Sometime in May I was asked to go with my guy friends here in Trier to Oktoberfest. It seemed like everyone was going, even C. from Mainz and J. from England, so I quickly agreed even though I still wasn’t sure if I was returning to Germany or not at the summer’s end. I had gone last year to the Was’n in Stuttgart and had an absolute hoot, so why not go to Oktoberfest? Besides, at least it would stop everyone everywhere asking me if I had been or not!
Fast forward four months to the end of September and it was time to head off. Trier to Munich is a bit of a stretch (something to the tune of 520km), so we had a bit of travelling to do. Svenja drove T. and myself down to Kaiserslautern where we joined up with C. and W.’s brother G. for the rest of the drive to Bavaria. It was an enjoyable four hour drive from there, even if we had to stop for pee breaks every 45 minutes.
After dropping off our bags at our charming little Pension in the “nearby” village of Warngau, we headed into Munich proper. Now, W. had sold us on the Pension in Warngau, talking up its charm and proximity. It had charm, that’s for sure, but the proximity was something a bit more questionable. “It’s a 5 minute walk to the train station,” he had said, “then a 20 minute, 25 minute ride tops into the city.” This was an understatement, but the 20 minute walk to the station and 45 minute train ride were a good trade for cheapish accommodation, something we wouldn’t have found in Munich during Oktoberfest.
The festival happens right in Munich in the Theresienwiese, another 20 minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof and city centre. The major Munich breweries erect magnificently giant tents capable of holding upwards of 8,000 people, with adjoining beer gardens providing “overflow” (pun?) for another few thousand.
An indescribable feeling permeates the entire place, with most people wearing Lederhosen or Dirndl, so many in fact that you start to feel conspicuous without the admittedly silly costume. I found myself surprised, even more so than last year in Stuttgart, just how many people were there just to have a good time. How many other countries could have such a massive festival without it de-evolving into drunken fighting?
England, I’m looking at you.
This feeling, this atmosphere, is referred to by the Germans as the Stimmung. Go for the beer, stay for the Stimmung, as it were. It describes a sense, a feeling of happiness or jolly contentment with your surroundings and your company. Within the first few moments on the Wiese you’ll either feel the warmth of the Stimmung spreading through your body, or you’ll hate it.
As the day progresses the tents fill to overflowing, making finding a table not only difficult but vital: servers, you see, only take orders at tables. We lucked out on our second day and secured our supply lines, as it were, with a Stehtisch, or a standing table. We soon made friends with other opportunistic folk, including a Texan couple on their honeymoon and a gaggle of Aussies who had to catch their flights home in a few hours. Eventually everyone climbs up onto a table, Maβkrug in hand, to sing and sway in time to the pleasing tones of the Oompah Band – or cover band – or both, as the case so often is.
Oktoberfest was a great time, and given the chance, I’d definitely go again sometime. It’s a weird place to describe, something like how I imagine Rome before the Fall, a time of suspended social rules where the harsh rigidity of normal daily German life melts away. Everyone eats and drinks their fill, and you’d better believe we gorged ourselves on Hax’nsemmel or fried pork hock bunwiches – absolute Traumhaft.