If you’re anything like me, you’ve dreamt one day of traveling to Oktoberfest, standing on a table with a full liter of beer in your hand, while singing your heart out to a traditional Oktoberfest song arm-in-arm with a local German. Quite an imagination, no? For the most part of my life I thought this would be a stretch to ever get to Oktoberfest, let alone have that quintessential moment that I’ve always pictured. One by one, a plan came together, and I ended up being able to share this exact experience with six of my friends… Lederhosens and all. It was a moment I will never forget and I hope that everyone will be able to get a chance to one day find themselves under the tent roof of a famous beer hall drinking the day away with your friends too.
This trip developed from the hypothetical idea, to plane tickets bought, in only a week. Once two of us bought our tickets, it became like a snowball effect for the rest of our group to make the commitment and join. Fast forward a few months, five of us woke up in Frankfurt, Germany, to the sound of all our phone alarms going off at 5AM in a big hostel room. Our plan was to catch the 6AM train out of Frankfurt to arrive in Munich at 9AM and head directly to the festival. We all got dressed into our Lederhosens and Dirndls that we bought the day before and walked down to the central station for our train. Yes, we were one of the only people on the train dressed up, but it was totally worth it. For nearly half the train ride we kept getting kicked out of our seats, because they were “reserved”, but no one would explain how so. Nevertheless, we found some seats and were able to catch some Z’s for an hour before arriving at the Munich Central Station.
We stepped off the train and were immediately surrounded by people of all ages dressed like us, most being way more drunk than we were at 10AM. But we still had one more issue to take care of before we could have that liter of beer we’ve been craving… our backpacks. This year especially, maybe in the past as well, bags were not allowed into the festival grounds, and we could not check into our AirBnB until 7PM. Luckily, the train station had big enough lockers to hold all our bags for only 4euros each. Boom, we were set! Though we didn’t know exactly where Oktoberfest actually was, we just followed the crowd of guys and girls dressed in leather and dresses until we arrived at a park with massive tent-like structures and carnival rides. People, everywhere, were pouring out of the side streets and into the gates. After all the planning and traveling, we had finally made it to the infamous Oktoberfest.
I could not believe how massive this place truly was, all around us were these ornate buildings of all different animal themes. Towering above the tents were the spinning carnival rides like the Ferris wheel and swings. We wandered into tent after tent without a plan or direction, leaving a trail of empty liters along the way, with each one tasting better than the last. First tent on the list was the Fischer-Vroni Tent that was a quiet, traditional, family style tent that only served fish. It was an interesting place, especially when the band began to play, but was far from the expectation we had for Oktoberfest. After the our first beer, we made our way down the path to a more “lively” tent, and boy did we find one. We went into Armbrustschützen-Festhalle where we got a real taste of the Oktoberfest experience with significantly more culture… and people (nearly 5,000 people inside). We found a spot next to an older German couple that sang and drank with us. After a few liters in us, we made the move to the major league drinking and went next door to experience the infamous Hofbräu Festzelt.
Even though we knew that very few locals go to the Hofbräu tent, we needed to experience what it’s like to drink and party with nearly 7,000 travelers from all over the world, under the same roof. We were not disappointed, to the right of us were a group of guys from Norway, to the left were a group of girls from Germany, and not far away in every direction were groups of hammered Americans. By this point, I started to understand the workings inside the tents, started to notice how damn hard the servers were working. They carry 10-12 liter beers in both arms, from the bar to their section, plop all the liters onto the tables, slide the amount requested down the line, pick up the remaining ones, and away they go to the next one. It’s truly amazing to watch.
By this point in our first day at Oktoberfest, it was the middle of the afternoon, and we still had yet experienced that quintessential moment. That is, until we walked into Schützen-Festzelt. From the moment we stepped through the door, until the moment we left, it was an epic party. This tent was packed with people standing on tables and singing and an open table was impossible to find. Our group ended up splitting up to try and find anywhere we could order a beer and stand. As chance may have it, we all converged onto the center tables that one of us found and opening that turned into a fully empty table and there we had it! Don’t judge me, but out of necessity, we began finishing all the half drank beers already on the table since it seemed too impossible to flag down a beer server. One by one we got our group up onto the table and began singing, surprisingly a lot of American songs, with our German neighbors on the table. Every single person in that tent was screaming out each lyric, swinging their liters of beer into the air, and sharing in the experience that is Oktoberfest. At that moment, there was no other place I would’ve rather been.
We partied in that tent until about 4:30PM when area began to get cleared out for dinner reservations later that night, but we did not know that at the time. We ducked as many bouncers as we could until we found an empty table in the back of the hall that was apparently still kosher to drink at. After we were kicked out of that location a little while later, leaving us to take a nap on the lawn, underneath the Bavaria Statue. Afterwards, we took a ride up on the Ferris wheel and had our fair share of sausages before heading to the train station to pick up two more of our friends that just flew in. Then we took the metro to finally drop our bags off at the AirBnB, which was one mile south of the festival grounds. But then we headed right back to Oktoberfest.
By this point, it was about 9PM, which meant all the beer tents were going to be completely packed until they kicked everyone out around 10:30PM. So we just stayed out in the biergarten until our exhaustion finally caught up to us, forcing us to head home. But sleep didn’t last as long as we needed. All 7 of us were up early again for the real experience of Oktoberfest. This was Saturday on the last weekend of the festival so all the tables would be reserved or filled up really early. So our plan was to get to the grounds early as possible, pick a tent, and lock down a table for the entire day. By the time we actually showed up, lines were already wrapped around the buildings to get in. “Oh Sh#t!” We thought to ourselves for the first of many times that morning. So we passed by the long line at Schützen-Festzelt, and made our way into the less packed line of Schottenhamel. We hadn’t been into this one yet, but read it was for a younger crowd. As the line moved, everyone was ushered into the outdoor seating of the biergarten and told to sit at the tables. Once again, we had another “Oh Sh#t!” We wondered if we were in the wrong line and this one was for the biergarten only, was it too late to go out and get into another line, were we going to have to spend all day outside and miss out on the opportunity of a life time?
This was all resolved when we realized that this was all just corralling us before the mad rush into the tent itself. Alas, one by one, each table was let in the doors and we were able to secure a table in a prime spot, right next to the music stage and the main isle. It was funny, realizing how quiet (sober) everyone was at 9:30AM and how much different that place would be a few hours later. Throughout the day, people joined our table, like a guy from Chicago who flew out on a dare and his friends, a whole group of local German girls, and random people here and there looking for a place to stand. We sang and danced the day away, learning the words to the German toasts along the way, stopping only to eat a giant soft pretzel of a half a rotisserie chicken (which was amazing and cheap). The group of us drank liters after liters and capture the experience we were looking for. By 8PM, we could no longer stand on the tables anymore and decided to call it quits, leaving the Kiwi to hold down the table. We searched for some bites to eat and then got in line to ride some of the rides with the rest of drunken travelers. We all jumped onto the giant swings and spun around the festival, getting an incredible view of Munich lit up at night.
The following day, the sky was a gloomy grey and it was raining as we said our goodbyes and hopped onto the train headed toward the alps. No videos, pictures, or words can describe the experience one has at the Oktoberfest. Thousands upon thousands of people, from all over the world, converging to one festival to celebrate a timely tradition. Just like at many other festivals, everyone is happy and joyous to share in the experience with you. No one cried over spilled beer or a bumped shoulder, we simply raised our glasses and cheers. It’s events like these that, if you try, you can get so much more out of it than expected. And also, that the entire world loves beer and music.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.