Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bier Hier...Das ist Oktoberfest!

Sunday, September 23

Okay, I admit it. I hate beer. Always have and probably always will. So why did I go to Oktoberfest? Well, it's just one of those things you HAVE to do if you're here in Germany. It's a requirement, or something.

That being said, it is HIGHLY overrated.

Our original plan was to get a Happy Weekend ticket on the Deustche Bahn and take a train from Garmisch into Munich. But we weren't sure where Oktoberfest actually was, and Edelweiss was offering shuttle service to and from for $20 per person. So we figured that was a better option. We booked the last 3 spots on the Sunday bus. It was destiny, so it seemed.

I was the lone one out when it came to seating, and since I knew the bus was full, I was anticipating sitting next to a stranger. Without going into too much detail about my seatmate, I will say that he was quite friendly and talkative on the drive to Munich, and the time passed quickly and pleasantly enough.

That changed, however. More on that later.

The bus dropped us off in the Oktoberfest parking lot. The driver gave us a stern warning not to come back drunk enough to throw up. He threatened us with the expense of cleaning and sanitizing the bus if that happened.

Essentially, Oktoberfest is like a state fair with huge beer tents. It's very expensive though...each ride is about 4-5 euros. Wow. And I can't see the logic in riding rides after drinking copious amounts of brew.

Also, the Oktoberfest grounds are nowhere near anything, as far as I could tell. My hopes of going off on my own to sightsee around Munich were dashed. Besides, we really only had about 5 hours or so anyway...not much time to do anything else.

Since this was opening weekend (the 2nd day, in fact), there was supposed to be a parade. We quickly found the parade route, since we were there early, and had a good view. There was a problem. First of all, it was warm and sunny. Secondly, the parade wasn't supposed to begin for another hour yet.

So by the time the parade started, I was already sunburned (and so was Lance) and my feet were starting to go numb.

So the parade started. And it went on...and on...FOR TWO SOLID HOURS. It was the parade that never ended. I swear to God, they had marching bands for EVERY SINGLE Bavarian town, no matter how big or small, in addition to groups from Italy and Croatia. And as the parade continued, the grounds swelled with people.

The parade was still continuing when we decided we had had more than enough. Lance wanted to go into the Paulaner tent to have a beer, and even though it wasn't far, we had difficulty even getting through the crush of humanity. But since it was around 1 pm, we also wanted to get food. So we went to a food stand first, where I got fish and chips and a lemonade, and Lance ordered 2 huge pretzels for himself and his sister.

We fought through the crowds to get to the beer tent, went in, and started looking for a place to sit. No luck. It was packed. We walked around the beer gardens outside. No luck there either. Finally, Lance decided to go inside and check again, and that's when I was stopped by security. They saw my lemonade and told me that no outside drinks were allowed in the beer tent.

So what were we to do? I told Lance and his sister to go have some beer. I would just go off on my own and meet back up with them at the bus for our departure.

(Don't try to stick drinks in your purse either...they check your bags. They are very adamant about this and kind of mean if they find illegal beverages on your person.)

So my question is - why sell outside drinks at all if they aren't allowed in the beer tents? How ridiculous. Perhaps you don't like beer, but your friends do. Are you just supposed to die of thirst while they sit around knocking back liter after liter? Also, they do sell food in the beer tents, so don't bother to get it outside. You can get pretzels, sandwiches, and cheese plates. I didn't notice if they sold any non-alcoholic beverages inside, but I saw nobody drinking anything other than beer.

Anyway... so off they went and off I went. I tried to eat my fish and chips as quickly as possible, and then, having accomplished that, tried to find a trash can. They are few and far between there. I spent quite a bit of time just doing that, particularly since the crowd was such that I could only take tiny baby steps.

Then I had to use the restroom. But since I wasn't allowed in the beer tents with my drink (the only places I could see that had any restrooms), I had to drain my lemonade...fast. And it was a huge bottle. I thought I was going to be sick drinking it all that fast. But I finished it, and I returned the bottle and got back 1 euro, and then I went into the beer tent.

No sign of Lance or his sister. It was just insanely packed inside. Everyone looked fairly sloshed and happy, though. More power to 'em.

Back outside afterwards, I walked around the fairway for a bit. Not very interesting if you're not riding rides. I bought some soft serve ice cream, as the day was really warm. Before meeting the bus, I went into the wine tent (yes, there was wine there...all is not lost if you are a fan of the grape!) and checked that out. Didn't drink any wine though. Wasn't in the mood. It is significantly less crowded in the wine tent, though.

Went out to the bus, where Lance and his sister were already waiting. They never did find a place to sit, so they never had any beer. Disappointing, since that's really why one goes to Oktoberfest.

No sign of my seatmate yet.

Finally he arrived. Staggering drunk. Oh no.

He joked that he had enough beer for both of us, and then promptly dozed off. I breathed a sigh of relief. But no. He suddenly sat bolt upright, leapt out of his seat, and ran off the bus to vomit.

Hooray. Of all the people who had to get drunk enough to puke, it had to be the guy sitting next to me! Am I lucky or what?

He came back on the bus with a plastic bag that the driver gave him, and then assured me that he thought it was over. I was neither comforted nor convinced by this assessment. Lance tried to get me to move to another seat, but since I thought the bus was fully occupied, I had nowhere to go.

Finally, the bus started up and headed towards Garmisch. I secretly prayed for it to be a puke-free trip. My seatmate (whom Lance started calling Mr. Pukey) fell asleep again and slumped over on me. I was in misery. Lance was trying to make me laugh (he was sitting in front of me and kept looking back at me and trying to make jokes and faces), but I was actually very angry at the whole situation.

A few minutes into the trip, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked behind me, and the girl sitting behind me (who was probably in her early teens) told me that she had a free seat next to her, and asked me if I wanted to sit with her.

Hallelujah! Sweet rescue!

(To be fair, Lance was about to suggest that I switch seats with him, because he was only beginning to realize the extent of my horror and disgust right before the girl asked me to sit with her. Besides, I would not have wished that on anyone, which is why I figured I would just suck it up and deal with it myself.)

Anyway, I explained to the girl that as much as I wanted to sit with her, my seatmate was asleep, and I couldn't wake him up to ask him to move out of my way so I could change seats. I was trying not to be rude to him (even though I thought it was extremely rude of him to get that drunk), but he woke up just then and scooted out of my way enough so that I could crawl over him and go back and sit with her. Her grandparents were sitting across the aisle and they whispered to me that they felt so bad, they just had to do something. I didn't even know there was a spare seat on the bus!

So I sat with them, right by the drunk people in the very back row of the bus, who were drunk enough to be jolly, but not drunk enough to be sick. I can't say it was the most pleasant bus trip I ever had, but it was significantly better than spending the entire trip sitting next to Mr. Pukey. (And one of the guys in the back of the bus offered to buy me a beer at Irish Pub that evening...uhm, no thanks.)

So yeah...that was my Oktoberfest experience. At least I can laugh about it someday. Maybe.

Now, for pictures...there are about 40 or so. I noticed that a lot of them look smudged...there must have been something on the lens. This might have happened when I was at Partnach Gorge, since the camera got really wet.

Click here

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