Oktoberfest: To Beer or Not to Beer?
For some international travellers out there, this September is all about crossing off Oktoberfest from the must-see European bucket list. Having never been to Oktoberfest myself, I’m not going to offer an opinion on what are the best bits to see. Although I’m pretty sure it involves beer in very large glasses. The question of whether you see anything of Munich at all after day 2, literally and figuratively, is one that burns on my mind.
I definitely started out as a bucket list traveller, and I’m not ashamed of it. In fact, when you only plan to be in a country for perhaps 2 days ever in your entire life, why would you skip the best the place has to offer? I’ve never heard someone say, “I went to Paris for the first time and skipped the Eiffel Tower”. Or that they went to Rio during Carnival and decided to skip the festivities. Carnival remains a bucket list activity I recommend to everyone heading to Brazil over Easter time, if only to realise why you may never want to do it again…(the crowds!!) Yet Oktoberfest has eluded me. Why?
Perhaps I have drunk too many steins in my life to enjoy the thrill of a one litre beer. But more so, it’s because I was lucky enough to have my own Oktoberfest experience Munich in July 2006. I was visiting a friend I met travelling in Canada, who was now studying in Germany. He’d been local for 6 months, and when I arrived he insisted I buy a dirndl, so I could head out with him and his uni friends in accompanying lederhosen. At first the idea sounded absurd, especially the part where I spent 60 Euros of my precious backpacker budget on an outfit I would only wear once (though it is pretty useful for dress up parties)! Yet, he talked me in to it. Sure enough that evening we headed out to the Hofbrauhaus. We were pretty much the only people in costume. Quite a stark difference to Oktoberfest, where the streets are lined with foreigners in their outfits.
I will admit we didn’t get too rowdy, and we definitely didn’t party in tents with a bunch of mates. But we did otherwise soak in the local vibe whilst in costume. The best moment for me was when a Bavarian local came up to us and commented how sweet we looked, as we headed home. Although I’m pretty sure that’s not what the locals say during Oktoberfest…
So while some of us are gearing up for the second week of the infamous Oktoberfest, others are avoiding it all together. I’m on both sides. As I travelled more, I found myself scratching the surface and trying where possible to see things from a local perspective. Yet, Oktoberfest is a perfect example of how local tradition meets travel notoriety.
I’m never quite sure which one is better – that bucket list experience you have to be part of just once, or having a unique experience that simulates a local feel, where tourists are few and far between. The more I travelled, the more it became the latter, and the joy of knowing a place, in a different manner to the mass travel audience appealed to me. The challenge became how to see it through local eyes vs traveller eyes and I found myself intentionally picking the tourist down seasons when going to a well known place.
At Travltalk we are all about different perspectives, and don’t judge your choice. But I know one thing for sure – Brazil during carnival is a different world to what you see day to day and one you would never appreciate unless you saw it for yourself, especially if you’re amongst it all in Salvador Brasil, dancing in the Fatboy Slim blocko. And I’m pretty confident the same can be said for Oktoberfest.
So those out there in Munich right now, enjoy! Prost!
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