Welcome to Oktoberfest!
While I was on vacation in Zurich, Switzerland we learned that Oktoberfest was going to start that weekend (yes, it actually starts in September). And guess what, Munich, Germany is only a 4 hour drive from Zurich, so away we went!
The drive was most enjoyable because 1. - I didn't have to drive, 2. - Switzerland and Germany have excellent roads, and 3. - as a bonus I got to quickly visit Austria. When we arrived in town I immediately noticed many people dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls and started to get excited. I have to say, I didn't know much if anything about Oktoberfest before this, so everything was new and exciting to me.
We parked and walked to the festivities. I was happy to find that it's free to enter Oktoberfest, you only pay for food, rides and souvenirs. We walked around a bit but my cousin (he's Swiss and has been to Oktoberfest many times) told us we should probably hurry and see if we can get into a tent. He explained that after the tents fill up they close the doors and no one else can enter. I guess I should also say, by tents, the Germans mean structures (tent is such a misleading word).
So we enter the Paulaner tent and walk around. I'm pretty sure my eyes were all big and round because it was an onslaught of stimuli for me. It was loud, crowded, everywhere you looked someone was smiling, singing, talking and holding a mug of beer. I should also point out, and I hope this doesn't come off wrong, but I've never seen that many white people in one place. I know, I know, duh, you're in Germany! But I was just shocked at the lack of diversity in this large crowd. Hey, I'm from Philly and we're pretty diverse (I guess it's probably the same feeling a white person visiting, let's say, Kenya would feel). And I know I wasn't alone in thinking this because I did see a couple black people there, all guys, but I never saw another black woman. I think we kind of stuck out because people would walk up and just throw an arm around my shoulder while their friend took a picture (seriously, this happened many times). And one time while walking around a guy stopped me and said, "hey a negroid!" with a smile on his face. I'm not kidding, he didn't say "black" or even "nigger" he said negroid! I laughed it off because I really think he meant it in a friendly way but it was lost in translation (his accent was very thick and German). Anyway...
After a while, we realized you won't get served beer unless you are seated at a table, but sadly, most, darn near, all the table I saw were filled. Eventually a nice serving lady, directed us to a table of four guys, my cousin spoke for us (he speaks German of course) and the guys told him you have 10 minutes then you can leave. Then he came and got us (myself and cousin, who happens to also be a woman), after we sat down the guys were like, "hey you can stay". Apparently the guys were more willing to share their table with ladies.
One of my tablemates
The guys at our table were extremely friendly (I wonder how much the alcohol played a part in that) and after 10 minutes it was like we were old friends. For the record, I do not like beer. I don't find it appealing and haven't had a mug of beer since college. So innocently I asked, "what else do they have?" It was like a record scratched and everyone started yelling that I "HAD TO DRINK BEER" and of course when in Rome...
I don't know if it was the environment or simply great beer, but that first liter mug was excellent (note the word first beer, because many followed). While everyone sits (or stands on) at the tables, a band plays and everyone sings along. Many of the songs are German but a couple American western songs were played too (who knew the Germans like country music). I didn't know the words but that didn't stop me from singing (thanks to the beer).
After a couple hours, I realized that at least one person out of my group of three had to keep their wits about them, so I slowed my drinking and sobered up a bit. We stayed a while longer as my tablemates got drunker and I took the opportunity to take photos. I was really enjoying myself, I mean, little old me, a girl from Philly, sitting and talking with her new German friends (yes, we exchanged Facebook info over drinks... I should say, it's kind of hard to Facebook-stalk people when all their wall posts are in German, copy and pasting into Google translate is such a bother) and at Oktoberfest to boot! I was living the dream.
We went home that night feeling good.
You can check out all the photos here if you don't want to watch in the slideshow (I wrote captions, so don't forget to read them too!).