Posted on October 24, 2011


Hi guys! Surprise! It’s me again. This review is a little late, mainly because I’ve been sitting around watching The Vampire Diaries instead of writing. Sometimes I think to myself, does the world really need another thinly-veiled in-joke masquerading as bourgeois travel literature? But when Matilda gets cranky, no-one has any fun. So here is a review of Oktoberfest (which actually took place in September, how weird is that?)

So. A while ago, fellow contributor (notice how I resist the title “blogger”? It sounds so offensive…) Will Kay and I boarded the bus to Munich with 150 other Sciences-Po students. It took twelve hours to drive all the way from Paris, and it sure felt like a long time, partially because the toilets weren’t working. It also felt like a short time, because there were topless French men swaggering around handing out Jamiroquai beer. Really what it felt like was… the vengabus.

But it was all worth it in the end, because we got to see this:

Boys’ bums clad in Lederhosen

That’s right – Oktoberfest! The place where grown men and women go to act like children! The place where glasses are the size of jugs, and jugs the size of barrels! The place where a standard serving of pork is a whole pig! I’m not joking. If you’d asked me before I arrived, “Hannah, what type of meat do you eat the most?” I would have said “I don’t know, maybe chicken.” But I ate so much pig that weekend that now, even if you average it out over my entire lifetime, pork is the winner.

So what is Oktoberfest? It sounds like a silly question, but before I went, I actually wasn’t sure. I thought to myself, “It can’t just be beer, can it?”

The answer is, “Kind of, yes, it really can.”

Basically they set up a big fairground just outside Munich (within walking distance – I say “outside” because it’s not quite in the city centre itself). Inside that fairground, there are about twelve very large tents called “Beer Halls”, and all of them are named according to the beer company that runs that particular tent, e.g. “Lowenbrau” or “Hoffbrau” etc. Each tent seats about 1000-1500 people (I’m really bad at estimating crowd numbers, so sorry if that’s really inaccurate), and serves litre-jugs of beer called “steins”, as well as an assortment of roasted animals and pretzels.

A beer hall at capacity.

So what you do when you get there: You get up very early in the morning (6:00am), put on your German folk costume, get in line for a tent, and eventually find a table. Tables are usually gone by about 9:00am – and the good ones way before then – so it really is imperative to get up early.

And then… you start drinking. I’m not going to lie. That first litre, at 9:00am in the morning when you’re hung-over and only awake thanks to the five free coffees you drunk at the hostel… it’s a struggle. But after that, you’ve consumed a litre of beer, so you no longer care. Suddenly the grown men in lederhosen seem like the funniest things in the world. Previously-unappetizing sausages miraculously seem appealing. And singing along with the Italians to drinking songs you’ve never heard before whilst standing on your table is, like, “Normal, I do it all the time.”

You can’t imagine why you wanted to kill yourself an hour ago.

Much beer!

Look, it really isn’t for the faint-hearted. Sleep is thin on the ground. The awkward “extra” person in our hostel dorm (you know the one), colloquially known by the rest of us as “weird Mexican girl”, was a real snorer. She out-snored the boyzzz to the max. This girl was a machine… one which was probably built in 1971, no longer roadworthy, and kept alive by a mixture of gaffa tape and vegetable oil. She did not snore, she hacked. At one point I went to check her out because I was legitimately concerned that she was choking on her own arm, or something.

I mean, come on. If you’ve drunk like four litres of beer in a day, you want to be sleeping on your side.

And there were actual casualties on the trip. Nine people – NINE WHOLE PEOPLE – didn’t make it back to the bus on time, and ended up stranded in Germany. Furthermore, on the way back someone on our bus had an epileptic fit. The poor organisers stood up and asked if anyone on the bus “have ze medical studies”, but sadly, the only students at our university are of the political science variety, and no matter how much Foucault you throw at someone, they will not stop being epileptic if that’s really what’s going on.

But aside from the slow torture, it was one of the most fun weekends I’ve ever had. It’s kind of like after a three-day music festival, when you emerge feeling like you just survived Saw V, but can’t wait to go again next year.

Bad for the health, bad for the wealth, but good for the soul.

Posted in: Events, Food, Travel