I’ve never quite grasped why Oktoberfest actually occurs in September. Anyway, in 2010 I met some friends from London in Munich – dirndl and all – to experience the famous Bavarian festivities. It’s always been a bucket-list item for me – same as Fiesta de San Fermin (“running of the bulls”), La Tomatina, Christmas in New York and Carnivale – so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to enjoy a stein and pretzel and tick this one off the list.
My travel journal was (unsurprisingly) light on during my 4 days at Oktoberfest – any spare time (i.e. not at the beer halls) was spent exploring Munich and sampling the local delicacies (pork knuckle = amazing). It wasn’t until I was leaving Munich on the overnight train to Florence, courtesy of Trenitalia, that I had time to catch my breath and reflect.
Whilst I lay on my cosy (teeny tiny) bunk bed with my lovely (strange) cabin companion (random journalist who claimed to have known Princess Diana personally – I still have his business card), I wrote this:
“Feeling slightly – no, very – nauseous after going on far too many rides at Oktoberfest today. It was the only alternative to spending all day drinking in the beer tents and I was NOT getting on this overnight train drunk and/or hungover. I’m playing catch up, so here’s a summary of my time in Munich:
- Spent most of the first day in the Hofbräu-Festzel tent. Full of Aussies, fights, nudity and craziness (maybe I didn’t miss the Aussie accent as much as I thought I did). I got locked out after walking a friend to the gate and ended up at one of the much classier European tents (solo) for a bit. I’m glad I got to see how the locals celebrate Oktoberfest, even if it was by accident.
- Apparently, at Oktoberfest it’s traditional to alternate singing Sweet Caroline, Ein Prosit and Hey Baby at random intervals throughout the day.
- The lines (more like crowds) for the toilets were actually insane. No German orderliness inside these tents.
- Although I (still) don’t like beer, turns out it’s easier to drink a stein of beer than a shandy (part beer, part lemonade). Still only managed 2.
- Don’t say “mine” unless you want to be forced to skull your stein or do 10 push ups. Drinking games are apparently taken very seriously over here.
- Gingerbread hearts and bratwursts. Every delicious day.
- Dirndles and Lederhosen are surprisingly practical attire for a day of drinking and eating.
Oktoberfest was fun and definitely a big one off the bucket list. Tonight I’m getting the overnight train to Florence, where I plan to indulge in some shopping for leather goods and re-indulge in some much missed pasta and gelato. I’ll be regretting those carbs by Sail Croatia next weekend through. I can’t believe how quickly the past 3 months have gone… I’m so not done.
Although I had an amazing time at Oktoberfest, I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. I think that’s the thing with a “bucket list” – some things you do just to say you’ve done them. And there’s a danger in that I guess. Now, my bucket list is more than just “visit [insert place] and “do [insert crazy thing]”. It’s more about making sure I have the experiences that I believe will help shape me into the person I hope to be.
This still means I have things like “eat fresh sushi in Japan” and “do a hike somewhere beautiful” (I’m no hiker/camper, so this is a personal challenge) – even “be invited to speak at a conference” and “do a course at Columbia, NYU or Harvard”.
But, I also have things like “take a Ferris Bueller style day off”, “perfect the perfect photo pose” and “flash someone” (seriously, it’s on my list). Because I think those things (for me) require a particular combination of courage, confidence and crazy – and we all need a bit of crazy in us. Even if I have to keep the crazy on a list.
What’s on your bucket list?