Oktoberfest did not fail to live up to my expectations. In fact, it far exceeded them. A 9 hour bus ride up to Munich, followed by a rushed 45 minute pit stop at our hostel to change into our “festival clothing” led us to be dropped off at the festival at 8:30 am. With little to no sleep.
We beat the chaotic masses over to Hofbrau tent, where people had been lined up since 7 am. The tent opened at 10 am, so we spent a little over an hour waiting outside in the freezing rain, using our scarves as hoods.
We simultaneously craved the approaching Steins that would warm our shivering bodies and dreaded the taste of alcohol so early in the morning. Germans stood on the outside tables around us, blowing their whistles to keep us in order as we waited. I felt like part of a herd of sheep. Eventually, the doors opened and it was a mad rush inside. We quickly realized holding hand would not allow us all to enter together, and would instead end in dislocated shoulders. On top of this, the tall German men that surrounded us on all sides had no concern for the little American girls that were being squished and suffocated beneath them; only one thing was in their line of vision: beer.
We got inside sans claustrophobic panic attacks, reconvened, and snagged a table for the 8 of us. The rest of that day is history.
The next morning, four of us went on a biking tour around Munich. In the middle of his introductory speech, the head of the bike shop called out my friends and I from the group, asking us if where we’re from and if we’re single, etc. He was from Hawaii and probably nearing 40 years old. So that started off our day a little bit weirded out, but nevertheless, laughing.
Once again, we spent the day using our scarves as rain jackets. Even so, the whole day was spent in smiles. We saw the Munich surfers, the main piazzas and churches, the Royal Gardens, and spent an hour in the real Hofbrau House laughing and playing drinking games with our Steins.
For lunch, we went to the best restaurant I’ve been to since arriving in Europe, and I had the best veggie burger EVER. After lunch, we all headed back to the festival to make our last night in Germany count. And it did.
The next morning, we woke up early again to go to Dachau Concentration Camp. It was the most moving experience I’ve done. I’ve been to the Holocaust museum in D.C. and in New York, both of which are amazing. But actually being in the rooms that Holocaust victims slept in, stepping into the gas rooms and death chambers, and walking along the path where they dumped the ashes and bodies was surreal. We saw the pistol ranges with their respective blood ditches dug out from the ground. Each of the “graves” which stored thousands of murdered bodies was memorialized. One had a cross and respective plaque, the other had the Star of David, with Hebrew written under it that read “Do Not Forget.” When I reached the Jewish memorial, I broke down in uncontrollable tears.
After Dachau, we returned to the festival to pick up souvenirs and grab lunch, then headed back to the hostel to board the bus and return to Florence.
It was, without a doubt, the best weekend of my life.