The World's Greatest Party
Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
10Trip End Oct 07, 2009
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Ok, I blew it.
I mean, who goes to a beer festival gluten free anyway????? I decided that I was going to take the risk. And it was worth it because that is some damn good Oktoberfest beer!
We arrived and hit the ground running. I already knew from past experience what the next four days would entail, and despite my initial protest that we were going to try things differently and maybe add in some Bavarian culture days, it all went the same as it did last time, drinking, eating, and festival-ing for 4 days straight! We were there with family and good friends; add in good food, festive people, and great beer, what could be bad?
Tracy (our good friend from New York who also met us in Paris on our last trip) became part of the Challi duo and, as always, was a ton of fun
We got as much "tent time" (as Chad liked to call it) as we could, especially given that Reunification Day was on a Saturday and the Wiesn was ridiculously crowded. But since the weather was so great this year, sitting outside in the beer gardens was almost as good as being in the tents, only we couldn't hear the band well.
One of the best parts of Oktoberfest is sitting with local people and talking. While we met tons of great people, on the day we went to Hacker-Pschorr, we met the most adorable Bavarian teenagers. They had just finished high school and were off to university in the following weeks. They were genuinely interested in and took plenty of time explaining details of their music, culture, food, etc
On the last night of the festival, after hearing all the songs from the past and identifying the 2009 songs of the festival, we enjoyed the ceremonial finale with sparklers and an all-out tribute to the wait staff to bring the festival to a close.
Eins, zwei, zupfa! (Drink) Our friends from St. Pete joined us in Munich, Mike and Madeline Dunsizer. Along with Tracy, keeping track of seven people at Oktoberfest got somewhat difficult. We did a pretty good job even with the German holiday on the third. We had never seen so many people in our lives in one place. Once they get capacity in the tents, they close the doors. Then the outdoor gardens fill up and you are totally out of luck. See, if you do not have a seat, you do not get a beer. Verboton! Reason being—get there early; and yes, you can spend all day and evening in a beer tent. The bands are fabulous and everyone stands on the benches and dances. Verboton to stand on the tables! There is really no way to really describe the experience of Oktoberfest with meeting people from all over the world, combining all the different cultures, and everyone enjoying each other’s company
- Boy they sure dress funny over here – what’s up with the leather shorts these guys wear?
- How did I get to be three times older than everyone in the Hostel (except for Challi)
- Everyone in Germany knows the words to John Denver’s Country Roads, and they sing it standing up on their Oktoberfest benches.
- Did I mention the beer?!
When I arrived in Munich and Chad was like a small child pulling on his mother's pant leg begging to go to the 'Wiesn! Wiesn!' (Oktoberfest grounds), Alli stated, 'There is no way I am spending every single day drinking, I just can't do it'
As Chad said many times, it is the most beautiful party in the world, and I couldn't agree more. When you tell people you are going to Oktoberfest, people think that you are just going to get wasted. While that is incidentally true, it is by far not the intention of this party. If you could close your eyes and imagine some sort of paradise, that is what Oktoberfest is. Imagine congregating people from all over the world, who are in a great mood, welcoming and excited to meet new people, add some beer, no stress, and you have the most fun you could ever imagine.
Somehow you find a way to communicate and get to know the people you are sitting and drinking with, even though you don't share even one word of a common language, and you become great friends. You sing, you dance, you eat, and you are in bed by midnight, only to wake up to do it again the next day. People are all ages and nationalities, it's beautiful! Huge props to Chad's parents and friends who kept up with us and sang, danced, and stumbled right along with us.
It is at this time that I give a HUGE thank you to having the best damn Jewish mother ever, aka Alli, who made sure I got to bed every night, who didn't let me wander off with random cute boys (okay so I wandered, but she always made sure I came back), who wasn't shy about reprimanding me when I was on the verge of misbehaving, and who filled in all the blanks for me in the morning
Day 1 – After meeting up with Mike and Madeline at their hotel around the corner, we headed up Goethestrasse – go ahead, pronounce it – toward the Wiesn. Just like the last time, the anticipation built with each step. Alli and I found ourselves to be just as excited for round two at the world’s greatest party as we were the first time, and when we reached the festival grounds, we were raring to go
First stop: the Augustiner tent, and this is maybe the one single reaction I had hoped to see over the entire trip. My dad rarely curses, but when we walked into the Augustiner fest hall, we all got a 'holy shit.’ There’s really not much else to say. We failed to make it to Augustiner the last time, and according to most, this fest hall tends to be one of the friendliest, is filled with the most locals, and also is legendary for having the best beer. My god it was good. Augustiner is the only Oktoberfest beer still brewed in wooden kegs, which are literally rolled out and tapped. It’s also the only Oktoberfest beer not exported, making its consumption inside the massive fest hall a pilgrimage. Within fifteen minutes of reaching the Wiesn, my main beer-tent goals had been achieved, not to mention the facts that we met a Kurt Tatman (my cousin) look-alike, and Alli bailed on her gluten free diet in favor of the heavenly Augustiner. She even took her pills with a liter of it, and we all drank with first-day vigor that often leads to second-day headaches…
We moved along when our table became reserved and wound up outside under the quintessential Bavarian sky of light blue and wisps of white clouds forming the diamonds.
