I got off the train in Munich at midnight, dodging drunk people
Oktoberfest was in full swing, and the train station buzzed with activity. Rows of windows in the high industrial ceilings gave way to views of the dark sky. Wheeling my suitcase behind me, I dodged drunk men and women in dirndls and lederhosen, watching them sway from food stall to food stall. A half dozen people propped each other up in the Burger King line. It smelled like fried dough, roast chicken, beer, and vomit.
At my hostel, a drunk man was arguing with the receptionist
You know, the kind of man who thinks that just because he’s 6’5″ and maybe lifts weights sometimes, he can intimidate people? He leaned over the desk, knocked over the receptionist’s coffee and spat as he spoke vehemently in German. His buddy (who also looked like a “bodybuilder”, read:guido) stood to one side nodding emphatically. Two smaller guys wearing leather jackets stood a little ways back, watching the situation unfold. I wondered what their role was in the situation. They were obviously sober, and built lean like martial artists.
I took my place in line behind the drunk guy, and chuckled to myself at his idiocy. Finally, realizing that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted (whatever that may have been. I unfortunately do not speak German), he smacked his hand on the desk and then whirled around, nearly knocking into me. I wonder if I’d be able to take this guy down, I thought. Probably, since he’s so drunk he can’t stand straight. He looked at me as he brushed by, maybe surprised that I didn’t move? Best not to test the theory.
I checked in, and the man behind the desk was nice enough to give me sheets and towels for free since I “had to wait and deal with the mess from the guy ahead of me”. I smiled and told him it was no bother, guys like that are merely entertaining. He smiled tentatively, and I wondered how many people he’d had to deal with that were just like that moron.
On the elevator, feeling trapped
I wheeled my suitcase into the lift, clutching my sheets to my chest. A guy got on behind me, looking tired. The doors began to close, then a hand reached out and pried them open. In walked Belligerent Drunk Guy plus sidekick. Great. He looked at me and smiled predatorily. “Hellllo,” he said. I couldn’t tell if his speech was marred by accent or booze. Probably both.
I frowned. I could probably take him, but not him and his friend. Anyway, he seemed a lot bigger in an enclosed space. I glanced at the third guy. He yawned. My heart rate increased as I considered how to get out of this predicament.
It occurred to me then that, despite the fact that I am fit, despite the fact that I am stronger than most girls, despite the fact that I have some (about a year’s worth) of martial arts training, this guy–this drunk guy–could probably still overpower me. And that terrified me.
Relief flooded through me as I got off the elevator alone. I didn’t look back.
Onto more fun things
Due to a wrong turn and a lack of 3G, I was late meeting my sister and brother-in-law at their hotel (that they had generously offered to share with me that evening since they booked it on points). I called her room from reception to tell her I’d finally arrived. “Oh good! I was just about to send you a Viber saying ‘please don’t make me leave you’.”
Sarah ushered me into the room and shoved a bag into my hands as soon as I’d set down my suitcase. “Go get dressed so we can go!” she said. I pulled out the outfit: a dark green dirndl, blouse, and apron. After reading about Oktoberfest on Speaking Denglish, she insisted we rent “authentic” dirndls to wear to the festival (from Bavarian Outfitters). She already had hers on. Her husband was wearing lederhosen and a checked shirt, looking less than pleased about the outfit. “Sarah said it would be worse if we weren’t wearing them,” he said, grimacing.
“I think I’m going to need your help,” I called to my sister as I attempted–and failed–to zip the outfit. She burst into the bathroom, a huge grin on her face.
“You’re lucky I gave you the larger one,” she said, pulling the two sides together as I zipped. “Oh, and you’re supposed to show cleavage.”
BUT WHICH TENT?
We followed the droves of dirndl and lederhosen-sporting folks to the festival grounds, walked to the middle of the park and then stopped.
“It looks like the South Carolina State Fair,” I said.
Sarah put her hands on her hips and chuckled, “It kinda does.” But she was grinning and practically skipping around. One minute she’d be right next to us and the next poof! Like a kid in a toy store. It reminded me of the time we took her (then) two and a half year-old daughter to the zoo at Christmas time. Maybe Sarah needs to be spending more time around adults, I thought. So let’s go drink beer and act like kids.
Sarah had read that the Hacker tent is where it’s at, but she wanted to visit others before settling there.
First, we walked into Marstall.
