Saturday. Final weekend of Oktoberfest.
7:00: My alarm beeps and I wake up to the pitch darkness of Room 104 in Wombats. I can hear the five other girls stirring, all reluctant to leave our warm beds for the bitter cold of Munich.
7:30: Stumble down to breakfast and stock up on meat and cheese sandwiches, muesli and yoghurt, and a banana for the road. As our Busabout guides stressed – eating is not cheating.
8:00: Gather in front of Wombats for the ten-minute walk to the Oktoberfest grounds. I regret not having brought a scarf and gloves, though my wool souvenir hat is doing wonders for retaining warmth. Busabout has a special arrangement with Nadia, a beer wench at the Lowenbrau tent, and she is willing to sneak a few people in early so that they can secure tables for the rest of the group.
8:30: Crowds are forming outside of every beer tent, and I’ve still got sleep in my eyes. We join the eager people at the side entrance to Lowenbrau, and proceed to wait.
8:55: Nadia appears and beckons Andy (busabout guide) to gather the ten table-claimers. It is nearly time. Nadia is a small, thin, German girl with red-framed lenses who looks like she would struggle to pick up one stein, let alone the ten that beer wenches are famous for. I learn later that beer wenching is in her blood – one cannot simply ‘be’ a beer wench. It is more like a secret society, and apparently you can only be a beer wench if your mother or grandmother was one.
9:00: Stampede. Opening time at the tents is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the claustrophobic. We are rushed through the doors, and people stream in from entrances along all four walls of the gigantic beer tent, which can hold thousands. The empty tables fill up within minutes, and I am lucky to squeeze onto one of the Busabout tables.
9:10: Nadia arrives, carrying at least ten enormous steins full of beer, and slams them down on the table. None of us remember ordering the steins, but she has clearly read our minds – after all, this is why all of the Lowenbrau’s inhabitants are here so early on a Saturday morning. It is a beer festival, after all.
10:30: I order my second stein. Starting to perk up.
11:00: The band starts up, and the crowd roars as if U2 has just taken the stage, not a handful of middle-aged men wearing lederhosen and carrying brass instruments.
11:03: Everyone in the beer hall raises their steins high and sings along to ‘Ein Prostin’, the traditional German song about saying cheers to your fellow drinkers. The song ends with a dramatic clashing of steins, and it’s frequent appearance during the day is partially to blame for the next day’s bruise on the back of my hand from the handle of the stein.
11:25: A man comes around selling radishes. He is much less popular than the man selling pretzels and doughnuts. I eat a huge, round doughnut. Got to keep my strength up.
12:00: The beer is slowly being abandoned as people begin to dance on the tables, swaying back and forth, making new best friends with each other. ‘Walking on Sunshine’ plays, and we sing along as if it is the best song ever written.
1:00: I notice the crowds outside of the beer tent, clamouring to get in, and remember how I was one of them yesterday evening. I laugh internally at their plight, no sympathy whatsover for these lazy people who did not wake up with the sun and therefore do not qualify for my pity.
2:00: Somewhere over the past two hours was a third stein. Others at my table are starting to order Shandies, half lemonade, half beer. Ani, one of my roommates, brings some bottled water. It is fizzy water, which I hate, but drink anyway as I am so dehydrated.
3:00: I have made friends with Germans, Aussies, Swedes, and am currently attempting to get impromptu Italian lessons from a guy from Naples. Not really the venue for it. Stein four arrives, and it turns out to be a shandy. I split it with someone else at the table. We drink from straws and are ridiculed.
4:30: I need a nap if I wish to survive the next few days. It must be my age, but I face facts: I couldn’t stick it out in the Lowenbrau from start to finish, and head back to Wombats.
5:00: I get lost en route to Wombats, and show a shopkeeper my Wombats bracelet, which has the street name printed on it. He directs me left, then left again, and I am thankfully there.
5:30: I eat a slice of pineapple pizza from the shop on the corner by Wombats. It is cold but delicious.
7:00: People begin arriving back at the hostel, having thrown in the towel. We sit in the atrium and discuss how pathetic we are for giving up early.
8:00: I crawl blissfully into bed, not caring how early it is. It was a long day, after all, and if I want to keep this up I’ve got to get my rest. Volksfest is only two days away.