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5 Lessons We Didn’t Learn From Our Second Oktoberfest & 2 We Did

This is our second year in a row at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, and we truly love it (obviously, what’s not to love). Even having done my research the first time around, Oktoberfest was not at all what I expected. I couldn’t fully comprehend the size or energy or quality of the festival until I first walked in the gates.

Oktoberfest is loud and lively, crowded as all heck, and possibly the most fun you can have with a liter a beer. The air smells of fall and gingerbread and grilled sausages, and is filled with the sounds of screaming kids on spinning rides and the beautiful ring of fluent German speakers. The streets are packed with locals and tourists alike, dressed in traditional Bavarian drindles and lederhosen making their way into beer tents or stumbling out of them. Inside the beer tents, whoever you sit by is your new best friend and you sing and dance to the band even though you have no idea what the words are. It’s magical.

We thought we learned a lot from last year’s festivities, but it turns out we’re still not great at it. Every lesson on this list was something that we were perfectly aware of after last year’s festival, and yet still, failed to account for our second time around. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get it right if/when we make it back to Munich for a third Oktoberfest.

5 Lessons We Didn’t Learn From Our Second Oktoberfest

1.  Get There Early

  • What we did our first time | We knew we needed to get there early, so we got there early and were seated at our preferred tent every day. We felt like there wasn’t enough going on and by the time people were starting to have fun, we were too drunk to stay much longer.
  • What we did our second time | We tried to get there later this year and got burned twice. We arrived at 4 PM on a weekday, and eventually got a seat, but not at the tent we wanted. Even knowing that it filled up faster than we thought, we still decided to go at 11:30 on Saturday and weren’t able to get a seat at a tent at all. In our defense, we did think that the festival opened at 11, but it actually opened at 9, so we didn’t stand a chance.
  • What to do in the future | Get. There. Early. On a weekday, arriving at 4PM is too late, and on a weekend, arriving at 11:30 is too late. On a weekend, be there at open, even it means nursing your first beer for three hours; get your spot and don’t leave. On a weekday, if you can get in about an hour after open, you should be just fine, but again, get your spot and stay there.

The view of the crowd from a hill overlook on the far end of the festival.

2.  Eat Food

  • What we did our first time | We didn’t eat, drank four beers, and then Kenny puked behind the Schottenhamel tent. I’m pretty sure we’re on a blacklist somewhere.
  • What we did our second time | We didn’t eat, drank three beers, and then Kenny woke up at 2 AM and puked. We’re making progress here at least.
  • What to do in the future |  Say it with me: eat food! It’s really quite simple. Today, we did actually eat before we even got to Oktoberfest and planned to eat with every beer, but alas, we couldn’t get in so we didn’t drink. Maybe next year!

My favorite German dish of Rahmschwammerl, a large bread dumpling smothered with a mushroom cream sauce. It is available at many Oktoberfest tents if you remember to order it.

3.  Three Beers Max

  • What we did our first time | Tried having four beers and failed. We just wanted to have the most amount of fun, and the amount we could drink was the limiting factor to our fun.
  • What we did our second time | Dropped down to three beers (still didn’t eat enough) and three beers is officially our max. Each beer here is a liter, which converts to just over 6 pints, and that’s a lot of beer. The beer is also about 1% ABV stronger at Oktoberfest compared to the same beer purchased anywhere else in Munich (this was according to the Oktoberfest website, though the article is no longer up).
  • What to do in the future | This is actually very much related to the eating lesson. If we drank three beers and ate something with every beer, that would really be the sweet spot for maximum fun and minimum hangover.

4.  Dress The Part

  • What we did our first time | We didn’t wear a drindl or lederhosen because we didn’t realize it was a thing. We knew some people dressed up, but we didn’t realize everyone dressed up!
  • What we did our second time | We didn’t wear a drindl or lederhosen because we didn’t have space in our backpacks to bring them or in our budget to buy them just for single-use in Munich.
  • What to do in the future | Plan an extra 100 Euro and a half-day shopping day to pick up an outfit when we arrive in Munich. There are plenty of clothing shops and resale shops where you can find the traditional attire for a relatively reasonable price (for vacation budget, which is different than long-term travel budget). Also, I would plan to make a purse out of felt that looks like the gingerbread cookie hearts.

Our very non-German outfits from Oktoberfest 2016. This year wasn’t much better, but we didn’t get any outfit pics.

5.  Plan For a Non-Beer-Tent Day and Pre-Game Elsewhere

  • What we did our first time | We spent two long mornings/afternoons at the beer tents, and came back one evening to walk around the rest of the festival.
  • What we did our second time | We inadvertently spent Saturday morning as a non-drinking day to enjoy the festival because we couldn’t get into the beer tents.
  • What to do in the future | The beer tents are a blast and obviously the primary reason for (most adults) going to Oktoberfest. The downside is that the tents get so crowded that you can’t really tent hop or take a break to walk around the rest of the grounds. By adding a day at the festival without planning on drinking there, you can get there later without worrying about getting into a beer tent and can enjoy the rest of what the festival has to offer. This is also a great opportunity to try out some of the other beer halls, breweries and beer gardens that Munich has to offer. Then make your way to the festival grounds for games, rides and snacks.

Grabbing a drink and dessert in Marienplatz. A great place to stop before heading to Oktoberfest to enjoy the festival on a day you don’t hit up the beer tents.

2 Oktoberfest Lessons We Did Get Right the 2nd Time

1.  Be Ready to Make Friends

  • What we did our first time | Since we got there so early, we just sat at empty tables by ourselves as often as space allowed. One time we were sat with a group of German dental students and had the best time practicing our German with them, singing along to the drinking songs, and prosit-ing (toasting) at every opportunity.
  • What we did right our second time | While we didn’t necessarily have a choice because it was more crowded this time, we sat down at the first table we saw room and immediately started chatting with our table. This time we were seated with all English speakers, which included two business partners from LA and a couple from Australia.

Our friends we made at Oktoberfest 2017! It was a hoot to share a table with these kids!

2.  Have Cash (Euros)

  • What we did our first time | We ordered our fourth beer and first meal of the day only to realize we didn’t have enough money to pay for it. So Kenny desperately stumbled through the whole festival grounds looking for an ATM while I awkwardly sat there with the waitress hovering over me until we paid her.
  • What we did right our second time |  This one is simple … we just had cash on us and we didn’t run out.