Back at the hostel, we hung out until the wee hours of the morning with the Italians next door, drinking beers we bought out of the vending machine downstairs. We took turns playing songs on respective iPods – they love Sinatra – and after we got rid of Alli’s headache, it was time to call it a night.
Day 2 – Since the old folks were well-rested, they took off for some sightseeing in Munich while the three of us had a lazy morning and a traditional, German lunch up the street
We sat outside the Lowenbrau tent and wound up talking about healthcare policy with a bunch of Aussies, we communicated through sign language and a few common words with some Slovakian soccer players, and then we tried to get in the tent. The doors had been shut for a while, but after putting in just a little time at the nearest entrance, everyone but Mike, Madeline, and I made it in before they stopped allowing people in. The Dunsizers decided to head back to the hotel, and I tried other doors until I saw Alli racing up from the inside with a couple of Indian guys. They directed me to another door, where one of them talked the security guard into letting me in. Once inside, we drank in the aisles with our new Indian friends from Munich, who were so kind to help a little American girl get her husband in the fest hall. The tent was hopping, one we remembered from our last night at the fest in ’06. And we heard some classic songs, including a few by the Beatles.
Day 3 – When we woke up in the morning, Alli, Tracy, and I had a little more motivation to get our asses in gear and get to the Wiesn
We got there shortly after noon, usually plenty of time to at least get inside a tent if not find a seat, but we couldn’t find even one tent with its doors still open. In fact, we couldn’t even find an open beer garden!!! We marched up and down the main drag for well over an hour and were just about to give up and head into downtown Munich when I decided to check the Lowenbrau beer garden again, being that it is one of the largest. We stood in one spot for a few minutes when Alli and Tracy befriended a French Drinking Team from Strasbourg. Because they were seated, we bought our beers through them, and eventually after a few of them left, we sat down.
Over the next several hours we drank with the Frenchmen, a group from Taiwan, another group from who-knows-where including a few who couldn’t lift their heads from the table, a Russian girl who liked stuffed animal wombats and making Batman faces, a group from Cologne who were very kind and informative, and finally, a couple of cousins, one from Switzerland and the other from Australia
We bounced from door to door of the Lowenbrau tent, Alli and Tracy both trying their pouty faces while I stood behind. After being denied time and time again, we decided to give a last ditch effort at the farthest, emptiest door, where we stood for about ten minutes. Inside, the guard was talking to a group of girls all dressed in traditional dirndls who appeared to be pleading with him, and when he slung the door open to let them out, one said “enjoy” to me as she walked by. Immediately the guard ushered us in. It all happened so quickly, and the three of us stood there kind of shocked. For some reason, the girls had lobbied on our behalf, and it worked.
Within fifteen minutes we had beers, and within another ten after that we were standing on the benches inside the Lowenbrau tent while Bavarian high school boys flirted with Tracy. The music? Viva Colonia, what seemed like almost the entire soundtracks of Mama Mia and Dirty Dancing but we were at Oktoberfest so I didn’t give a damn and even half-way enjoyed it, na na na nananana Hey Jude, and finally, the perfect song to hear when wearing any Florida Gators National Championship shirt, We Are the Champions my friend, and the three of us, in the midst of what many locals said was the most crowded day they had ever seen at the Wiesn, had fought for our precious tent time until the end.
Day 4 – After the crowds of day three had really put the fear of god in us for getting seats for the last day of the festival, we rounded up the entire group to head to the Wiesn early
We tried the Schottenhamel, the festival’s largest tent seating over 10,000, but couldn’t find any seats. Many people had gone early to save them for their late-arriving friends. So we went next door to the Hacker Festzelt, often referred to as the “Heaven of Bavarians,” and we found enough seats for all of us in what is probably my favorite decorated tent. The catch? The seats were at two different tables, and they were reserved at 5 meaning we would have to get up.
After running out real quick to get festival hearts for Alli and Tracy – my two wives for the weekend – I sat down with them at the table. We joined a few kids who had just graduated from high school in Munich, along with their beer-drinking stuffed animal. These kids could not have been any nicer, and as we’ve discovered, it is often the 18 to 22 range that love to share information about their culture, so they were a plethora of information. We learned which mustards to use with different types of wursts, we found out about the two songs that were hits of the ’09 Oktoberfest, and we got a hand-written translation of the German soccer chant that I’d been singing for the previous three days without actually knowing the words. My favorite encounter with these three friends, though, was when I told them about my Bavarian roots. They told me there was a phrase that Bavarians often ask people to say to prove they’re Bavarian
Shortly before we were made to leave our table for the reservation, we witnessed a fight break out nearby. It was the only one we had seen amongst the tens of thousands of beer-drinking people over the course of four days (make your own judgments about how many you might see if the same event was held in say, the United States). Despite the over-aggressive nature of the guards, the fight was literally over within seven seconds, and all parties were escorted out the doors, which by this point were shut to capacity. A minute later everything was back to normal, and by normal I mean a fact I pointed out to my dad earlier. “Look around,” I said. “Just look at how many smiles you see on the faces around us.” Genuine joy.
We relocated to another nearby table, which was an amazing find despite the fact it was kind of tucked away in a corridor away from the main area
And for your enjoyment, here are two Youtube clips from this year's Oktoberfest songs of the year, otherwise known as Wiesn Hits. Both were taken in the Hacker-Pschorr tent where we spent our last day at the fest.
The song about partying all night-
The song about swimming, lifting, etc-