You may remember when we went to Oktoberfest last year. Since the moment we left the festival grounds, Richie has been planning our return. The sooner, the better when it comes to making plans for Die Wiesn (named for the fields where the festival takes place). Last year, we didn’t book hotels far enough in advance, so while we were able to find a room, it was a little further from the festival than we would’ve liked and it was overpriced for the quality. For round two, we booked hotel rooms from the first moment that they were available – which was last December. It turns out that 10 months in advance is the trick, because our hotel had a fabulous location only blocks from the train station and the festival, a delicious restaurant and bar, and comfy rooms.
Over the past year we’ve talked up the festival to friends and family, and we had an amazing crew of people meet us at the festival. We didn’t have to expend any effort to recruit Garrett, who joined us last year – he was in the second Richie said, “We have to do this again.” My best friend from high school, Ashleigh, and her husband Michael were two of the first people to sign on, and they also recruited our high school choir buddy Ramsay and his wife to fly down from Norway. Our friends Jaclyn and Rob, formerly of Budapest and now of Mainz, Germany, decided to make the drive. And last but certainly not least, our friends Sophie and Reiner from Budapest took the train down as well. Sophie officially gets the Trooper of the Year award – between reserving their hotel room and the date of the festival, Sophie learned that she’s expecting a little boy! Undaunted, she endured the madness of Munich during Oktoberfest while 6 months pregnant.
Richie and Garrett were a little more enthusiastic than many of our friends and scheduled our arrival for Wednesday night, but the rest of our crew was arriving on Friday. So on Thursday, Richie and Garrett headed to the festival tents while I joined a Mike’s Bikes tour of the city. I thought it might be a little bit weird to be on a tour by myself, but I made some friends and it was a gorgeous day for a bike ride.
The next day, as visitors started to trickle in, we all headed to the festival. Rob, Jaclyn, and her brother were the first to arrive and met us at the Hippodrom tent. It’s supposedly the young-and-trendy tent, but we mostly picked it because it has non-beer options for Jaclyn and me.
Unfortunately, about two hours after we entered, we had to leave. It’s a long story and it involves a really surly waitress. Basically, the rule on Fridays is that unreserved tables have a 2 hour time limit, but every other server in the place ignored the limit and let their patrons stay. Ours, for whatever reason, decided that her two or three tables would have to abide by the rules and made us leave. It wouldn’t be a big deal, except that by the time the two hours had passed, the festival had gotten crazy busy and we had a hard time finding a table for our group of seven. We attempted the Hofbrauhaus tent, but that was incredibly rowdy and incredibly full. The guys were willing to wait around for some space to open up, so Jac and I headed out in search of a wine tent.
And then Sophie and Reiner arrived in town!
That evening, we met up with everyone at the original Hofbrauhaus! The restaurant and brewery seats thousands of people, so we thought it would be the best option to find a table for 13 people.
The next morning, Richie, Garrett, and the Morrises headed to the festival, but the rest of us had a mission: locate lederhosen for Michael and a dirndl for Ashleigh. If you know Michael, you know he loves a good costume, so he was really excited about the lederhosen. The stores closest to our hotel were all out of the smaller sizes (unless you wanted to pay 250 Euros) so we tried a few places before we hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, it had started raining, and so all of the outdoor seating at the festival was closed and the tents were completely full, only accepting people with reservations. We were wandering around in the rain, getting a little depressed and a lot soaked.
Here’s where our day became awesome. After trying to enter the tent where Richie and the others were, with no luck, Richie texted me that Jaclyn’s brother had managed to buy a reserved table for a few hours and that if we could get inside, there were seats for us. We tried at several entrances but none of the guards would let us in. Finally, we went to the side door and managed to tell a guard that we had a reserved table. Richie and Reiner had come to the door to corroborate the story, and Reiner spoke German, so the guard said that if our waitress came to the door and said there was room at the table for us, we could go in. The five of us outside were dejected – we thought there was no way that a waitress would stop serving tables at the busiest time just to add more people to her table – but we soon became elated as we saw a waitress at the door, with Richie and Reiner in tow, telling the guards to bring us in!!
Our luck continued to hold throughout the afternoon. Our servers were great to us (it probably didn’t hurt that we were so grateful for the entrance that we tipped really, really well) and, after our time at the reserved table was up, they managed to clear a table for us in the center of the hall near the band.
Speaking of the band… they played some interesting choices. Towards the end of the afternoon, it was basically alternating between Sweet Caroline, County Roads, La Bamba, and Ein Prosit (a German drinking song that just says Ein prosit, ein prosit, der gemütlichkeit over and over again). It was pretty amazing how everyone in the tent seemed to know all the words to John Denver and Neil Diamond songs.
That night, we took it easy and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was full of delicious sushi, fun, and friends. And since Garrett’s birthday was a few days before, there was sparkly cake!
My favorite part of the evening was when Garrett brought out the Texas A&M shirts for Sophie and Reiner. They’ve been watching the football games with us on television, and Richie’s been bringing the Johnny Football love to Europe, so Garrett found some Aggie gear for them.
On Sunday, everyone parted ways for their various planes, trains and automobiles. The other R&S duo booked the same train as us, so we had a lovely 7-hour trip of puzzles, Risk, Monopoly, and hundreds of train travelers who hadn’t booked reservations trying to take our seats the second any of us stood up.
Oktoberfest 2013 far exceeded the lofty bar set by Oktoberfest 2012… I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings 😉