I was not necessarily planning on going to Oktoberfest this year, as I just came back from a delightful two week vacation in the Balkans. But, when I learnt that my great friend Jo' was coming to town to visit me, resistance was out of the question! I had no choice but to follow my party animal friend to this world renowed beer extravaganza! The first time I travelled with Jo' was two years ago as we backpacked through Nicaragua and it was absolutely epic! Needless to say I was totally on-board when she announced she would spent her 27th birthday weekend in Central Europe. I was expecting her arrival at the Erlangen train station no later than two days before the Mayor of Munich was planned to tap the first barrel (and therefore inaugurate the 182nd edition of Oktoberfest). This provided us with enough time to show her around my new office, as well as Nuremberg's old town (Altstadt).
We kicked off the weekend with a casual dinner at my cozy shared apartment in Innenstadt (Erlangen). A fine piece of brie and a fresh baguette as an appetizer, chicken breast sautéd with veggies in paprika sauce as an entrée and of course, two bottles of fine wine to celebrate our friendship reunion miles away from Montreal. As soon as the table was cleared, we transitionned to a local bar with two of my rommates in order to correctly warm up our livers before this weekend's carousal. One of my roommates was a regular at this bar, so drinks kept swinging from every direction. We went back and forth from pints to Jagermeister shots and laughed our asses off all evening long. Everything seemed perfectly in control until I landed on my bed. As you can imagine (I'm sure), I ended up making out with the ceramic throne... This set the tone alright!
The following day, we walked around Altstadt and found this amazing mexican taqueria called Sausalitos. Food was great and a DJ was spinning Hip-Hop/R&B/Reggae classics from the early 2000's. We spent the whole evening bouncing on our chairs while savoring our burritos and enchilladas. After dinner, we thought we would go for a walk around the Old City. I purposely directed our walk to Frauentormauer, Nuremberg's very own Red Light District. Jo' is not exactly what we can call a prude person... but, you should have seen her face as she saw those ladies of the night displayed in those windows like chocolate in a candy shop. Her face expression was absolutely priceless and will be forever remembered! On the same day (one day before our planned departure to Munich), a magic-like thing happened when an ex-colleague of mine from Montreal wrote me an email asking me if I would be by any chance in Munich for Oktoberfest on the weekend. In fact, Phil was assigned on a one-week supplier visit in Lyon (France). This nut case decided to drive nine long hours through the Swiss Alps and all the way to Munich to attend the event. The only thing he said to justify this ambitious drive was: "Dude, I was here last year! It's going to be epic!"
On the departure date, Jo' and I woke up and hopped on the train with our Bayern Ticket - a 24 hour ticket that gives unlimited access to the train, metro and bus service all across the Bavarian state. I am not sure how the Bavarians do their maths, but this ticket costs 23.00 EUR for one person and 28.00 EUR for two people... Go figure! Nearly two hours later, we finally arrived to Munich. As soon as our feet hit the ground of the München Hauptbanhof, our eyes stopped at a booth selling Lederhosen and Dirndln. Jo' and I instantly shared a look and simultaneously said: "We need one of those!" Getting to the venue was a piece of cake. We simply followed the hundreds of people on the U-bahn platform also wearing their traditional drinking uniform. As we finally got to Theresienwiese, I was impressed but not so surprised to see how organized everything was. After all, it's Germany! I could totally seize the operations management behind these millions of litres of beer. When you arrive at the venue, you can easily transition from eating a bratwurst sandwich to sitting at a biergatren, to getting inside a brewer's tent... and later on to the bathroom. Sorry for being such a dork, but that's what impressed me. It almost felt like they leveraged their car assembly line system to optimize the peeing process. The only thing missing was that ACME Corporation (Looney Tunes) soundtrack in the background! There was even a dedicated spot for drunk people to lay on grass!
