My second Oktoberfail that I experienced at Oktoberfest last week has to do with the camping situation … the one I had built up so much in my head prior to actually visiting it, where the reality of the campsite (plus the rain one night) made it all come crashing down.
I am not a camper. I am not even an outdoorsy person. The last time I slept in a camp was when I was a sophomore in high school, and that was not even by choice. It was a team bonding exercise for my soccer team and it was only for one night, and no one got any sleep then anyway so it doesn’t really count as camping in my head.
It should be noted that I did not plan on camping at Oktoberfest when we started organizing the trip. But alas, my friends and I started booking stuff in August and by then it was too late to find any space for four people in any of the hostels in Munich or by the festival. So one of the travel guide sites we were on also recommended a camping site in an Olympic stadium … which did not really register as camping for me since it would be in an Olympic stadium, not a random forest or woods or river or whatever, and there would be showers and toilets and running water. But really, I was in it for the Olympic stadium.
The name of the place was Wies’n Camp, which is in Olympic Horse Stadium München-Riem. In the 1972 Munich Olympics, this was where all of the equestrian events occurred during the games. I’m not a horse-y kind of person (I do like things, I swear, just not horses or camping), but whatever, I knew this was the closest I was maybe ever going to get to the Olympics and I didn’t care (sad, but true … unless the Olympics or the world finally recognizes the sport of competitive speed-reading).
Plus, it was cheap, and it was kind of our only option. It was 35 euro per person for a four-person tent and I was naïve in thinking I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time at the campsite.
Oktoberfest all day! Party all night! Sleep when I’m dead … or on the train back to Paris!
As you’ve already read, none of those things happened. Oktoberfail.
Our six-hour train ride from Gare D’Est in Paris to Munchen Hauptbahnhof in Munich got us in the train station at night. So we knew we’d miss the Friday night of Oktoberfest, but we were in no hurry.
We arrived at 9:30 p.m. My friend Jenn got hit on by a cute German guy in lederhosen at 9:35 p.m. Maybe it’s because we were tired or hungry, but we just giggled the whole time we watched them interact and complained about how of course Jenn is the one to get the first guy.
However, none of us were too envious once we asked him for directions to our camp and he thought we were crazy for actually camping outside. At first, he thought it was just a translation issue and the “camp site” we were talking about wasn’t the “camp site” he thought he knew.
“Camping? You are going camping?” he asked. Yes.
“You are going camping outdoors?” YES.
“You are all going camping outdoors? To sleep under the sky?” FOR CHRISSAKE, YES!
He started cracking up once he knew that yes, we were all going camping outdoors.
It turns out it was so hilarious because “German girls don’t camp. And European girls don’t camp.”
“Well, these American girls do,” we said before ditching him.
Hmmph. We thought he was just sexist or something. Surely German girls, or at least European girls, camp! I mean, there isn’t a stereotype of American girls camping and none of use camped regularly, for the most part. But camping was a thing at Oktoberfest, or so we thought based off of all of the camping options that we had to choose from.
Whatever. We shook off Cute German Guy, both literally and figuratively, and we finally arrived at the camp after figuring out the Metro line and getting off at the most random, remote Metro stop ever to follow a crowd of people into the night.
But actually, the first thing we noticed once we arrived at the campsite was that we were the only girls in the registration center/bar/dance floor/bathroom makeshift building.As soon as we followed the loud American Top 40 music and cheering into the makeshift building and saw picnic tables, a bar, and an entire dance floor mostly comprised of guys (most of whom were wearing lederhosen), we all just looked at each other.
Well, okay, we weren’t the only girls there. It’s like there were only two handfuls of girls (does that mean ten girls? Because that’s what I’m trying to say but in an earnestly clever way) in the makeshift building … and we were four of them. And the other girls that were there were all standing next to boys, AKA were taken, AKA maybe weren’t there because they wanted to be there or originally proposed camping.
AKA, umm, maybe Cute German guy had a point…
We scoped out the scene while we stood pressed against the wall with our backpacking backpacks and waited for Lily to register us. It was a little dark in the room, but we were pretty sure there weren’t any girls on the dance floor.
This got me thinking.
Not about how, as The Hunger Games’ Effie Trinket might have said in this situation that the odds were ever in my favor. Not about how there was American pop music playing that was relevant when I first started standing pressed against the walls at parties and dances in middle school. And definitely not about how everyone in the place was hammered and we were all way too sober to be dealing with the crashing reality that this was not exactly what we were expecting.
Instead, I wondered: What’s German for “sausage fest,” anyway? Do they even have that phrase? They have to, since sausage is such a huge part of German food culture. Right? Does that mean that are there different sausages used to describe different sausage fests? Like, ‘Oh, last night was such a Bratwurst fest’ or ‘This is a total Knockwurst fest.’ Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to ask a German. I wish I had thought of this when Cute German Guy was around, since he seemed to be in the know about how German girls don’t camp!
My Mindy Kaling-esque musing was interrupted when Lily came back with our tent number. We were #305—and after putting our bags away and worrying if anyone was going to steal anything, we decided to go back to the makeshift party and represent our tent and our country. Or something like that.
The dance floor was just the area to the left of the bar that was between the wall and the first row of picnic tables. It wasn’t a big area, especially when it was full of drunk guys all unironically dancing together in the same space despite the fact that there weren’t any girls on the dance floor—something I’ll probably never see back in the States!
We were kind of bopping on the edge of the dance floor just watching as we planned our mode of attack. And the guys that came up to us to ask us to dance didn’t do so by getting all up behind us and just grinding, which is unfortunately pretty standard at Drexel. The guys were still wordless (maybe a language issue? completely possible), but they’d hold their hand out for us to dance. It’s a nicer invitation, I think, especially because their dancing styles were how I imagine my grandparents danced when they were my age—my hand on his shoulder, his hand on my waist, our other hands entwined in the air.
Of course, the first guy I talked to was from France. What are the odds, right? C’est la vie. He was a fireman from a tiny French village about forty-five minutes away from Paris and he had come to Oktoberfest with a couple of other guys from his squad. Now, I don’t know if it’s because he was talking me up or because it’s actually the truth, but I walked away from that feeling like French firemen were so much more badass than American firemen, mostly because the firemen in France also function as EMTs and that the French government bends over backwards for their firehouses. See, I learned something cultural and interesting at Oktoberfest!
But because I knew I’d have an early morning the next day, I went back to the tent around midnight (aka before “Tik Tok” came on and the two friends that stayed on the dance floor were the only people in the whole building who knew the lyrics). Big mistake. It was FREEZING and miserable and cramped and I was wearing every object of clothing I had brought, minus my spandex tights and the pair of black gloves that got eaten by my backpack—so, Under Armor spandex shirt, long sleeved shirt, a fleece zip-up sweatshirt, non-hoodie sweatshirt, jeans, two pairs of socks, scarf, and hat. I did bring my winter jacket but it didn’t fit around my layers so I used it as a pillow and a blanket.
And that wasn’t enough! I don’t know if it was the cold or the fact that I had to pee so badly but didn’t want to go into the actual cold, but I didn’t sleep at all. At around five I finally got up, grabbed the spandex tights, and walked back to the dance hall to go to the bathroom and change. No one was there, it was dead silence, and I just walked to and from this building, but somehow during all of this I ripped a big hole in the kangaroo pouch of my sweatshirt. And the next morning I woke up and saw that the rubber layer of the heel of my boot was just chilling on the grass outside of our tent. I don’t even know how any of that happened but somehow I was already a hot mess without drinking anything at Oktoberfest.
I already recounted my Oktoberfest activity here, so I’ll keep this post strictly focused on the campsite activities…which unfortunately are equally not WOOO OKTOBERFEST!!!! even though that’s what the atmosphere was like at night.
And I don’t know what they were during the day, because the next time I came back to the Wies’n Camp was at 2 p.m. and that was when we all stumbled into our tents and took a three-hour-long nap. What I saw after I woke up was that there weren’t nearly as many people in the makeshift building, but the people that were there all looked incredibly sober and no one was wearing lederhosen.
This was not the same camp we came back to at about midnight after walking around Munich with a Drexel friend I met up with who is studying in the city. The dance floor was now an actual dance floor and not the passageway it functioned as during the day, and the same drunk lederhosen guys were there dancing to the same American Top 40 songs with the same drunk lederhosen guys from the night before. Once again, only ten girls in the place and we were four of them.
And even though we did relatively little that day compared to what we could have done, we just headed back to our tents at around midnight. This was, once again, another big mistake because it rained the whole damn night. We didn’t get a ton of rain in the tent—just a little puddle by someone’s end of their sleeping bag—but it was still really cold and it’s depressing enough when it rains (for me at least) and to be stuck in a tent in the rain meant that I was not a happy camper (see what I did there? It’s not a cliché because it was true in that case!).
It was only drizzly the next morning, but we still went right to the train station instead of going back to Oktoberfest. One breakfast of beer that weekend was more than enough, thank you very much.
Author’s Note: I feel terrible having to write this out, but I did have a very fun weekend, despite the complaining in this post. I’m just saying … I went to Oktoberfest and I got a tour of Munich with my friend, and what I did there was enough for me for my fill of Munich. I may not have spent a lot of time at Oktoberfest but I liked what I did every second of it and I have no regrets. It’s just if I get the opportunity to go again, I’m not sure I would go back instead of traveling to somewhere new and doing something new there.
That’s’ not to say I didn’t like Oktoberfest. I did! It wasn’t what I was expecting (well, I did expect all the drunk lederhosen guys), but it still turned out very good. The best part was meeting new friends and finding out cultural differences with the foreigners we were seated next to—something that is my absolute favorite thing to do abroad.
Furthermore, Oktoberfest weekend was a good bonding experience with my friends, and a great preview for what will happen during our week in Dublin next week for my Toussaint vacation. I’ll be in Ireland from the night of October 25 to the morning of November 2 (UM HELLO HALLOWEEN IN IRELAND), so you can expect more timely blog posts about Dublin around that time!