Imagine that it’s homecoming at your university. Thousands of people waking up early, wearing your school colors, friends coming from all over to celebrate this day with you, drinking, eating, singing, dancing, etc. Now picture that amount of people, food, and beers and multiply by five hundred or so. This is what Oktoberfest was like. Millions and millions of people, food and beer. This type of environment made the decision to attend the festival fairly easy.
Cassie, my roommate and very close family friend, and I went out on a whim in early July and booked tickets for the festival. We did minimal research, but we knew hotel prices were only going to increase. With little hesitation, I entered my debit information into hostelworld.com and one minute later it was confirmed. We were going to Oktoberfest. But we weren’t only going to Oktoberfest, we were camping at Oktoberfest. I texted my friends who had gone the year prior and, based on their responses, I instantly regretted our decision to camp and not look into other arrangements. A friend of mine told me that “It was the worst experience ever”. Her entire campsite got food poisoning, it was freezing cold, and that the bathrooms were repulsive.
I tried to take what she said with a grain of salt and see if I could convince myself that I hadn’t made such an awful impulsive decision. After all, I felt like an expert camper after surviving four nights at Firefly Music Festival through a tropical storm, so could it really be that bad? I was nervous to tell Cassie what my friend had said. Cassie’s a nurse and likes keeping things sanitary, you know, the whole not spreading germs thing…So, I sugarcoated it :), by saying it would be an experience and to my surprise she was fine with the plan!
And to both of our surprises we loved our campsite. Yes, the bathrooms were dirty and there was never any soap or toilet paper, but we knew that so we came prepared. And maybe we didn’t shower for three full days (no judgement zone) because it was too much of a hassle, but it’s all a part of the experience right?
When we got to our campsite I turned to Cassie and said, “Where’s our welcome beer?”, half joking, half serious and two seconds later one of the workers magically appeared and said in his Aussie accent, “You girls need a drink?” It was clockwork.
We were escorted to our tent which was a teeny tiny small orange tent, perfect for two people.
There were two air mattresses that filled the tent to its entirety, but after sitting on mine for ten minutes it started deflating. That night I ended up sleeping in some sort of V-position. My legs elevated, my butt on the hard ground, and head elevated. Needless to say it led to a sore back the next morning.
Our campsite was a melting pot filled with with people from all over the world. We met Brits, Parisians, Latin Americans, fellow Americans, etc. We stayed at the campsite Friday night because that’s what you do when you have unlimited beer and awesome DJ's. We had one gigantic international party.
The next day we arrived at the actual festival around 9:30 AM and among the mass of people (literally millions) somehow found our CIEE friends. Immediately a waitress, dressed in her drindl, managed to carry over ten steins. There’s about three to four beers in one stein and the glasses they come in are heavy. So, she was carrying about 35 beers…Pretty impressive.
In midst of paying for my stein the entire tent started cheering and chanting. I looked up and a girl who was about my age, was chugging her entire stein while standing on the table. I later learned that this was going to occur about every minute. If you stand on the table and finish your beer everyone applauds you and of course you get bragging rights. However, if you do not finish it, the crowd boos and throws pretzels at you.
My friend Jackie and I decided to do a practice round to see if we could handle the real deal. Total fail. We couldn’t even get through half the stein without needing a break. And to stay I just graduated college -__-
About an hour later we started mingling with the other people at our table. The second weekend of Oktoberfest is also known as Italian Weekend and low and behold we shared our spot with some Italians; a man who we eventually nicknamed Papa, his friends, and his sons who were 21, 18, 16. He was such a sweet man, talking about his sons and how he wants us to date them. He didn’t speak any English and I can’t speak Italian so his son had to translate for us. Almost every minute he would cheers us, stein to stein, and start laughing hysterically for pretty much no reason at all. We started chanting Papa, Papa, Papa, several times encouraging him to stand on the table and finish his beer. But he refused as his face reddened and instead chose to chug on the floor.
To my disappointment, I only lasted four hours at the festival before heading back to the campsite. I missed the food and the rides, but I still had an incredible experience. After all, it is the largest beer drinking festival in the world, holding over 6 million people and dating back back to the year 1810. The amount of consumed beer is 7.5 million liters, enough to fill three olympic size swimming pools! Prost to that!
Photo credit: Amanda Boccardi