Made a quick trip to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest!
After the invigorating feeling from traveling on my own to Pisa and Lucca for a day (and many, MANY pep talks from my mom), I decided I would take a trip to Oktoberfest and see what the fuss was all about. Everyone assured me that this was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and that I’d have the “time of my life!” I booked the trip (through a travel agency for American students studying in Florence) on Monday night, left Friday night around 11pm, arrived Saturday morning around 9am, and left Saturday night around 10pm. Leading up to departing, I was partially excited and mostly not sure what to expect.
So how, you may ask, is the best way to enjoy Oktoberfest when you have anxiety?
Going to Oktoberfest didn’t give me the feeling of freedom and power that I was hoping. Instead, I found what seemed to be a hyped up frat party. As someone who has never been to a frat party or had any intention to ever going to one, this realization disappointed me. Upon entering the festival I was instantly reminded of that scene from Shrek where Shrek and Donkey go to Lord Faarquad’s town to see if they would give Shrek his land back. Shrek and Donkey watch wooden dolls perform “Welcome to Duloc” before the machine takes their picture. That picture is a visual to my reaction to Oktoberfest throughout the day. As someone who recently turned 21, the old lady hidden inside me constantly reminded me that I’m too old for this.
On the 8 hour bus ride to Munich, I noticed another girl that was traveling alone and made a mental note to stick with her throughout the day. I told her this at the McDonalds we arrived at at 8:30am where we were told to get breakfast and change (if needed). Many of the girls put on their dirndls, and the guys had their lederhosen. I didn’t plan on dressing up because I was only going for the day and the outfits were EXPENSIVE. I’m talking at least €100 for each. I was also very quick to notice that Munich is a whole lot colder than Florence, so I was very happy in my jeans, boots, and cozy sweater. (NOTE: If you plan to go to Oktoberfest but don’t want to purchase the outfit, don’t worry. I was most definitely not the only person not dressed up.)
Anyway, when I told the girl I would “awkwardly follow her around because I was going alone” (my actual words; why am I like this?), she laughed and told me she was meeting people who had already grabbed a table in one of the beer tents. After a long time of searching and pushing through people, we finally found her friends who were already very drunk. Note it was only 9am. There wasn’t room for me to sit, so I stood in the aisle between tables in a large crowd of people who were very intoxicated and very pushy. I quickly lost track of how many times I was groped by random men. As someone with anxiety whose anxiety worsens when surrounded by drunk people and crowds, this was not the ideal situation for me. On the other hand, I didn’t know where else to go so I kept standing while being constantly pushed and ordered a liter of beer which is unsurprisingly very heavy. The girl’s friends seemed to be having fun, but I couldn’t get over the fact I had never been more uncomfortable in my life. Just about everyone in the tent sounded American, not really making the festival feel like an authentic experience. Finally, some people eventually got up from the table which luckily gave me room to sit, helping soothe my anxious mind only a little.
One by one, the girl and her friends left the table leaving me alone, still surrounded by a constant wave of people. Then a girl with who looked like a 12-year-old (she swore she was 30) from a different table noticed me sitting alone and asked if I was American, telling me that she was from Switzerland. She invited me to sit with the people at her table. At this point I was halfway through my beer and was starting to feel it, so I joined her. She somehow persuaded me to stand on the bench with everyone else and I felt like I at least looked like I was having a good time. Every time a security guard passed by our table, we would all sit very quickly because we had watched dozens of people’s wrists be grabbed before they were dragged outside. These security guards were NOT messing around. They seemed annoyed to be there and even more annoyed that no one was following the rules.
While sitting with the Swiss group, I mostly just observed what was going on around me. I noticed that almost every guy was drinking with the intention of getting with a girl, while almost every girl was just looking to have a good time. I’m not sure if this was just because so much of the tent was filled with Americans, but it was extremely disillusioning especially just days after the results of the Kavanaugh case back in America. I found it absolutely disgusting that all the men thought they could take advantage of the women. I guess that kind of thinking is what added to my anxiety, but that’s the downside to being raised in an ethical household. I tried to comfort every girl who was crying over some guy, and made sure to ask every girl if she was ok when I saw she had trouble standing. Out of spitefulness, I didn’t do anything helpful for any guy. That’s my little bit of payback for everyone that tried to hit on me when I was very clearly NOT INTERESTED (I shouldn’t have to write it on my forehead).
