For a few days in October, bars across the globe go Bavarian. They put sausages on the menu, make their staff dress in traditional German clothes and throw a few decorations up on the walls. Quite frankly, I’ve never been a fan of the Oktoberfest theme. It always felt like a marketing ploy and I really didn’t see the point. You’ll never guess who tried to change my mind.
“Will you be going to Munich,” my hair dresser asked with her hands woven in my hair. What I love about Ms. Ayten Farrel is that she is a child of Turkish parents, but was raised in Germany. Her salon and home are in The Heights, which is primarily a Dominican neighborhood and her clients are mostly black woman with Afro’s. It’s a multicultural experience every time I go in there. When she suggested hitting up Oktoberfest, it was the first time I considered that the event might have some cultural merit.
Still I wasn’t giving in that easily. Accommodation in Munich, the true, traditional, home of Oktoberfest is crazy expensive, so I decided to throw a public trip up on Couchsurfing.com. If someone offered me a place, I’d go.
And how do I advertise myself to complete strangers for space on their couch?
“I’ll be coming to your city from Berlin. Germany is my 2nd country on a 6 month trip around the world. I just realized Oktoberfest is on and it seems crazy not to check it out. I have no idea what to expect, which means we’re sure to have a good time!”
Lucky me, I got a few takers – all guys of course. I weeded out the creeps and decided to take Üger up on his offer. He could only host me a single night, but he had twenty-eight positive couch surfing references. So that was it, I was going to Oktoberfest for twenty-four hours to find out if it lives up to all the hype.
Hauptbahnhof is the name of the main station in every German speaking city, which is can be very confusing! Munich Hauptbahnhof was an electric zoo when I showed up. The place was swarming with people in traditional dress. These outfits are taken quite seriously.
If I was staying more that twenty-four hours, I’d be sure to rock a dirndl dress myself.
After meeting up with Üger, whose parents are also Turkish, I was given the run down. Oktoberfest is held on a grounds downtown. The entire festival lasts for about two weeks and begins with the mayor tapping the first keg of beer from one of the oldest tents on the grounds.
That all sounded good and culturally significant, but when I arrived what I actually saw was a hot-mess carnival.
“Wait until we get to the tents,” Üger urged. But I wasn’t seeing any tents. Or maybe I was – these places were so big they looked like huge buildings lining the carnival grounds.
Just before reaching our tent I was still feeling underwhelmed, when some Oktoberfest spirit photo-bombed me. These random people were so friendly and fun that I started getting an idea of what the true nature of this event was.
Munich is one of the most expensive, buttoned-up cities in the country. Let us not forget we’re talking about Germany- this is not a place known for its loose ways. But for these two weeks everyone let’s it go. You know how tight people go bananas when they finally unwind. Imagine a whole city like that. Suddenly I was so excited to get inside, but I was met by a familiar foe.
Anyone who has tried getting into a New York club will recognize the desperation of people loitering outside an Oktoberfest tent: that desolate look in their eyes as they plead with a heartless doorman who is denying them entry. If you want to actually go to Oktoberfest, you must book a reservation in advance.
Üger had the hook up with a couple of fabulous twins on the inside, so we were spared the begging I was willing to do to get in.
The inside of this tent was a glittering collection of tables decorated with flowers. Rich foods scented the air. Huge hunks of meat sat on every table like Thanksgiving. Everything about it screamed traditional Bavarian aristocracy except for the rock band blasting Katie Perry covers in the center of it all. It will forever be a life regret that I did not snap a picture of this scene. The crowd behind me pushed me forward too fast and when I tried to reenter from our place outside, a stout little lady barred my entrance.
But that’s all right, because the beauty of that room alone made Oktoberfest worth it.
The beer we drank by the liter tasted like liquid Christmas- worth it.
Watching old Bavarians sing and sway- worth it.
Jumping over a tiny fence, shocked to discover myself face-planted after downing a liquid Christmas liter II- worth it.
Convincing this dark, gravel voiced Swede that he doesn’t hate all Americans- worth it.
Representing Blacktoberfest with the French twins- worth it.
Is Oktoberfest worth it? Hell to the yes!
It is a true cultural event where you get to drink specially brewed beer in one of the beer capitals of the world.
You get to be in a place where a whole city decides to wear the same outfit.
The energy created by this unity in drunkenness, this celebration of collective heritage, is worth it all- even a trip back.