Sometimes you get a few vacation days with your husband and go on romantic, relaxing getaways. Other times, your husband requests, adamantly, that he wants to spend your holiday surrounded by tens of thousands of people drinking gallons (literally) of beer.
Yes, we completed that bucket list item of Oktoberfest in Munich last weekend, and yes, it was insane. So many people. So much beer. Lots of really adorable dirndls. That was my biggest takeaway.
We arrived at the fest early-ish (we were staying an hour outside the city — budgets, y'all — so super early wasn't too appealing to us) around 8:30 a.m. and somehow, were magically let into the front of a very long line outside of the Schützen-Festzelt tent by a super nice guard after no prompting at all (literally, he just let us under the rope. We were very fortunate). We shuffled our way into the tent after they opened around 9 a.m. among the throngs of people and found a nice table right by the railing on the upper floor. Beer was immediately served, we partook and the day began.
The tent was intense (see what I did there?). There were thousands of people, but it was such a fun atmosphere. Employees dressed in dirndls and lederhosen made their way around with incredibly heavy liters of beer, gobs of pretzels and plates of chicken, trying to hold it over the heads of people milling about. People stood up to drink on their benches while the crowd cheered them on as they made an attempt at downing their liter of beer — and booed them when they didn't succeed. The band would start up with a song that we were all supposed to "prost!" to and everyone would wave their steins and sing. It was so fun to be a part of.
We did not stay the entire day at the fest. We got kicked out of the Schützen-Festzelt tent at noon (everyone on the upper floor did unless they had a reservation), so we grabbed lunch off the grounds, came back, and were way overwhelmed with the mass of people that were there. After getting into a few tents but being miserable while being jostled around by other bodies, we decided to call it a day at the fest and wander around Munich instead. There were less people vomiting there (though it was not immune).
We did really enjoy Oktoberfest, but I was very happy we did not try to stay the entire day. If we had gone on a weekday (an almost impossible request due to my husband's work schedule, unfortunately), that might've been more feasible, but there were just too many people there by the end of the day on the weekend we were there (which was also Germany's reunification holiday). Getting there very early was the right move to do (I would recommend even earlier than we did), so we could camp out at a table as long as possible and enjoy the festivities without having to fight folks the entire day. Or, you could just make reservations a year in advance if you're a way more put-together person than the rest of us. We will all look down on you with your fancy reserved table in envy!
Other Oktoberfest tips? We super liked the Schützen-Festzelt tent — it was popular with young folks, and had a great band that played a great mix of popular music (Four Non-Blondes totally made an appearance) and German folk music. But I hear all the tents are fantastic. For food, I would highly recommend eating off the Oktoberfest grounds if you're not glued to a table— there are restaurants not even 10-minutes walking and it will be much cheaper, and just as good, as inside the fest. I also loved wearing my dirndl (with just enough cleavage!), which I found for half price (since it was the last Oktoberfest weekend) at a department store called C&A in Munich, though my friend Samantha, who just moved to Germany, kindly informed me that I was wearing my dirndl like a virgin (literally). I had tied my apron in the middle, which is awkward since I'm married. Married women apparently tie their aprons to the right — single women to the left. I'm assuming most children would put them in the middle. Most of the women at the fest seemed to have dirndls, and they come in so many colors and patterns – it's so fun people watch and have some dirndl envy.
Other than Oktoberfest, we also spent some time during our weekend exploring Munich and wandering around smaller towns in Bavaria. I am obsessed with Bavaria — it may be my favorite place in all of Europe that I could feasibly see myself living (besides Denmark). The forests are beautiful, the towns are historic and quaint, and the landscape is breathtaking. Everywhere you go feels cozy and homey and earthy all at once.
We stayed in a small town called Bad Tölz about an hour south of Munich by train. We rented out an adorable little Airbnb apartment, decorated all in cute pink gingham, and totally fell in love with our sweet Airbnb host, Marlies, and the town itself (if you haven't tried Airbnb yet, here's a referral code for $20 off your first night!). The town was very walkable, had a perfect view of the Alps from the river, and featured all the lovely Bavarian paintings on the sides of homes that give the region that much more charm.
This won't be our last visit to Bavaria, and hopefully next year we will be that much more equipped to do Oktoberfest – you can't just buy a dirndl and wear it once, after all!
Photos and text © Katie Currid, 2015. All rights reserved.