Oktoberfest - the Local Edition
Timeline: October 1st. 6pm. A year ago, that was the last moment I recollected from this day. I got to Munich late the day before and in the morning met up with a bunch of couchsurfers at Munich's most famous attraction - das Wiesn, aka Oktoberfest. By 6pm, having successfully contributed my share to the local economy by downing six liters of (extra strong) beer at the Paulaner tent, I stumbled outside with what remained of our group.
Fast forward to this year and I once again found myself outside the Paulaner tent on October 1st at precisely the same time. The only difference was that the fun was just about to begin.
Having gotten to Munich earlier in the day from Barcelona, I dropped off my backpack at Andi's place and we headed out to meet up with a few of his friends and enjoy a
das boot masskruge (the one liter mug of beer).
Three masskruges later, it was time for us to leave as the tents were closing down at 11pm. And so I have completed the full day challenge of Oktoberfest, albeit over two years.
Hanging out with Andi and his friends also opened up my eyes to how the locals "work" the system, which I found to be quite amusing.
How Locals Do It
Imagine yourself stumbling into this
neverending two-week long celebration of beer. Your only worry should be figuring out a way to sample the wares of all the different local breweries, right?
Actually - wrong!
No beer is served outside at the grounds of Oktoberfest. To get any alcoholic beverage you must first make it into one of the fourteen tents (or their associated beergartens). This by itself is not an easy task as once a tent fills up, (technically) no more people are allowed to enter.
Even if you find an open tent, you are still far from getting a taste of this elusive liquid.
Sure, it is everywhere. You can see the servers running around with seemingly dozens of mugs in each hand. Everyone is toasting, cheering, and chugging it.
But noooo, YOU cannot have it!
Now, you have to find an open seat for yourselves at one of the tables. Never mind that there are thousands of tables - unless you get in right as the tents open up early in the morning, you will have better luck finding a virgin in the middle Amsterdam's Red Light district than finding an open seat around here.
For the moment, let's pretend Christmas came early this year and you were able to get a spot at one of the tables. Let the drinking commence!
Sure, now you can have a good time. By all means - enjoy yourselves, sing along pretending to know the words of the songs played by the band, introduce yourselves to your neighbors, cheer with everyone, take your pictures.
Just watch out for those pesky locals wondering around trying to find a spot for themselves. Because as hard as it is to find an open spot, it is very easy to give one up.
But first, how do the locals get in when the tent is officially closed? For this exercise, we decided to make our way into the Hacker tent - the most hip and popular one. On a Friday evening, nonetheless. So, in many ways, the worst case scenario.
We started by getting ourselves into the attached beergarten. It was actually the easy part - while the main entrance was already closed with a crowd of people waiting for their chance to
sneak get in, we pulled the very secret tactic of using a side entrance just around the corner (which remained open for as long as we were there, yes, with tons of people still waiting at the main entrance).
Mind you, beergarten is not as fun as the actual tent so that was our next goal. Here is where local connections shine - Robin's friend's brother was working security at one of the entrances and even though we had to wait for a bit outside, and eventually pay up €5 each, we made it in.
Once inside, it was time to watch the pros. The first task at securing spots at the table for your group is to find a table with what might appear to be half a spot. At that point, the first person gets in there (of course the other people at the table can squeeze in a bit, right?).
So that's another lesson - if you are at a table already, the best way to secure your "positions" is to make sure that there is absolutely no open space left between them and the edge of the bench. Skipping ahead, I was the last one up at our table (sometimes I can be a gentleman) and for the rest of the evening made sure that my foot was flush with the end of the bench (gentleman what?).
Once the first person gets in, it is a win already - they can now order beer for everyone else in the group. Meanwhile, the game commences with the goal of getting everyone else onto the benches behind the table. There are a few different strategies here which boil down to trying to get rid of the other people at the table.
A few things help here. It is perfectly normal to cheer with anyone - so this can be used to try to get other people at the table to drink more or drink faster, preferably both. This will soon (hopefully) lead to them doing something stupid (falling on their face, jumping on the table, etc) which gets security's attention and normally costs the offender his spot at the table (and the tent).
Another, purely natural phenomenon associated with lots of drinking is the need to let those liquids go at some point. The more they drink, the faster they will need to go. And guess what happens to their spot once they leave the table?
Ingenious? Yes. Evil? Yes. Did the combination of the above get us all behind the table? Yes!
Now you know!
Munich at Night
Of course, it was not ALL about drinking this time around. In fact, I "only" went to Oktoberfest the first and the last night of my stay in Munich this year. In the meantime, I enjoyed meeting up with a few friends and exploring the city with Andi. Here are a few cool shots from our evening walk through the city to get to Robin and Felix's place for dinner.
Ok, so I am not kidding anyone. Fine. It is about drinking!