The idea of travel can be rather daunting. Before coming to Florence, Italy, the furthest trip I had made alone or with a friend had been to the grocery store. The inevitable truth of coming to study abroad somewhere in Europe, is that you will travel to other parts of Europe while you are here; sometimes you will be with a group of close friends, sometimes with just one close friend, and sometimes you will be alone. There will be snafus and difficulties when traveling, but the benefits one gains from travel far outweighs any of the negativity.
Attending SRISA in the fall of 2015 was a lucky time. Certain trips and locations were available to us, that would not be available during other terms of study. One location in particular: Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. My roommate and I both come from Wisconsin, notorious for its beer culture and small celebrations of Oktoberfest. I had attended a small Oktoberfest in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a mere 100,000 people. But now we had made the decision to attend the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world, bringing in five to seven million people from across the globe.
The first thing that happens when planning any trip is deciding your dates, transportation, and where you’ll be staying. Coordinating and figuring out costs can be very stressful, but once you’ve figured out “the how” of traveling, the excitement can flow freely. My roommate decided that the most cost efficient and timely means of travel was taking a train to Rome, then a quick bus ride to the airport within Rome, and finally flying into Munich. And our journey there was smooth. We had packed light, a few outfits for two days. All of our belongings could fit in our backpacks and it was easy to keep an eye on what we had.
When we first touched down in Munich, we received our first shock. No English, No Italian, just German. I had never thought that I would miss a language that I barely even speak. We walked around the bus station trying to find how to get to the city center where we would find our AirBnB. And as you always will when you travel, someone came to the rescue. A group of British men pointed us in the right direction to the bus stop. As we arrived in the city center, a German woman helped us figure out the tram, a small train that connects throughout Munich, and an excellent means of transportation in any metropolitan city.
We found a small, charming restaurant down the block from our Airbnb. We talked to the waiters and used the wifi to connect with our host.
By the time we had reached our Airbnb is was around 8 pm and we made the decision to stay in for night. We would tackle Oktoberfest the next day.
The Oktoberfest site ground was only 20 minutes with the tram from our AirBnB. We left at around 10:00am to go find breakfast. We found a small hotel restaurant a couple minutes away from Oktoberfest. We could hear the loud chatter of German and hordes of people wearing traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls, a traditional Bavarian outfit. It being 10:30am, the most appropriate way to start my day, seemed with a plate of bacon, eggs, toast and of course a refreshing lemony half-liter of beer.
After breakfast, we finally made our way to Oktoberfest. Crowds of people were pouring in the main entrance. Admission was free to the grounds. The actual Oktoberfest site was immense, the festival grounds on Theresienwiese covers 310,000 square meters.
Nearly everyone was wearing Bavarian dress, locals and tourists alike. My roommate and I decided to go purchase dirndls. It being the last weekend of Oktoberfest, the sales were outrageous. We both bought full outfits for €30.
Finally dressed in our outfits, we were ready to go. Oktoberfest is broken down into “tents” each with different themes, but the word tent seems to be an understatement. We walked into the first tent and the amount of people and sound was incredible. Benches were packed, and people stood on tables drinking their liters of beer, being cheered on by the crowds.
The waitress put us at a table with other english-speakers, hoping to make us more comfortable. The atmosphere was amazing. We stayed in the tent for a while and then set of to explore the rest of the area. There were hundreds of vendors selling Bavarian gingerbread hearts, pretzels, schnitzel, lederhosen and dirndls, and lots of over priced souvenirs.
Roller coasters and rides were scattered around the grounds. Sounds of happy, drunk people came from every direction. As evening came, we headed back to the tent for outdoor seating, and a last round of drinks. The waitress seated us with people from around the globe. We met a group of rugby players from Paris, a pornstar from Rome, graphic designers from New York, and countless others who told us stories about where they were from and why they were here. Traveling opens your eyes to so many different types of people and places and stories, and you can learn something along the way.