We booked a flight from Athens to Munich on October 2nd for one reason: be there for the last weekend of Oktoberfest. It’s one of those things you just need to experience, especially if you’re on an around the world trip and happen to be in Europe in the fall. And that minor detail – that it’s fall, not summer – didn’t hit us until we landed in Munich and it was about 20 degrees Celsius colder than everywhere else we had been (Greece and Croatia had been unseasonably hot). It might have had something to do with landing first thing in the morning barely after the sun rose; but at least that gave us time to get settled into our Airbnb room with plenty of time left in the day. (Another reason we love Airbnb: early check-ins are much more likely than with a hotel or hostel).
Our hosts recommended a near-by Bavarian restaurant frequented by locals (we weren’t staying in a touristy area) and we had lunch there before taking the metro downtown. Besides taking in the sites and beautiful buildings, we were really there for the shops. I promptly bought a warm jacket from H&M and then we were ready to actually explore. We decided to check out Oktoberfest in the evening, knowing full well that we may not be able to find a table but at least we’d get a feel for it and could return the next day better prepared.
Every tent was packed when we arrived. We managed to get inside one tent but couldn’t find a table anywhere (you can only be served beer if you have a seat at the table) and left to try another tent. We tried about three more, rejected from each one, with a line up outside only allowing people in with reservations. Having seen enough for one night and wanting to actually eat and drink something we left and headed back towards our place planning to get to bed early and wake up ready to drink beer first thing the next morning. Yup, morning beers.
We arrived around 10AM Saturday morning and all the tents were already filling up. Saturdays are notoriously the busiest day of the week at Oktoberfest and this was the last Saturday of Oktoberfest and happened to also coincide with ‘German Unity Day’ holiday. We went in the first tent that didn’t have a lineup outside (we weren’t about to be picky about what tent – i.e. beer – we chose). We spotted a table that had a couple spots on end of the benches and asked the group if we could join. They welcomed us with smiles – and in English! Turns out we picked a table with three Australian girls and two German guys (later joined by two American girls).
We immediately ordered our first beer from our server. Ordering is incredibly simple as each tent only serves their own Oktoberfest beer served in a 1L mug and costs €11 which really isn’t that bad of a price given the quantity. We quickly ordered a giant pretzel to accompany our beers which cost €6; a tad pricey… but delicious nonetheless, and necessary to absorb all that beer. Of course, as the day progressed the music got louder, the band started, people got drunker, dancing on benches started (you’re not allowed on the tables), and people started chugging beers. One of the Aussie girls at our table was the first to chug down her beer in our section – everyone pounding the tables cheering her on – and shortly after a guy one table over did his. Security was over to us in seconds and gave her a strict warning, and then kicked the other guy out of the tent altogether! We were told he had more than half a beer in his glass which is above the limit you’re allowed to chug… So, keep your Oktoberfest beer chugging under ½ a glass!
Our fun with this group ended at 2PM when we had to vacate the table. Evening reservations were at 3PM and all the tables had to be cleared and cleaned to let a fresh group of drinkers in. Dan and I decided to try our luck getting into another tent for something different. Not the best idea… we couldn’t get in anywhere! I ended up being able to sneak back into the Paulaner tent we were previously in under one of the roped off outdoor entrances in the back. I then doubled back to the main entrance to search for Dan in the lineup which was only allowing people in with reservations. I asked the security how I could get Dan in and he told me he’d need a reservation bracelet. He also mentioned he had one in his pocket and would be willing to sell it for 20 €. Not knowing what else to do I agreed to €13 (all the change I had left other than a €50 bill). He quickly pocketed the money and Dan wiggled his way through the crowd to the front where the security let him pass and tied the bracelet to him. The next step was getting inside the tent. When we tried to walk in, Dan was allowed in but I was denied entry, because I didn’t have a bracelet! Determined, we walked around the outside of the tent and caught a group leaving an outdoor table. It had turned into a beautiful day and while we wouldn’t get to hear the band or see any more crazy table dancing; at least we’d have a seat! Outside, Dan and I enjoyed our 4th and 3rd beers respectively, before leaving for the evening. We had a dreadful 6AM train we had booked and needed to try and get some sleep.
Why did we think it would be a good idea to book a 6AM train, ever, let alone after a day of drinking 1L beers and not eating nearly enough food?? We made it to the train station, and on our train but it was not easy.