Although I have been living in Europe for almost three years, it took me until this past September to (Finally!) make it to Germany for the first time. And to be honest, I’m not sure what took me so long! Thankfully, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the country– Oktoberfest in Munich!
When a friend invited everyone to stay in his late uncle’s vacant house for a long weekend during Oktoberfest, I couldn’t say no! Charlie and I left northern France and arrived in the village where he spent most of his childhood summers on a late Thursday evening. Our first evening consisted of a nice and hospitable all-authentic German meal (and spontaneous beers!) with Charlie’s wonderfully kind neighbors. We spent the evening speaking about Germany’s history and its relationships with France and the United States. One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting locals and having evenings and conversations like this.
Charlie’s German hometown, about an hour west of Munich
On Friday, Charlie and I took a bit of a road trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, in the heart of the Bavarian countryside. This nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival was built by Ludwig II, and currently sits above the village of Hohenschwangau. Today, it is probably best-known as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Although we opted not to go inside, we had a nice time hiking (and boating) around the surroundings!
Shopping for Bavarian Clothing:
The Bavarian people are very proud of their heritage and history, and almost everyone dresses the part at Oktoberfest. Needless to say, on Saturday morning Charlie took me to a traditional store (where I was the only foreigner!) to buy some traditional Bavarian clothing. Unfortunately, an authentic dirndl is very expensive, but I was able to splurge a female Lederhosen instead. I definitely didn’t feel out of place with my high-cut jean shorts and suspenders!
Oktoberfest actually takes place on a fairground– the dozens of beer tents filled with thousands of people are also surrounded by carnival rides, games, and street performers. Although it is free to enter the grounds and the tents, beers are sold by the liter at 10€ each– a steal! Tents are very much on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it is near impossible to get a spot inside a tent on a Saturday. Thankfully we were eventually able to find spots at a table outside one of the tents, and got nice and cuddly with some Kiwis and two fellow Americans. Towards the end of the night were able to sneak into Hofbrauhaus, the most famous of the beer tents (seriously, don’t ask me how we did it, as I have no idea). Oktoberfest actually finishes at 10 PM (and seriously, for good reason), although most of the adults (us included) find themselves drunkly riding carnival rides until about midnight.
Waiting for the train– I wonder where everyone is headed?
On Sunday morning, Charlie and I headed back into town for round two, and this time were able to score two seats inside one of the better tents (especially known for its music), and we drank all afternoon. The greatest thing about Oktoberfest in my opinion is the overall ambiance– more often than not you are sitting with strangers and are forced to get to know each other over beer and music, singing, and dancing.
Hands down, I would recommend Oktoberfest to anyone. I also highly recommend dressing up in authentic clothing (and perhaps either buying something second-hand or online, or borrowing something to save on costs) as well as BOOKING EARLY if you are planning to stay in Munich. Thankfully trains run late and Oktoberfest ends early (plus, German regional trains have a great deal: one group ticket for up to five people (you can even buddy up with randoms on the platform as we did)– I ended up paying something ridiculous like 7 euros round-trip for an hour ride to Munich and back.
I will definitely be back to Oktoberfest— the weekend was very much a whirlwind, as I found myself on an overnight bus back to Paris followed by a two-hour train ride to the north, and then 5 hours of teaching on Monday morning, but it was worth it! I would also love to come back and see Munich at a time when Oktobefest isn’t going on.