Drinking beer and eating Lebkuchen at Oktoberfest
Since I packed my bags and left Germany in 2013 after six monthts of living there, I have been back a few times. One of those times was to fulfill a dream – experiencing Oktoberfest in Munich. Now, this wasn’t the most natural of decisions for me since I neither had anyone to go with, nor do I drink beer. Yes, you read that correctly. Oktoberfest without beer might seem like a pretty pointless experience, but Oktoberfest is actually about a lot more than just drinking. Entering the party area in Munich is like entering an amusement park – with roller coasters, people dressed up in the traditional Bavarian Dirndl and Lederhosen, as well as stands selling delicious German food and the traditional Lebkuchen. The atmosphere is like at any festival, filled with people singing, laughing and snacking on chips or candy, while music is playing in the background. Having done some googling I realized that going to Oktoberfest without drinking beer wouldn’t be that much of an issue, but the issue of finding someone to travel with remained. While I often travel alone, I didn’t feel like this was the kind of setting I would enjoy being alone at. Solo traveling can be absolutely amazing, but I still believe there are some trips that are better with company. Because of that I wrote some posts on Munich’s page on Couchsurfing and on a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to traveling, asking if anyone wanted to join. I quickly started getting messages about people wanting to go to Oktoberfest and I set up a Whatsapp group with the people who were interested, and the number of members in the group grew every week. In the end we were about fifteen people who would come from all over the world to celebrate Oktoberfest, and we decided to meet in Munich. During the weeks leading up to Oktoberfest we were talking to each other almost every day, writing about all the things we would want to do while we had arrived in Germany, as well as trying to figure out accommodation and where to buy the best Bavarian clothes. By the time we arrived in Munich we were already friends. I even decided to share accommodation with one of the girls. As it is very difficult to find accommodation during Oktoberfest we decided to use Couchsurfing, and we stayed with a very sweet guy who slept on the floor so that we could have his bed. In the morning after we arrived she and I got up and put on our newly bought Dirndls and went out to meet the others. We took the tube quite early in the morning on the first day of Oktoberfest, and everywhere were people of all ages dressed in the traditional clothes associated with Oktoberfest. After some time waiting in line to leave our luggage before going in, we managed to get inside to see the huge area filled with roller coasters and meet up with the other travelers. In the end we ended up being a group of people from India, Brazil, Cyprus, Japan, Phillipines, Germany, USA, Peru and Sweden.
With some of the wonderful people I met at Oktoberfest
Not drinking beer was actually quite an interesting experience. During the days the only drinks available were either beer or spezi (a combination of coke and fanta) so I stayed sober while the others were getting more and more drunk. One guy was in his late 20’s and had never in his life had alcohol before, so I will let you imagine what the effect was on him. As the only completely sober person I did my best to look after him, telling him to not drink more as he would get a terrible hangover the next day, to which he replied “that won’t happen to me!” as he downed another beer. When we decided to go for dinner at a restaurant outside of the Oktoberfest area our walk there turned into an adventure, trying to keep alls these drunk people from wandering of. Me and a guy took the lead, and constantly had to stop to make sure no one had made friends with some random people along the way and decided to leave with them.
Let’s play a game I like to call “spot the drunk people”
One of the guys that I spent time with at Oktoberfest was a German guy who knew everything there was to know about Oktoberfest. He knew what time we should arrive in the morning to be able to get seats (it’s possible to reserve seats in the tents but these sell out very quickly so in order to secure a seat you should arrive early in the morning), he knew which tent had the best atmosphere, the lyrics to all the songs and the movements that went along with them, he knew about the best Bavarian restaurants (for the inevitable need to have Schnitzel which always appears after a while spent in Germany) and he knew about the origin and traditions associated with Oktoberfest. He seemed to take the celebration very seriously because every single day of Oktoberfest he would get up early, put on his vest, Lederhosen and charivari (a type of decorative chain that goes on the Lederhosen) and go to one of the tents of Oktoberfest. Before I knew this, I asked him at one point what he would do the next day, and he then told me a somewhat modified version of the quote from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain; “the same thing we do every day… go to Oktoberfest”. He also told me about a tradition of men and women buying Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) with cute messages to each other, and said he wanted to buy me one. He got me a cookie with the text “Sonnenschein” (sunshine) and I bought one for him as well, but I have long forgotten what it said on it. Afterwards he gave me a kiss, but if this was part of the tradition or his own invention, I don’t know.
With our Lebkuchen
While Germany might not be the first choice for anyone wanting to go on a culinary trip, it actually has some really nice food which you should try in Munich. Having worked in a restaurant in Bavaria for four months, where I had dinner every single day, I have tried my fair share of German food, and while there are some peculiar dishes (like pancake soup or Leberkäse, which literally means “liver cheese” but is a sort of meetloaf) there are also a lot of really tasty things. Though while there are a lot of great German dishes, my absolute favorite thing to eat in Germany is the Butterbrezel. As can be guessed from the name, this is a pretzel that is cut open and filled with butter, and it’s absolutely amazing. In the tents of Oktoberfest it is possible to buy huge versions of these, which is enough for several people. At one point we went to a restaurant where I had another must-eat in Germany – the Apfelstrudel – and it was a combination of two of my favorite German things as it had been decorated with a tiny pretzel. You obviously should also have Schnitzel, as well as Käsespätzle (basically macaroni and cheese) or some other traditional Bavarian food such as Schweinbraten (pork roast), Weißwürste (white sausage), Knödel (a type of dumpling) or Kartoffel salat (potato salad). Some of these dishes are possible to order inside the tents. Along with this food it is common to order Radler – beer mixed with Sprite or mineral water. As weird as it may sound to a non-German, diluting alcoholic beverages with water seems to be very popular in Germany, and I really can’t remember the amount of times I poured a glass of wine and then mixed it with tap water while I worked at the restaurant in southern Bavaria.
My version of heaven
Needless to say, going to Oktoberfest in Munich was a really amazing experience. Sitting in the tents eating grilled chicken while singing songs along with hundreds of other people, and then going for dinner at Bavarian restaurants in the evenings, along with newly made friends was all really great. I’m still in contact with some of the people I met there, and I am honestly so grateful that I decided to look for people to go with me, or I might not have gone at all. With all travel sites and social media that exist you never really have to worry about having to turn down the opportunity to go on a trip simply because you have no one to go with you – regardless of where you want to go I guarantee there is someone else out there who wants to go to the same place. My trip to Munich was the first time that I looked for travel companions online, but I would definitely do it again when there’s a place I don’t want to visit alone. Right now I’m in contact with a few girls I might go to Iran with, as it’s a country I desperately want to visit but not necessarily alone, and I’m planning on doing the same for Holi in India, 4th July in the US, Chinese New Year in Beijing and similar events that I think would be more fun if you’re in a group. There are an endless number of people out there who are desperate to travel and see places, so you never really have to worry about missing out on something amazing because you feel uncomfortable going alone. I probably would have not gone to Oktoberfest by myself (I see myself sitting alone in a corner with a glass of spezi in hand), so I thank the internet gods for connecting me with a group of wonderful people who helped me realize my dream.
You are supposed to buy these to the hot guys or girls you know
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest?