never recovered. 

I fall into the 'would attend repeatedly' category. And so without further ado: Oktoberfest.

This is that story. That very drunken story.

Friday 25 September
I arrived at the BritBound Base a little early to wait for Dan and because I wasn't sure when we would be boarding the bus. Heading inside, the Base was already a hive of activity; a production line of crossing my name off the list, giving out a goodybag (complete with condoms and panadol), handing out a Britbound bracelet and, of course, being thrust an icy cold Fosters beer.

Never have I been given a beer on arrival of a tour before. Yes, yes I know it was Fosters (and turned out to be the second - and third - Fosters I've ever drunk) but it was a very nice touch for our entry into the world's biggest beer festival.

There was much excited babbling as those we already knew were welcomed and new friends were introduced. Finally, we gathered our things to board the bus. The bus attempted a 95 point turn in the small alley, eventually gave up, and so Dan and I ran to get the best seats we could onboard.

Some of us were one beer deep, others about 6 or 7, and so the poor onboard toilet got a pounding during those first two hours of our trip. Despite many protestations from the driver, too many had begun early and their bladders already weak: the toilet was filling up fast. In the mid-afternoon, we were able to get on the ferry and stretch our legs for a while. The White Cliffs of Dover, now the third time I've seen them, faded in the distance as we pulled away from England towards Calais, France.

Our path took us from England through France, across through Luxemburg (can I technically say I've been there? I did physically stand on Luxemburgian ground) before cutting into Germany and down through to Munich. The bus ride was as unpleasant as I anticipated, what with rowdy people being rowdy (excuse me while I go put on my old person diapers and find my zimmer frame), and unwanted movies being played. I didn't sleep, and by about 8am, 18 hours since we first departed, we arrived at the camp site that was to be our home for the next two nights.

Saturday 26 September
It's been Saturday 26 September for a while now, as I was awake for the majority of it, but by now it was time to begin the adventure. I was attempting not to be grumpy from my lack of sleep, slightly worried about how I was going to make it through the day but endeavoured to put on a happy face and I knew once I was all made up I'd be feeling sprightly as can be.

Most important part of the day happened first: breakfast. We headed into the breakfast tent and piled up our plates with scrambled eggs and sausages, lining our stomachs for the onslaught of beer it was about to endure.

We wanted to get to the Oktoberfest grounds as soon as possible, and so the majority of us forwent the 8-minutes-of-hot-water shower and opted for a man-shower tops-and-tails instead, deciding we were going to be covered in beer soon enough anyway! I gently unpacked my dirndl, my gorgeous petrol blue skirt and apron with busty blouse and wiggled into it. I plaited my hair "German" style, piled makeup on my face to remove the bags under my eyes and stepped back. I felt good. I felt beautiful. These Bavarian's really know how to make a lady look nice. My dirndl was the perfect mix of sexy and conservative, coming to my knee but showing off an amount of bust I didn't even know I was capable of achieving.

Enough about my exquisite bust. We haven't even made it to the Oktoberfest grounds yet. Dan looked fantastic in his lederhosen, bright red shirt and hat, and a quick look around showed just how beautiful all the ladies were and how dashing the boys. A first busload went - those who hadn't bought an outfit before-hand so we caught the next bus a few minutes later. Most of the Britbounders piled onto this bus, teeth chattering from equal parts cold and excitement.

We were ready to get our beer on!

Off the bus and we started the walk to the grounds. This walk would be replicated in reverse many hours and beers later. And there it loomed before us. Oktoberfest, Munich. The best way I can describe it from first glance is the Royal Adelaide Show, only free to enter and better in every single regard. But you kind of understand my drift. Followed our esteemed leader and aficionado Jake, we tried the Paulaner tent to no avail - no spare seats or tables at all, inside or out. We walked next to the Schottenhamel Spatenbrau tent. No room inside, but there were tables (quickly filling) outside in the beer garden. We grabbed three tables back to back and made ourselves comfortable.


A waitress very soon approached us and asked us what we would like. A little obvious, don't you think?


Ok, we probably didn't shout it and we probably didn't say it in German, but the first round on our table was sorted in under a few minutes of sitting down. An even shorter time later, it seemed that the beers arrived, all heavy steins and foamy head. To begin with, on our table sat Jordan, Erika, Pat, myself and Dan, later to be joined by Jordan, Jeremy, Cynthia, Josie and Kim.

PROST! we shouted, and smashed our enormous steins together with a satisfying chink, taking special care to look directly into everyone's eyes deeply - there was no way I was going to risk seven years bad sex. I took my first sip. I was strangely impressed. Not too beery, I thought to myself, I could get used to this.

Here it all becomes very simple. For the next 9 or 10 hours, we sat at our tables and we drank. We drank litres of beer. We danced. We sang. Some of our party on adjoining tables were kicked out for being too rowdy (possibly the same ones as on the bus?) and they ended up with some Oktoberfest stories of their own. At one point, it was time to eat when Dan and I realised we had completely forgotten to.

