The flight to Stuttgart was over before it began, mostly because I slept peacefully the whole way. As soon as we walked through the arrivals gate, the Busabout group was met by Andy and Cherie, our guides for the weekend, outfitted in lederhosen (for the men) and a dirndl (for the women).
It was a long bus ride from Stuttgart to Munich, but thankfully so, as I was able to catch up on my missed sleep from the night before. Our coach pulled up at Wombats just before four in the afternoon, and after a quick shower it was straight out to the grounds.
I headed in with some of the other girls from my room, and we braved the bitter cold and drunken crowds in search of a beer tent. Once again, I underestimated the weather, and was underdressed, thinking that we would be spending the evening inside, where it would be warm with body heat.
How naive of me. Although there are plenty of beer tents dotted across the festival grounds, there are even more ambitious drinkers, and there is little to no chance of getting in without a VIP bracelet unless you arrive in the morning. People waited in droves outside of every entrance to every beer tent, surging forward whenever the door opened, only to be ignored or shoved aside by the surly security guards. After being caught in a maddening, claustrophobic crunch at the Augustiner tent, it became evident that we weren’t getting in unless we were prepared to wait for several hours.
So we joined the crowds outside under the heat lamps of Lowenbrau and were attended to by a stein-wielding beer wench. Apparently the term ‘beer wench’ is not a derogatory term when you are actually referring to a genuine wench. It still feels wrong to say it, though.
The Oktoberfest grounds had the feel of a huge theme park – there are souvenir stands selling all sorts of hats and t-shirts, food stalls with candied nuts, traditional bratwurst, and schnitzel sandwiches, roller coasters and other rides, and, of course, people in traditional costumes. I thought maybe a handful of people would be outfitted in Lederhosen and Dirndls, but they were everywhere.
After two steins outside, I spent a few minutes worshipping the heat lamps before hopping across to a giant gingerbread castle. We were warned by the doorman that they ‘didn’t serve beer.’ What? No beer at Oktoberfest? Apparently it was a cocktail bar, and also an explosion of traditionally-clothed German revellers, most well over the age of 35. I think that Annie (my Swedish-English roommate) and I were the only ones in jeans. The band played some German favourites like ’99 Red Luftballoons’ and ‘Time of My Life’
from Dirty Dancing.
On the way back to the hostel, the doors to the Lowenbrau tent were, surprisngly, wide open, so Annie and I jumped in to see what it was all about. A massive tent, with circular bandstand in the middle, and people absolutely everywhere, singing and dancing on the tables. I didn’t stay long, because the next day was going to be a long one. Instructions were to meet in the Wombats lobby at eight a.m., so the Busabout group would be assured a group of tables inside Lowenbrau for the day.
That is another story.