We met up with our friend Christine in Munich, not sure what to expect from Oktoberfest, but certain that we needed a plan.
With warnings from folks back home that we needed to get in line at 5AM in order to secure a seat, and other friends warning of a 1L/hour minimum order or we would get kicked out of the tent, we weren't really sure what we would be up against the next day. After a delicious preparatory dinner with Nick's aunt and uncle where they assured us that it would be okay—"expect a lot of drunk Italians"—we read a few tips on each tent and put ourselves to bed nervously.
When you're here, you're family
The next morning, we heeded the advice we'd been given and headed out an hour before the tents opened to get in line.
We decided to aim for the tent with the most classic Bavarian music and decoration, Pschorr-Bräurosl, and took our place in what turned out to be a very short line. And once we got inside, we were dazzled not only by the beauty of the tent, but by the staggering number of tables that can fit inside. We were feeling pretty amateurish for lining up when we did, but on the plus side, we could start enjoying our first beer in relative tranquility.
When the tent started to fill up our server urged us to join tables with the guys behind us to more efficiently use space. They turned out to be really fun fellas, and our stellar first day at Oktoberfest was made even better by sharing our weißwursten, conversation, and endless toasts with them.
There's a certain Oktoberfest stereotype of mass revelry, incredible costumes, and bordering-on-dangerous beer drinking that we'd heard back home. And while it is unsurprisingly true to some degree, we were equally stunned by the enormous sense of community that the event fosters through the sharing of old old traditions with everyone, newcomer or München citizen alike.
Photo from Ronald Gatbonton
The most ubiquitous of these is the song/call to toast of "Ein Prosit" that the Bavarian brass band strikes up every 10-15 minutes. It's basically a centuries-old, massive, incredibly cheery power hour, but it is also a great way to get to know your neighbors. After enough rounds of glass clinking, it'd just be weird not to talk with these people you've wished Gemütlichkeit (something like good cheer and coziness) to so many times.
There are also a few traditions that are a bit more of a spectacle, like these lederhosen-bedecked men cracking whips to the music just a foot or two above our heads:
But, of course, sharing the strange stuff brings you closer together too.
Around 4:00 PM, we ventured out into the sunlight and ended our first day at Oktoberfest with a quick but über fun visit to the adjacent carnival.
Back for more
The next day we did it all again. Since we were now seasoned veterans, we started our morning considerably later and headed straight for the Höfbrau tent, an Oktoberfest staple. While we weren't as into the beer here, we loved the slightly wilder atmosphere. Take these guys, for example.
No, your eyes haven't failed you. That's a proud beard dyed to look like the German flag.
But the fun didn't end there. Every few minutes a fest-goer would stand up on their table and attempt to finish their entire liter in one go, to the cheers (or, if they failed, boos) of the almost 10,000 people in the tent. We watched dozens of people take up the challenge, but the pressure proved too much for us to take part.
After a few hours at this level of intensity we'd worked up a serious hunger for spätzle, so we made our way to the Ochsenbraterei tent. While we'd heard it had good food, the confident statue at the entrance of an ox turning on a spit raised our hopes even higher.
Photo by Christine Foote
We weren't disappointed. Especially not Nick.
And finally, we ended our day with another carnival visit, which was considerably less enjoyable for Christine but nevertheless a fittingly crazy capstone for our Oktoberfest experience.
Goodbye Munich, hello open road
The next day we picked up our rental car and headed off on the long drive to Slovenia, making it as far as Neuschwanstein castle. The previous day's festivities had taken their toll on us, so we only managed a look at it from afar, then settled in for a long, long nap at our Bavarian guest house.
Once we'd struggled our way out of bed the next morning, we set our sights on Ljubljana. We'd need to cross through Austria to get there, but since we all three just can't get enough of carbs and amazing views, we decided to take a slight detour through Italy to see the Dolomites as well.
After a fantastically gluttonous lunch of three different pizzas and one plate of pasta, we drove on to Seceda, hoping for a perfect view of one of the most-photographed but oddly difficult-to-locate peaks in the mountain range.
Some Google Images sleuthing and a few hours' drive later, we took a gamble on what we hoped was the right mountain and bought gondola tickets to the top. While the ride up was a bit shaky and brought us frighteningly close to the rocks, we were rewarded in spades for our tenaciousness.
Photo by Christine Foote
And, as if we hadn't done enough damage for one day, the ski lodge at the top was already open for the season and serving hot chocolates.
The Great Carb-a-thon continues in Slovenia!