No time to be choosy
But as we walked out again, Sarah was getting antsy since it was “getting late” (nearly 11am!). On the blog, she’d read that if you want to get a seat in a tent, you have to get there before lunchtime. She’d also specifically picked a weekday (Thursday, 2 Oct to be exact) to go so that there’d be fewer people. What we didn’t know was that the next day was a nationwide holiday as well as the beginning of the last weekend of Oktoberfest (did you know Oktoberfest ends the first weekend of October?). So it was crowded anyway.
We made our way to the Hacker tent.
Inside, the atmosphere was bright and merry. White clouds on a sky-blue background decorated the ceiling. “I read on the blog–” this was becoming Sarah’s mantra, “–that it’s tradition to stand on the benches and try to chug a stein while the crowd cheers you on. If you don’t finish, though, everybody boos you,” she laughed with delight. But her delight quickly turned to frustration as we walked down aisle after aisle of full tables. A few times, people did stand on the benches and try to chug a stein–which is much bigger than a pint I might add–and the entire tentful of people stopped what they were doing to cheer or to boo.
Finally, we accepted that we weren’t going to get a table there.
Finding ourselves outside once again, we followed a crowd to the entrance of the Augustiner tent. Inside, there was a table available until 5:30. It wasn’t even noon. There was no way we were going to be there that long. We asked the three people already sitting there if we could join them. They said yes, and we sat down. At long last, a seat! Sarah was pumped to be sitting with Germans, who she later referred to as “her little German friends”.
The waitress came by sporting a dirndl, wrist braces, and an extra pretzel. “That table next to you didn’t want this extra pretzel they ordered. Do you want it?” The three of us exchanged glances. My stomach grumbled. We took the pretzel and ordered three beers. Turns out the pretzel wasn’t a freebie (should have known). When she came back with the beers and we had paid, she grumbled something about “these are expensive beers and there’s no tip included” then stormed off. We asked Sarah’s little German friends what that was all about (she’d read on the blog that the waiters don’t expect to be tipped). “It’s because you’re tourists,” they told us.
And then Sarah was holding a small child
At the table across the aisle, there was a man with a baby. The two of them were wearing identical lederhosen, and the baby had a pacifier with a key chain attached that spelled out his name (Raphael). Sarah, who also has a one year-old son, kept staring at the child, occasionally lamenting, “I miss my babies!” Finally, after we were a stein or two deep, the man noticed Sarah ogling his son. And the next thing we knew, the baby was in her lap, staring up at her with wide blue eyes. “He’s only two weeks younger than James,” Sarah said, starry-eyed. She bounced the baby on her knee for a little while until the man came back over. Needless to say, the child’s mother was not present and probably thought Raphael and his daddy were just going out for a stroll, not going out for a stein and then being handed over to random drunk strangers. Luckily, we were not baby snatchers, and Raphael was (eventually) returned to his rightful owner.
And then bad decisions
After inhaling some delicious roast chicken (as recommended by Sarah’s little German friends)–well, as much as we could inhale in our restrictive costumes–we peaced and reemerged into the sunlight. It was still early afternoon (I’m not giving you specifics because in reality I had no idea how much time had passed).
“You know, I think it’s a good thing we didn’t end up in the Hacker tent,” Sarah said. “I don’t think I’d have been able to keep up with those guys. Augustiner was much more our speed.” She’d looked it up earlier to discover that Augustiner was the “family-oriented” tent. Which explained the baby. Kind of.
But, as you do when you’re kind of drunk, we decided that instead of getting on rides or maybe just sitting on a bench and taking it easy, we should EXPERIENCE MORE OKTOBERFEST.
And so we ended up in the Hofbrau tent arguing with a bunch of Geordies.
Good-natured argument, of course. In the manner that only drunk vacationers and drunk Geordies on stag-do’s can manage. I think we stayed there for an hour? When we left, I went immediately to the fried dough stand. It had been calling my name since the train station. I got one with bacon on it. And it was delicious. I think.
Aaaand magic tricks!
Like the true party-animal that I am, I fell asleep in the cab (at 4 or 5pm I might add) and woke up in the hotel room. I think I must have zombie-walked through the hotel because Sarah claims she did not carry me.
We spent the rest of the day sleeping it off and recovering. On the bus to the train station, we ran into two other Americans who were on day two of Oktoberfest and planning to go back the next day. After we got off the bus, I said, “I don’t know how they were so perky! And after two days.” What a feat.