Okay, I admit it. I hate beer. Always have and probably always will. So why did I go to Oktoberfest? Well, it’s just one of those things you HAVE to do if you’re in Germany (during Oktoberfest, obviously). It’s a requirement, or something. My husband and I had already lived in Germany for four years at this point. It was our final year before moving back to the States. Now or never.
My husband, his sister, and I were staying at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, which offered shuttle service to and from Oktoberfest. We booked the last 3 spots on the Sunday bus. It was destiny, so it seemed.
I was the lone one out when it came to seating, and since I knew the bus was full, I was anticipating sitting next to a stranger. Without going into too much detail about my seatmate, I will say that he was quite friendly and talkative on the drive to Munich, and the time passed quickly and pleasantly enough.
The bus dropped us off in the Oktoberfest parking lot. The driver gave us a stern warning not to come back drunk enough to throw up. He threatened us with the expense of cleaning and sanitizing the bus if that happened. (If you sense some foreshadowing here, you would be correct.)
Since this was Oktoberfest’s opening weekend — the second day, in fact – there was supposed to be a parade. We quickly found the parade route, since we were there early, and got a good view. An hour later, after we were all fairly burned to a crisp, the parade started.
It went on…and on. It was the parade that never ended. I swear they had marching bands for EVERY SINGLE Bavarian town, no matter how big or small, in addition to groups from Italy and Croatia. And as the parade continued, the grounds swelled with people.
Finally, we decided we had had more than enough. My husband wanted to go into the Paulaner tent to have a beer, and even though it wasn’t far, we had difficulty even getting through the crush of humanity. But since it was around 1 pm, we also wanted food. So we went to a food stand first.
We fought through the crowds to get to the beer tent, went in, and started looking for a place to sit. No luck. It was packed. We walked around the beer gardens outside. No luck there either. We decided to go inside and check again, and that’s when I was stopped by security. They saw the lemonade that I bought at the food stand and told me that no outside drinks were allowed in the beer tent.
So what were we to do? I told my husband and his sister to go have some beer. I would just go off on my own and meet back up with them at the bus for our departure. I was more interested in exploring anyway.
I walked around the fairway for a bit. It’s not very interesting if you’re not riding rides. I bought some ice cream, as the day was really warm. I checked out the less-crowded wine tent (all is not lost if you like wine more than beer!), even though I didn’t drink any wine.
At the appointed time, I met my husband and his sister at the bus. Turns out, they never did find a place to sit, so they didn’t get to have any beer. Disappointing, since that’s really why one goes to Oktoberfest.
No sign of my seatmate yet.
Finally he arrived. Staggering drunk. Oh no!
He joked that he had enough beer for both of us, and then promptly dozed off. I breathed a sigh of relief. That is, until he suddenly sat bolt upright, leapt out of his seat, and ran off the bus to vomit.
Hooray. Of all the people who had to get drunk enough to puke, it had to be the guy sitting next to me! Am I lucky or what?
He came back on the bus with a plastic bag that the driver gave him, and then assured me that he thought it was over. I was neither comforted nor convinced by this assessment. My husband tried to get me to move to another seat, but since the bus was fully occupied (or so I thought), I had nowhere to go.
Finally, the bus started up and headed back towards Garmisch. I secretly prayed for it to be a puke-free trip. My seatmate (whom my husband started calling Mr. Pukey) fell asleep again and slumped over on me. I was in misery.
A few minutes into the trip, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked behind me, and the teenage girl sitting behind me told me that she had a free seat next to her, and asked me if I wanted to join her.
Hallelujah! Sweet rescue!
I explained to her that as much as I wanted to move, my seatmate was asleep, and I couldn’t wake him up to ask him to move out of my way so I could change seats. I was trying not to be rude to him (even though I thought it was extremely rude of him to get that drunk), but he woke up just then and scooted out of my way enough so that I could crawl over him and go back and sit with her. Her grandparents were sitting across the aisle and they whispered to me that they felt so bad, they just had to do something. I didn’t even know there was a spare seat on the bus!
So I sat with them, next to the drunk people in the very back row of the bus, who were drunk enough to be jolly, but not drunk enough to be sick. I can’t say it was the most pleasant bus trip I ever had, but it was significantly better than spending the entire trip sitting next to Mr. Pukey. (And one of the guys in the back of the bus offered to buy me a beer at the Irish pub that evening…uhm, no thanks.)
So, call me biased, if you want, but I happen to think Oktoberfest is highly overrated. At least I can laugh about this someday. Maybe.
Karyn Johnson now lives in the Seattle area and blogs at Itinerant Writer. She is a freelance writer and editor.