Years from now, when I’m really old, I can look back and tell my grandkids that I made it to the 200th Jahre Oktoberfest. A few weekends ago, the students in my exchange group and I made a Schoenes-Wochenende ( a ticket one can only use on a Saturday or a Sunday- up to five people can ride anywhere in Germany in a 27 hour window), because we didn’t want to try to find a hostel or any other overnight accomodations and because it was cheap. It was only 37 Euro a ticket, about 7-8 Euro a person for five people. The downside- we could only ride regional trains, which are really slow. It took us nearly 8 hours to get to Munchen and about 8 hours to get back. The train ride to Oktoberfest was hectic. The cars were so crammed full of people, most of the students in my group had to either stand the whole time or sit on the floor in the little entryway to the railcars. We had to switch trains four times, I think, and each time, more and more people got on to get to Munchen. It was fun to people watch, because there were people from all over the world on that train- some were in lederhosen, some were “pre-gaming,” and very few were sleeping.
When we arrived in the city, most of my friends went directly to the festival while a smaller group, including myself, wandered around the city center. We figured we had 12 hours to be in Munchen, and as none of us were really into beer drinking, we decided to spend half of that time sightseeing. We walked around Marienplatz, we looked at churches and the city hall (das Rathaus) and then we visited the Residenzmuseum, which was awesome. It was a former palace from back in the day, and it is now broken up into three parts: the palace, the treasury, and the theater. We only had time for the palace, but it was amazing. I’d gladly go back. My favorite piece there was a fountain with a statue of Perseus and Medusa. Perseus is holding the severed head of Medusa, and water flows freely from the wounded neck. I thought it was clever.
When we actually made it to Oktoberfest, I felt a little disappointed. I don’t know exactly what I had been expecting, but I think the festival was a little too modern. There were roller coasters, carnival-looking booths, water rides etc. I guess I wanted something more folksy or traditional. I enjoyed myself, regardless of any small disappointments. I liked walking up and down the festival grounds. The air smelled good- candied nuts, bratwurst, popcorn. I tried some sauerkraut. It actually wasn’t that bad. My only memory of sauerkraut was at a 7th grade party, where we had to down canned sauerkraut for a “fear factor” game. It made me throw up. I’m glad I tried real sauerkraut, because now I know what the stuff is really supposed to taste like.
I met so many interesting people at Oktoberfest. Germans outside of Bavaria seem to think Bavarians are a completely different class of German. My language teacher told me that when I go to Munchen, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand any of their German and I would have to be prepared for crazy Bavarian customs. For the most part, she was right, but I think everyone I met in Munchen was pretty friendly, happy and loud. I had a good experience there; I hope everyone can make it to an Oktoberfest at least once in their lifetime.