The day starts badly; we’ve been stuck in a traffic jam for two hours just inside the German border and there’s still several hundred kilometres to go before we reach our destination – Munich.
Yes, this is the one date, the one destination that had been preplanned so expectations were high.
Eventually, we arrive at about seven in the evening only to be told there are no parking spaces left. We’re guided to the car park of a local garden centre where we can leave the car overnight then trudge back with hastily rearranged backpacks. The queue at the reception tent is huge and we take our place behind two Frenchman from Nantes – they are butchers and the big one is called Chef. He leads me to a nearby counter where we collect free plastic cups of beer (or sangria if you prefer). On our return Carole is chatting to a group of German lads from Frankfurt and we spend the next hour or more badly translating random French, German and English conversations and spontaneously singing songs – Flash, aaargh… it’s raining men…
Things take a turn for the worst when it starts to rain – but thankfully just the usual wet stuff. This causes a surge of people in the queue to try to get under the only bit of shelter available. Tempers start to fray as, all of a sudden, there are about twenty Aussies and Kiwis between us and the French guys. I get accused of getting ‘punchy’ as I try to control the situation and regain our place in line.
A familiar accent came to our rescue as Carole was just about to get punchy with one of the security guards who accused her of being very rude. Ty, a young lad from West ’am escorted us straight to the front and began getting us checked in. I had to leave my driver’s license as security before he showed us personally to our tent. We were drenched, half sloshed having not eaten and tired after a long and stressful day so chucked our bags in the corner and climbed into our sleeping bags fully clothed.
It wasn’t a good night’s sleep but at least we woke to a dry morning. People in the tents around us had been getting ready and heading into town from as early as seven. We got up and went in search of the all-inclusive breakfast that we’d been promised and found a fenced off area of the campsite entered under a Stoke Travel arch. This is the main hub of all activity; you come here for food and drink, to get shower tokens; to party, but most of all to queue.
We quickly realize that we have to get a ticket for the food so we join the queue at the Guru’s tent. There’s another queue for tea and coffee that Carole joins only to return with a solitary cuppa as it’s only one per person. Meanwhile I’m now in the queue for scrambled egg, bacon and a pancake that turns out to be filling and reasonably tasty too. We go through the same process in the evening and discover that we have an all-inclusive evening meal that we hadn’t expected.
We take the decision to bring our own tent into the site and after a chat with a very helpful young lady named Jamie we have a better pitch nearer the facilities.
We spend the day in town arriving at the Oktoberfest as the halls start to service beer. Unfortunately, there’s a queue at every door so we’re stuck outside. It’s a huge fairground crammed with people from all corners of the globe and we wander around sampling the sights and smells. Many of the girls are dressed in traditional outfits called drindls, the men go for checked shirts and lederhosen.
For our second day we decide to do some sightseeing and go an extra couple of stops on the S-bahn to Marienplatz and exit into an expectant crowd looking up at the Rathaus Glockenspiel. Ten minutes later, strangely at about 12.05 various carved figures high up in the tower spring to life and do a dance while the bells chime out a song. We head north to the Englisher Garten where we stroll through tree-lined avenues; the sun is out and we take the opportunity to sit on a bench. On our return route we discover locals surfing – yes, surfing – on the natural wave created by a dislocated lump of concrete at the base of a bridge.
Day three and with slightly fewer people in town we head for the halls. We stroll in and find a long table to stand at. It’s hot and very noisy; everywhere there’s people cheering and shouting; randomly, someone will jump up on their table and attempt to down-in-one the extra large glasses of beer while being assaulted with serviette balls and left-over pretzels. When a certain tune is played everyone turns to the people on their table to chink glasses. We order two beers at a cost of 11,50€ (£8.13) each and start to drink. As we relax I ask a German next to us what the words to the tune are; ‘Ein borsig’ he replies. Before we know it we’re swept up in the occasion; although we never leave the table we somehow move around it as new groups come and go. We chat to so many people their faces are a blur; the German from Frankfurt with the girl from Poland, the three IT girls who gave us all their beer, Anne Wegner and her cousins who invited us to Chicago, the football mad Dutchmen… Needless to say Carole carried me home that evening.
After a couple more days we check out and head for Innsbruck, Austria. As we cross the Alps what was rain turns to snow – the driving conditions are atrocious. Regardless, we safely arrive at Haus Bader where we are due to spend the night.