Take Me to Oktoberfest

Nothing could stop Megan from going to Germany to celebrate the culture event everyone must experience: Oktoberfest! Read about her stressful, yet humorous journey from London to Germany.

Megan O’Leary from Villanova University submitted the following article to ISV Magazine. Have a story you’d like to share? Click here to share your story!

All I can see is black. As I emerge from the German underground, into an unknown, seemingly undesirable city, I smell pollution, hear cars fly by, and see signs in a language I will never understand. It has been nearly eighteen hours of crazy traveling since I left my cozy London flat to experience for myself the hype around Oktoberfest, and all I want to do is lay down.

Claiming the title of largest festival in the world, Oktoberfest began in 1810 with a royal wedding Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese in Munich.  Citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate with the happy couple for five days in front of the city gates.  This fact was presented by an older man standing next to me while I sat on the Munich airport floor, waiting to enter a country I wondered why I ever wanted to enter in the first place. Present day Oktoberfest, visited by nearly six million people every year,  holds host to people from all over the world looking to dress up, drink beer, and celebrate for reasons they do not completely understand (contrary to popular belief, it is not just a beer festival). Naturally, every college student studying abroad in the fall sees Oktoberfest as the ideal place to see all their friends studying in other countries.  Of course my roommate Sarah and I felt the need to meet this stereotype, so we went ahead and booked the outrageously overpriced flights and hotel for what would hopefully be one of the best weekends we would have abroad.

Oktoberfest seemed like one of those cultural events that everyone must experience, no matter where they are from.  Anyone who I told I was attending the festival all had a story or a memory.  Some tips I gained before heading out on my 72 hour binge were the following: go to the Hofbräuhaus tent so you fit in, make sure to tip the woman giving you beer so she keeps coming back, don’t steal the steins, and don’t go on the rides after gulping down beer all day.  All seemed like pretty solid advice that I kept a mental note of.

oktoberfest beer

Being our third weekend abroad, Sarah and I saw ourselves as experienced travelers, but we wanted to leave a bit of extra time for the trek to City Airport.  We arrived early, without getting lost, and did not lose each other, so naturally we treated ourselves to mimosas and crepes while waiting to board our flight.  Attention please: those travelers headed to Munich on flight 845 please approach the ticket counter as your flight is now cancelled.  This is when we learned that the British did not have much sympathy for two American girls trying to get to Oktoberfest.

After much negotiating, a few tears, and the occasional curse word, we finally booked a new connecting flight to Munich. The only catch: it left out of Heathrow Airport rather than City, nearly an hour away. The plane would take off in an hour and a half.

With anxiety at an all-time high, our taxi trip from one airport to the other began.  You can learn a lot from talking to taxi drivers.  The poor man who got stuck with Sarah and me begging him to speed through rush hour traffic to help us make our flight ended up being actually quite pleasant and very knowledgeable about the folk festival we were trying to attend. Steve, the cab driver, told us of his experiences at Oktoberfest and noted this was the first time in twenty years he would not get to see the tents for himself.  He reminded us to get to the grounds early, try to dress in traditional clothing (dirndl’s for women, lederhosen for men), and not to go to the bathroom alone.  I added all of this to my mental checklist for when I entered the tents the following day.

By some miracle, we made our flight and landed in Munich nearly eighteen hours after our day had begun.  Five hours of sleep later, I stood outside Hofbräuhaus tent with nearly a thousand other globetrotters, waiting to enter.  Standing there, I went through my mental notes: I had made it to the right tent, and sure enough I was surrounded by tourists, mostly American students.  It seemed as if everyone had received the same advice, as most students appeared in traditional Oktoberfest apparel. I had my money to tip the beer woman, and even though Steve warned me, I planned on still stealing a stein.  The entire travel nightmare ended with a unique cultural experience I never thought I would have the chance to see and most likely never experience again. So prost to all the advice and danke to everyone that got me there. Happy Oktoberfest.

megan o'leary international student voice magazine

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