I lived in Germany 8 years ago as a student studying abroad. It was one of the best 6 months of my life. However, it missed the one main German experience that everyone has to see to believe... Oktoberfest! I missed it by about a month. And I missed it again a few years later by about two weeks. Of course, that hasn't stopped me hoping to get to it one day.
Finally I got that chance. A friend from the US, whom I met in Munich 6 years ago now lives there with his German girlfriend, so I was lucky enough to get an invite to their Oktoberfest table. Definitely not something I was going to pass up... no matter that it cost me a fair amount to get there. Rob and Ellen have visited me in Australia, and I have been to Munich and Dallas, Texas to see them before as well... but Oktoberfest just rounded out the story.
I took a night train from the Netherlands to Munich... probably not the brightest idea in hindsight, as it was full of others going to Oktoberfest, who had already stared their beer consumption days ago by the sound and look of things. But I arrived in one piece, at 8am... and while tired, it wasn't anything that good German beer couldn't fix.
I met up with Rob and Ellen for the first day, and we took the train in. The amount of people in lederhosen and dirndls (the female costume) was incredible. The singing even on the train before we got there, made sure everyone was in the mood. As we walked in, you really don't get the 'beer drinking' vibe though. Everything is food stands (and when I say that I mean sugar!!!!) and theme-park rides... EVERYWHERE!
And then you see the beer halls! What look like permanent structures, are put up for three weekends, two weeks of the year, and then deconstructed to be put in storage. Not sure why they don't just leave them up. The area is only used for Oktoberfest. And they are impressive to say the least. After we decided to take a ride on one of the water based rides - gave us a good look over the whole Oktoberfest area, we went off to find one of Rob's colleagues, (whose name escapes me at this moment). From there it was a bit more walking around and then straight to one of the beer gardens to start the afternoon.
At the Paulaner (Weißbier) garden, we had our half litre glasses going, and had a good catch up on life. We also had some food - the half metre sausage, definitely the highlight! :) Later in the evening, another of Rob's friend's came, Jason. Jason was nice enough to be my accommodation host for the weekend, as Rob and Ellen's place was full, and paying €300 a night, was not exactly in the budget. So we all just ate, drank and talked the evening away. I had to take one of the beer glasses home as a souvenir... especially if I wasn't able to get a proper 1lt one the next day. Ellen's friends and family joined us later for us all to go out for dinner. Ah, German beer and food - how I missed you!!!!
The next day was hard to get up... but a good amount of breakfast, was fine! We met everyone at the Pschorr Beer Hall, where we would be spending our afternoon, and most of the evening. Once inside, it was not what I expected. This was quiet and civilized. I was told, once the meals had been served, that's when the craziness begins. So, we sat and chatted for about an hour, watching the serving ladies come and go with their 10+ 1lt beer glasses (Maß) in their two hands. It really is an incredible thing to see. The band started up as well, to accompany our afternoon with lovely German music... some of which I still remembered from when I lived there.
Then the chicken came! To say it was amazing, is an understatement. I actually stopped thinking when I ate it. And everyone stopped talking! The meat was not dry at all, the skin was crisp and herbed to perfection. Without a doubt, the best roast chicken I have ever had!
Then the craziness started. 6 hours of dancing, drinking, singing, eating bread pretzels, and enjoying the time with everyone around us. And we even were able to get home at a reasonable time… before midnight… but the drinking didn't help the time it took to get there.
Somehow I managed to smuggle one of the large maß out of the beer hall! Not allowed, but hey - I wasn't leaving empty handed with nothing to show of my adventure! :)
The only thing that was slightly miserable about the whole weekend, was the ending. And even then I had to find it just funny! Two days went really quickly and saying bye is never fun. The next morning I took a train with Deutsche Bahn (German Rail), and the normally reliable Germans got me to Düsseldorf 30 minutes late on an ICE fast train, so I, along with 2 Indians I'd met on the train (saying they were going to the same destination as me) and 1 Afghani (who was complaining at the ticket booth in Düsseldorf when we arrived) jumped in a taxi with a Turkish taxi driver... He proceeded to drive from Düsseldorf to Venlo at 180km/h. I had to translate and remember all my language skills, speaking English to the Indians, Dutch to the Afghani and German to the Turk. So hilarious! Still, we were extremely glad DBahn paid the €130 fare, and we just managed to make our connecting trains! WooHoo...