As we were enjoying a nice and cold litre of pilsner at a biergarten, rain started to poor over our heads, so we decided to try and get into a tent. My German colleagues had warned me that it would be super difficult to get in if we didn't show up at 10:00am. Apparently, people make reservations for tables six months in advance. Obviously, this would not stop a handful of young and ambitious people to walk through a tent as easily as the robber walked out of the bank in the movie "Inside Man". So we started walking around the tent as it was raining cats and dogs. We asked a waiter to point us to the main entrance. He kindly asked us why and when we told him we were going in, he just started laughing out loud as if we had just told him Little Mac was going to beat the shit out of Bald Bull! If only he knew we were about to bring it Montreal-style! This is actually a great tip for anyone trying to get into a tent on Day 1 at Oktoberfest (which is almost impossible):
Step 1: Approach the bouncer in charge of the main door,
Step 2: Tell him that you are three (3) people willing to get into the tent,
Step 3: Mention that you have 20.00 EUR to give him if he succeeds to let you in,
Step 4: Discretely hand him the 20.00 EUR and let yourself in along with your gang,
Step 5: Walk like a bawss, Montreal-style!
An important piece of information is that waiters will only serve you beer if you are assigned to a table. Therefore, try to make friends with some drunk young people and invite yourself to their table. Waiters won't make the difference if three (3) more people are standing at a table for ten (10). And it was on! We mingled with a group of strangers and danced on tables until closeout. Later that night, I remember Phil just looking at me and saying: "Worth it!" Of course, "Party Animal Jo'" made out with a dude and later asked me if she could bring him back to the apartment. I had to honor the Bro Code and act as a good wingman, so Phil offered me to stay at his hotel. This improvised situation was easily manageable since a German Queen size bed normally implies two single beds stuck together. So we simply took one single bed each and fell asleep... until I got waken up by what I thought was a full size tractor with the engine running in the middle of the room. Turns out it was little 1m50 / 120lbs Phil (I might be exaggerating a little) who was snoring like crazy. After opening my eyes, I could not close them back for the rest of the night. On the next day, that snoring motherfucker dared to tell me: "I hope I did not snore too much..." To which I instantly replied: "You son of a bitch!" The next day, Phil dropped me off at my rented apartment where Jo' was still in bed. The lucky bastard which I can't remember the name had already snuck out a few hours before. The beauty is that our Airbnb host confirmed that he did not hear "us" come back in the middle of the night and slept like a baby. That's what we call "tap-dancing over laser beams". Great success!
On the second day, a buddy of mine who Jo' and I did our bachelor's degree with joined us as he just arrived in Germany for a week-long of drinking. In order to prepare ourselves for Day 2, we started the day at a small kebab joint we found along the road. It was not one of those mainstream joints right in the city center. It was more like a small mom and pop neighborhood restaurant. The place was ran by one single lady who juggled between the cash register, the counter, the dining room, the grill and the take-away window. She was a superwoman and still managed to prepare the most tasteful kebab I have eaten so far eversince I moved to Germany. Not to mentiton that the thing probably weighted 4lbs. On the first bite it really felt like I was holding a baby!
Our friend finally showed up with seven (7) of his friends. All male Montrealers in their 20's, ready to party like the animals we usually end up being in any type of event involving alcohol. We had agreed to meet in front of a bar downtown. When we got there, we realized we were right in the center of the gay neighborhood. Being from Montreal, we are used to that kind of scene and it does not bother me at all. But the bouncer thought differently as he strictly requested that we tell him what type of bar we were about to enter. I guess it was obvious that we were tourists despite the lederhose and dirndl:
-Bouncer: "Do you know what you are in for?"
-Myself: "Yes we do", as we are trying to make our way into the club.
-Bouncer: "Not so fast, I need to hear it."
-Jo: "It's a gay bar!"
-Bouncer: "Alright, you guys can get in.
The bar was not so great... music was not so danceable and there was only little room to truly enjoy the venue. So we decided to cab it to another bar which we stayed in until the early hours.
At the last minute, I have decided to stay longer in Munich and leave the next day instead of taking the last train. That meant to wake up at around 4h30am (after only two (2) hours of sleep), take the subway to the main train station and then take a train to the bus station. My bus was scheduled to leave at 6am. As you can imagine, I did the zombie walk from our rented apartment until the moment I had my ass comfortably seated on the bus... and I then passed out. That was my short hangover recovery time before a busy week at work. Not to mention that I went straight to the office and took an Irish shower at the gym to wake myself up. It took me about a week to recover from the eight (8) litres of beer we each drank over the weekend... At this exact moment, Phil's words came back to my mind as I thought the exact same thing: "Worth it!"