Let me tell you a little bit about the pork knuckle. I'd been recommended it, and so it was my first choice off the menu. As Dan and I weren't overly hungry, we decided to get one to start with and share it. Let's just say that the Germans know how to do pork. This was a thing of beauty. A masterpiece, and it wasn't only beer-goggles saying this. The pork knuckle came with a potato dumpling and some fantastic gravy, and it was devoured in very short order.

Across the whole day, I managed to put away 4 whole litres of beer, a fact I am pretty damn proud of considering I don't drink beer. In other words, that was the equivalent of 8 beers. I'm not very big, so this had a reasonable effect on me. Every time we ordered a beer, there was a chorus of, "Sara! Can I please have the sharpie?" and Sara would throw her texta towards us so we could mark our tally on our arm.

Towards the end of the evening, Dan realised his wallet was missing. We searched everywhere for it, looking underneath all of the surrounding tables and asking those who had taken over our old tables. Extremely unfortunate, but it was completely gone. Dan took it well, but as it was getting late anyway we decided to head back to the camp ground on the shuttle. We had a short walk around the Oktoberfest grounds but I for one was pretty damn stumble-y. We somehow navigated back to the bus (one was in the process of leaving and kindly stopped in the middle of the road for us) and back to our tent amongst hundreds in the camp site.

At this point, we realised that our shower tokens had been in Dan's wallet. To have hot water at this camp site, you had to pay for a shower token, which would give you exactly 8 minutes of hot water before becoming icy cold again. We went to the Topdeck tent and they kindly gave us another two shower tokens which we would use the next morning.

By now it was time to collapse onto our air-mattresses and await the impending hangover.

Sunday 27 September

In case you don't know what that is, that's the sound of someone vomiting violently. In the middle of the night I had heard someone being sick strangely close to my head, although it wasn't Dan or myself. I figured someone had thrown up on a tree nearby, but all was to be revealed in the morning.

We got up early because today we wanted to get a seat inside one of the beer halls. This meant getting there closer to 9.30am, instead of the 11am we were the previous day. It was damn bloody cold, and I had my first shower since Friday with my hot water token, applied a generous amount of makeup, and made my way to the breakfast tent to line my stomach again.

I soon learned that the painful hurling I had heard the night before was our tent neighbour Ryan, who had been unfortunately unwell inside his own tent which he was sharing with Jeremy. Jeremy, unable to do anything about it, managed to find himself a spare tent. Perhaps it was Ryan's plan all along to have a tent to himself? It explained why it sounded so close...because it was right next to my head.

I marvelled at how little hungover I felt, although I did not feel completely chipper. Another night with a significant lack of sleep, plus a significant amount of beer, plus the significantly early start and Sasha was a little worse for wear - although it could have been significantly worse. After stuffing as much food into myself as possible, the troupe who were capable of gathering early jumped on the bus (Thomas coming sprinting straight from sleeping in his tent to the bus) and we were off to do it all over again.

This morning, there was less singing and more groaning on the journey in. I for one was glad when it was over as the motion of the bus was not helping my belly. We made a beeline for the Paulaner tent and this morning we found ourselves a table pretty easily. The Britbounders in this group took up a table and a half and quietly ordered our first round of beer for the morning.


I Prost'ed as heartily as I could muster and took a tiny sip of my beer. I crinkled my nose, exclaiming this is a beerier beer than yesterday's beer! I wasn't sure how I was going to go. Looking around the table, some of the boys were tucking into their beer; most of the girls looked slightly pained.

Half a litre down though, and the vibe changed. Being inside the beer hall was completely different to outside and, while I'm glad to have experienced both, inside is definitely the place to be. It was not long before the room was filled to capacity, and capacity was approximately 8,500 people (sitting, and I'm quite sure more were crammed in). Soon we were singing rowdy songs, and shouting prost! and singing the cheers song (over..and over..and over again!):

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit

Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Every few minutes some brave (or stupid!) soul stood up on their bench, stein raised high, to the thunderous applause of the entire tent. This was the challenge: Finish the litre stein in one go. If you complete (and in good time), cheers and respect from your fellow drunkards. Fail, and you will be boo'ed and shamed for all eternity. Until the next person attempts it, anyway.

We had a couple of successful attempts on our table, which I am proud to say!

The afternoon proceeded in a similar - but crazier - manner than the previous days. Beer. Lots of beer. A pork knuckle of deliciousness. A pretzel. At one point, I chatted briefly with the Germans on the table behind us. "My name is Sasha," I said, to which the reply was always "Sasha? That's a boys name!" and laughter.

At some point of the evening, I discovered my handbag had been stolen. I looked everywhere for it. Inside was my purse (approximately €120), Shazza the meerkat, Little Joe, Dan's mascot, my brand new selfie stick that had been a gift, my phone power charger and some other little bits and pieces. I was extremely upset, but thanked small mercies that I had given Dan my phone, which housed my ID and bank card.

That will teach me for being a drunken idiot, dancing on the table and leaving my bag unattended in a room full of even more drunk and less pleasant strangers. I was upset, but decided I wasn't going to let it ruin my night, and so I ordered another stein and got right back up there on the table.

While we were dancing on the table, every now and then a beer waitress would tap us on the legs and angrily tell us to get back onto the benches. When she had passed, we were right back up on the table. Beer was spilled. Beer was drunk. Songs were sung. Dances were danced. Hugs were given. Smiles all around as the room buzzed with drunken electricity.

This day, I had again managed another 4 litre steins according to the sharpie markings I had drawn onto my arm. In actuality, I think it was closer to 5 as I may have purloined an odd stein that was unattended (perhaps the owner had been forcibly removed?). You snooze you lose, buddy.

At some point nearing the end of the evening, I went to the toilet and came back to find that everyone had called it a night. Probably rightly so! Dan and I started to wander off when we thought to check Lost Property on the off-chance someone had turned in his wallet. I don't remember how we found out where Lost Property was, or where it was, but we made our way there and it was not long before we were at the front of the queue.

To cut a long story short, the man behind the counter returned with Dan's wallet. "NO WAY." We both exclaimed very loudly. Dan detailed all of the things inside, including his McLovin' ID. The man asked how much money was inside, to which Dan replied About €100. Turns out it was €180 and we were left wondering if it ended up with more money inside than to start! He had to pay €34 to have it returned (an act of goodwill, I suppose) and we rejoiced.

On a whim, I asked if a red handbag had been turned in and I almost cried when I saw the man return with my (strangely limp) red Hedgren. Unlike Dan's good luck, my bag had been almost entirely stripped; money gone, Shazza and Joe gone, selfie stick gone, juice pack gone. The thief was kind enough to leave me my deodorant and lipstick and my handbag was a good AU$200 so I wasn't entirely unhappy. I still couldn't fathom why someone would steal a meerkat and a puppy dog and wondered what sick people there are in the world. Maybe Shazza and Little Joe staged their own disappearance, took the Euros and selfie stick and ran off into the world. Maybe I should look out for photos of the two of them!

It was almost time for the last shuttle and even though we wanted to ride the ferris wheel, it would be cutting it a little bit too fine. As we walked out of the Oktoberfest grounds, we bid it auf wiedersehen - hopefully not for the last time in our lives!

Monday 27 September
Gurgle. I did not feel well this morning. We had to be out of our tents and packed by 9am. This was a struggle. We had not eat enough over the course of the weekend. I had only eaten 2 breakfasts, 1 full pork knuckle (2x halves) and half a pretzel. That's not quite enough for 9ish litres of beer.

I would not be returning to London with the rest of the crew on the coach, but staying on in Germany. It was a minor debacle finding a place to store my luggage, but it was achieved, before we were all packed onto the coach again for a very small tour of the city. Naturally, I ended up sitting infront of the person who was sick on the bus, and many others were not feeling well, and I was supremely glad when the bus journey was over and I could breathe fresh air again.

The walking tour was uneventful and unremarkable; we ended up in the town square underneath the massive clock tower on the new town hall, and here we were left to our own devices. Dan and I decided we would stick around for the glockenspiel display. While we waited for 11am, I realised I hadn't booked my train ticket to Dresden, and I didn't have any money left thanks to my stolen wallet. Dan kindly lent me some and we booked my tickets then and there for later that afternoon.

After the little characters whirled and the bells chimed to mark 11am, we wandered over to the Hofbräuhaus, the biggest beer hall outside of Oktoberfest. I for one could only muster a fizzy orange drink and had absolutely no inclination for a beer. We had some food and bid the Britbounders adieu; we wanted to check out the Oktoberfest grounds one last time for a look in Lost Property for Shazza and Little Joe and a go on the ferris wheel.

This was the first time we had seen the grounds in the light of day. It was a Monday so it was more subdued than the weekend but it was still a hive of activity. And much bigger than I realised. We somehow found our way back to Lost Property, but the line was ridiculous and so I made the call to abandon.

From up on the ferris wheel, you could see the whole of the grounds, the masses of rides and the enormity of the beer halls. On the right, you could see the Alps in the distance. It was a bittersweet way to end an incredible weekend.

From here, I made my way to the train station to continue on with my adventure, but that is a story for another day.

Oktoberfest, what can I tell you? You were exactly what I expected. My expectations were oh so high and you turned out to be precisely what everyone had said. I was sleep deprived, food deprived, dehydrated, hungover but so very happy.

I never knew I was a beer drinker until now.

Til next time, prost!