Once I finished my second beer and had eaten two pretzels (one salty, one sweet), a girl sat next to me who seemed nice enough and started talking to me. She told me a “secret” that she didn’t really like the guy she came with. She also took out her Juul and started smoking (I seriously thought for a second that this thing was a USB drive), prompting a guy nearby claim that he would give her €10 for two hits because “he hadn’t seen a Juul in 3 months.” She said ok, leading to at least three more people asking if they could have some. Trying to make her lotsa easy money, I lied to everyone that the first guy gave her €30, so they’d have to top that if they wanted any. She then bargained the price with them, but I think by the end she had made €50 and still had most of her pods left! We laughed about how desperate people can be before she left the table.
So then it was just me and the Swiss people again. I told myself at the beginning of the day that I would only have two beers because I absolutely did NOT want to be sick on the bus ride back to Florence. So, I got up to go outside to get some fresh air, not realizing that I wouldn’t be back allowed inside. Then I found the girl from my bus, quickly lost her in the crowd, then looked around to see that I wasn’t even in the area of the tent anymore. At this point it was about 3pm, and I knew there was no way I’d be able to get into another beer tent, so I bought a postcard to add to my collection and walked around the festival. I bought a bottle of water (HYDRATION IS KEY!) and ended up outside the festival grounds. I just wanted to sit and enjoy my water, so I sat on the curb outside the gate and watched as police officers directed dozens of drunk people towards the exits. Soon a man sat a lady on the curb next to me. He poured water onto her head and made her drink some. The man motioned to me that he couldn’t hear and that she was having a panic attack…or at least that’s what I thought. The lady was crying at this point and a group of people had begun to surround her. I tried holding her pinky finger in a small attempt to calm her. Another deaf man signed something to me and I asked the group to give the lady some space. I know that when I’m having a panic attack, I need room to breathe and I hoped this would help the woman. Someone from the group told me in broken English that she had just had an asthma attack, so I backed up because asthma is not my expertise. It was then that I noticed that everyone in this group was deaf and signing to each other. Some people crouched next to the woman, comforting her and helping her in the ways that I wasn’t able to. Once the woman wasn’t crying anymore and was breathing normally, the group gathered up their things and left through the exit. I sat on my curb for a few hours, entertaining myself by watching people stumble out of the festival, hoping the woman was ok.
Around 6:30pm I decided that I was getting bored of people watching, so I reentered the festival. In an attempt to escape people and be alone, if only for a short amount of time, I decided I would ride the ferris wheel. From the very top I could see the entire festival which was pretty incredible and much larger than I had previously thought. The sun was also setting while I was on the ride which probably made riding the ferris wheel the best part of my day. When I got off the ride, I bought another bottle of water (HYDRATION!!!) and went back to my curb outside the festival where I watched another constant stream of people teeter and totter towards the exit. One guy was so close to making it out then had to lean against a tree for support. Unable to walk on his own, a security guard went to check on him who then alerted the paramedics to help him. Drink responsibly, kids.
While on the way to leave, I watched a woman leave the festival with a man almost chasing after her. Once she was outside of the gate, the man turned around and realized I had been watching. He then shrugged and started walking towards me. Oh yikes. My entire body tensed up and he definitely noticed. He asked me why I was standing like that, to which I responded that I was cold. He smiled in that scary way that creepy men do and tried to push me to follow him, telling me I should go dancing. I guess he thought this would warm me up while also allowing him to get in my pants? I told him, “no thanks,” and quickly shook him off my arm. The encounter wasn’t the worse thing to happen, but I kept thinking about men preying off of women who are alone. Can creepy men PLEASE just leave me alone???
I met back up with the group from my bus, and luckily everyone arrived on time. One girl couldn’t walk on her own, so her friends essentially had to drag her to the bus. I was worried that she would throw up on the bus, making the small breathing space smell awful. Fortunately, she was able to get everything out before getting on the bus. Not so fortunately, as soon as the bus started moving I quickly needed a bag myself…yay for motion sickness combined with alcohol and not eating enough!!! Exhausted lil me was able to sleep most of the way back to Florence.
Overall, Oktoberfest wasn’t the worst or best experience. In what was essentially a Drunken Disneyworld, I was unable to get out of my head and the fact that alcohol is a depressant certainly did NOT help. It felt more like I was doing something to check it off a list, rather than going to actually enjoy myself. Not the experience I was hoping for. As someone who doesn’t enjoy beer, crowds, or crowds of drunk people, I’m not sure what I was expecting.
At least I can now say I’ve been to Oktoberfest.