Easily the world’s most famous beer festival, Oktoberfest is an annual celebration of all things Bavarian. Here’s a newcomer’s guide to Germany’s biggest folk festival. O’ zapft is!
Never before have I so enthusiastically and proudly allowed myself to open my arms, look up toward the sky, and proclaim with absolute joy and abandonment: “I WAS WRONG!”
Don’t get used to it, this may not happen again between now and the next lunar eclipse.
A first Oktoberfest visit
You see, this past weekend I was given an invaluable lesson in myth and reality (not paling in comparison to the revelation that porridge is actually oatmeal, of course*). This lesson is: sometimes myths are actually pretty damn close to reality, and sometimes reality can be pretty damn mythical.
I learned this lesson in a very entertaining way this past weekend, at the infamous Oktoberfest in Munich. This was my first Oktoberfest ever, and I was about 99.9% sure that it would be my last. I had never been interested in going to it – for some odd reason, I had never really caught on to the appeal of millions of obnoxious tourists getting trashed. And when our Australian friends asked us early this year if we’d be interested going along as ‘interpreters’, we primarily agreed because we didn’t actually think they were serious.
Seven months later, we were packing our bags to leave for what I was expecting to be (in the words of Stand by Me) a “complete and total BARF-O-RAMA”.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were visiting our friends in Germany (who have bonafide Oktoberfest experience), we received a few tips from them regarding the correct procedures to follow when attending Oktoberfest. They included, in no particular order:
- Keeping a jacket in a plastic bag underneath your bench – it’s too hot in the tent for a jacket, but you’ll desperately need one when the cold outside air hits you. Unfortunately, the jacket will be soiled by beer, sweat, condensation, urine, and vomit if it is not kept in said plastic bag.
- Wear old shoes. After a certain point in the evening, when people are unable and/or unwilling to get up and go to the toilet to relieve themselves and instead do it underneath the table, you will be glad you’re not wearing your best pumps.
- Wear a card around your neck that has your name and the place you will be staying on it. In the probable event that you forget your name and/or where you are supposed to sleep, other people (including paramedics) may find it of use.
- Tell a friend who is NOT going to Oktoberfest where you will be staying and how you plan to get there. When you forget any of the above, you can attempt to call this person (or have someone do it for you) in order to give you directions.
- When everyone stands on the bench, you must stand on the bench with them. Standing on the floor or remaining seated will almost inevitably result in grave personal injury.
- Get to know someone who can get you into a VIP bathroom. The VIP bathrooms are disgusting, but they’re still much better than the repulsive, stinking cesspools that the normal rank and file are required to use.
- Stand while using the toilet.
After hearing this information, you can imagine how I was really chomping at the bit to go. After all,
- I don’t like sitting around for hours at a time with nothing to do but drink beer.
- I don’t particularly enjoy experiencing other people’s excrement.
- I don’t have any old shoes.
Oktoberfest was grand
And this is where I was – and I’m still proud to say it – all wrong. Oktoberfest was simply grand. It was Dirndls, it was Lederhosen, it was absolutely great German beer, it was Gemütlichkeit, wonderful company and new friends, and it was me forgetting about my apprehension and just enjoying life with everyone else.
Which is why the myth of Oktoberfest (and the reason why tourists always want to attend) is pretty close to what Oktoberfest really is. A lot of laughter, music, and of course really good beer. And the reality? It was mythical in proportion.
I am thankful for this experience and for this wonderful weekend.
I am thankful that I was able to abandon my uptightness and enjoy it with complete love.
I am thankful that I didn’t wake up with a hangover.
And so it is.