A girl at my hostel in Berlin invited me to attend Octoberfest with her. She spent €130 on a Dirndl costume, but I wasn’t willing to spend more than €20 (I’m trying to stretch my moolah out for another few months, so I can’t afford to drop that much on a one-use costume). I went to a German thrift-chain and they actually had tons of options (*ugly* options, but at honestly all Dirndls are quite unattractive)! Though my brown floral top and heathered-brown wool skirt reminded me of my Grandma’s old couch, I managed to stay within budget. I wasn’t planning on keeping the thing forever anyways. I’m traveling for quite a lot longer, so I can’t take it with me, nor do I want to deal with shipping it home. €16 was good for a weekend costume that I’ll leave at the campsite and donate to the next girl looking for a Dirndl.
The campground had unlimited free sangria and beer, lots of drinking games, and free breakfast and lunch, so we all got into our outfits and played around the campground until around noon. The rowdy campers boarded the bus and you could tell the locals that weren’t participating in the Octoberfest events were looking at us with quite judgmental eyes. Everyone’s outfits were all completely different and it made for a really jolly atmosphere. From traditional lederhosen and dirndls to people wearing wacky patterned shirts under their lederhosen, to men wearing dirndls with long wigs and fake boobs, and women wearing edgy hipster-styled overall lederhosen, we were all ready for the day’s activities.
When we finally made it to the Main Street where they set up Octoberfest, we were all totally taken by the sheer size and extravagance of the event. There were vendor carts selling feathered felt hats, dancing-turkey hats, flower crowns, hair braids, giant gingerbread cookie necklaces, huge hotdogs and pretzels, rides, and of course LOTS of beer! It was such a happy place with cheery music blasting all over the loudspeakers. Everything was ambiently colorful: the people, the vending stands, the food, the carnival games. Neon lightbulbs blinked up to the peak of every chalet-roof on the strip. Our crew was overcome by childish happiness as we linked arms and skipped down the street. In fact, skipping was the only mode of transport inside Octoberfest, it just felt so right. It was literally like Disneyland… but for drunk adults!
We didn’t really look up which tents to go in beforehand, so we decided to just hop around and check things out. Spur-of-the-moment is always the best way to travel. No plans=no problems! The first beer hall we entered made the festival seem even wilder and otherworldly. It was a huge Bavarian building with all wooden rafters and white interiors. Huge pine garlands, wreaths, and bright red ribbons decorated the ceiling above. Thousands of happy people were seated at tables below a bandstand with a live orchestra lifted in the center of the tent. Huge German men stood atop wooden ladders while whipping massive whips back and forth and I couldn’t believe how strong they’d have to be in order to whip on tempo for an entire song. I’ve never seen anything like it!
Men and women were walking around selling oversized soft-pretzels and hotdogs out of bottomless wicker baskets covered in red-checkered blankets. They brought around embroidered bracelets, broach pins with funny German sayings, all sorts of flamboyant hats, flowers, and tall wooden-peg-trees decked in cookies and sweets of all sorts. Plump blonde waitresses seemingly stuffed into their busty costumes carried gigantic trays full of turkey, potato dumplings, sourkrout, and huge portions of tender pork-nuckle that fell off the bone forkful by forkful. Everyone was singing, chanting, cheering and cheers-ing their neighboring tables and new friends were being made by the instant.
We ate some pretzels, and a hotdog before going to another tent which was considered the “party” tent apparently. It contained a younger crowd from the party hostels, professional Octoberfest bus tours, and campgrounds. Here, people were slamming their beer steins so hard that they’d break the thick glass and spill everywhere. Waitresses noticed people doing this purposely, so they threatened to kick them out if it kept happening. The moment I walked in, I noticed a ton of people literally doing “lines” straight off the wooden tabletops in broad daylight. I was so surprised no one was getting in trouble, but someone beside me disclosed that they were actually snorting lines of a white minty powder that’s totally legal and totally traditional to Octoberfest. I tried one hit to each nostril which really cleared my nasal passages and gave me nice menthol-breath for the rest of the night.
We practically shut down the beer hall when it closed at 10:00pm, and scurried around the streets looking for rides we wanted to go on. We decided on a mini-coaster and squealed as we rolled along the track. Rollercoasters are even more fun after a few steins with a cool crew of people. After the rides, I got on the bus with my new friends and made it to a campground, which turned to not actually be my campground. Oops! I was actually pretty scared and lost. I had asked the bus driver before boarding the bus, and he confirmed it was going to the correct campground, but it definitely didn’t. Luckily my friends took care of me and let me sleep in their tent, then helped me find my way back to my campground in the morning!
Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato