Oktoberfest was the first of two beer pilgrimages I planned to make this semester (the other is to Bruges, Belgium, this Sunday). This was my third international trip, so by this point, I felt like a pro. I woke up early, despite a lingering hangover, showered, packed, checked into my flight, and even left with a fully charged camera battery.
I got to Heathrow about an hour and a half early, ate some lunch, and made my way to the gate. I’m in a great mood after my first hassle-free airport experience. That is, until I hand my ticket to the Lufthansa attendant.
“Did you not realize you don’t have a seat listed on your ticket?” she asks me. Of course I noticed, but I figured it was some weird free-for-all seating process. Based on her question, I realize that’s not the case and decide to play the Ignorant American card.
“No!” I say, looking shocked and confused. “What does that mean?”
The attendant explains that Lufthansa overbooks all of their flights in hopes of profiting off of latecomers missing their planes. However, everyone showed up for this flight, so unless someone volunteered to stay behind and wait for the next flight—which was not for three hours—I was SOL. Mind you, I’m already leaving at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and returning at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The idea of losing out on another three hours in Munich makes me panic.
I’m told to wait patiently and hope for the best, which is what I do. I try to read my book as a distraction, but I’m already throwing a pity party for myself about having to stay in an airport for an extra three hours when I could be drinking Paulaner out of a boot wearing a dirndl.
I just finished texting Ashley to tell her I might be late as I stare longingly at the last passenger boarding the plane when the attendant runs at me to tell me that an off-duty Lufthansa employee gave up his/her seat for me. I’m incredibly grateful, though I never met the gracious employee, but I sent my thanks out into the universe in hopes that he/she would get some good karma in return.
I’m sitting in the very back of the plane and once I’m seated, I realize I’m surrounded by American bros. For those of you not familiar with this description, let me share one of the top definitions from Urban Dictionary:
An alpha male idiot. This is the derogatory sense of the word (common usage in the western US): white, 16-25 years old, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, has rich dad that owns a dealership or construction business and constantly tells this to chicks at parties, is into extreme sports that might be fun to do but are uncool to claim (wakeboarding, dirt biking, lacrosse), identifies excessively with brand names, spends a female amount of money on clothes and obsesses over his appearance to a degree that is not socially acceptable for a heterosexual male.
I think I know why Europeans hate Americans.
Despite my seating location, I make it to Munich, Germany, just fine. I start walking around the airport looking for an exit when I remember that I don’t speak or read German. I start following random people and eventually make my way to a street exit.
Considering that I’m alone, can’t even navigate the airport not knowing German, and want to catch up with Ashley (who has already been in Munich for about three hours) I decide to fork out the cash to take a cab to our hotel. Although it was €70, it was worth every penny for how fast my German cab driver was driving. That, and he said, “Gesundheit!” when I sneezed and I almost exploded with joy because it was so authentic.
The cab driver drops me off at the hotel and as I’m walking inside, two drunk Americans in lederhosen crammed into one of those little carts pulled by a guy on a bicycle start yelling out to me, asking me to ride with them and party. I laugh it off and head inside. I get the key to our room and head up in the elevator, making a mental list of things to do before heading to Oktoberfest—namely charging my phone and buying a dirndl.
My head is still itemizing when I walk into the room. I put my bag down, turn around to find the toilet, and freeze. The shower is exposed. By “exposed,” I mean it’s a glass box right next to the beds, facing the windows that look out onto the street.
This exposed shower thing is a major problem for me for obvious reasons, but also because it was almost one of my nightmares brought to life. Every few months, I have a recurring nightmare that I’m taking a shower when some curtains open and I realize I’m in a glass shower on display in a zoo. Sometimes I’m in a regular zoo, but sometimes I’m in a zoo for aliens, on display along with specimens from other planets a la “Slaughterhouse Five.” I try to cover myself and hide, but everywhere I turn there are people/aliens staring at me.
So there I am, staring at the glass box shower and I say aloud to myself, “F*** no.” I made a conscious decision not to take a shower all weekend. Don’t you dare judge me.
Once my phone is charged, I head out of the room in search of the perfect dirndl. Despite about 1,000 street vendors selling dirndls, I decide to pop into a place I passed in the cab on the corner of my street. I figured I would at least be able to try on my outfit before buying it.
I sheepishly poke around the store and pick up dirndls in random sizes, as I have no idea what size I am in Germany. I have about five dirndls in my arms when an old German woman in a dirndl walks up to me and starts talking in German. Clearly, I have no idea how to say I don’t understand, so I just say, “Um, English?”
“YOU TRY ON?” she yells at me in response, as if I were hard of hearing, rather than foreign.
I nod and she grabs the dresses from me, throwing them over one of her arms and using the other to take hold of me and shove me into a cubicle with a curtain in front of it. She unties the ribbons on the first dirndl and hands it to me. I undress and attempt to pull it on, but I know as soon as it’s over my head that it won’t zip past my breasts (busty girl problem).
“YOU LIKE?” the woman yells at me through the curtain.
“Oh, I think it’s a bit too small,” I answer back politely. The woman yanks back the curtain, looks at me, pulls me forward by the front of my dress, and tugs at the zipper in a futile attempt to cover my chest.
While she’s tugging, I gesture toward my breasts and say, “They won’t fit,” hoping she’ll step out of my personal space. No such luck. Instead, she steps back, taps my breasts with her hands, and laughs. Then she just grabs the bottom of my dress and starts pulling it over my head, leaving me exposed to the entire store of customers in my bra and thong underwear. I desperately try to close the curtain, but she won’t have it until the dress is off. So I let her take the dress and before closing the curtain and covering my burning face in abject humiliation.
I haven’t even had a full three minutes to process what just happened when the curtain swings back and I’m enveloped in the blackness of another dress being thrown over my head. I pull it down quickly to limit my exposure, and the old German woman pulls my arms through the sleeves as if I’m incapable of dressing myself. She pulls me forward again, zips up the front of my dirndl, and ties up the ribbon and matching apron. Then she pushes me out of the cubicle and in front of a thin mirror to inspect my appearance.
As soon as I see myself, I’m happy. I forget about my molestation in the dressing room and I’m ecstatic with the pink and black ensemble she chose for me. I coo at myself for a moment, and the woman agrees.
“I LIKE,” she shouts and then offers to let me wear it out of the store. I pay and get a bag for the remainder of my clothing to take back to the hotel before heading to the festival.
Once I get to Oktoberfest, I walk around and take pictures, just soaking in the atmosphere of drunken euphoria. Women in dirndls and men in lederhosen peppered the fairgrounds. I inspected souvenirs, but purchased none, and was considering a bratwurst for dinner when a young, drunken German man walking by me yells “I LIKE YOUR GLASSES” about three inches from my face. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but any time a random guy hits on me, it is ALWAYS a creepy compliment about my glasses. Apparently Europe offers no escape.
I have my bratwurst, wander around a little more, and when I’m unable to find Ashley and her new friends, I decide to head back to the hotel. It had been a long day, and I still had all of Saturday to partake in the festivities, so I saw no harm in calling it a night early.
I had been relaxing in bed for a while with the door flies open and Ashley, being carried by no less than three men, enters the room. One of them is her close friend from Houston and the others were various American friends and colleagues. She’s absolutely silly, but the men—who are also drunk and silly—dote on her for about 20 minutes, nursing her back to sobriety with glasses of water and aspirin. One tries making conversation with me by telling me I look cute in pajamas. I glare at him and respond with a deadpan “Thank you.” Another, realizing that I’m awake, apologizes and offers to leave “if we’re in the way.”
“Are you kidding?” I say. “So long as you’re here, that means I don’t have to get out of bed.”
Upon hearing my response, the last friend says to me, “Wow. You speak really good English. Where are you from?”
Everyone laughs at him and leaves shortly thereafter. Ashley falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow and starts mumbling in her sleep, which sounded kind of devilish, but I managed to fall asleep anyway. We both wake up an hour later. I order more pillows, tell her about hilarious things she said and did, and we laugh for a while until we get more pillows and fall asleep.
We wake up the next day refreshed and ready to party in our dirndls. After quickly braiding our hair and brushing on some makeup, we leave the hotel. As soon as we step outside, a group of about five or six HUGE German men in lederhosen ask if they can take a picture with us. We gladly oblige and walk away feeling like celebrities.
Once we arrive at Oktoberfest, we get some sausage for lunch and eventually look for a short line to get into a biergarten. Eventually we find one and join the mass of people trying to get in. Although we weren’t waiting long, I started to get annoyed because a guy behind me was literally blowing cigarette smoke in my face, which I thought was rude. Up until Munich, I thought London had a lot of smokers, but I was mistaken. Later on in the day, I even got burned with a cigarette from a careless tall man who clearly never considered the possibility of scorching a short person in the tightly packed tent.
All in all, it took about 15 minutes for us to gain entry into the biergarten and probably another 10 to flag down a waitress to get our first beers. After that, we took a few pictures and went in search for seats or even just a bit of standing room with personal space.
On the way through the crowd during the search, an Italian man stopped me to say a few words in Italian. I had no idea what he was trying to communicate, but he was pointing a lot at my breasts, so not wanting to be impolite, I said “Thank you” and walked away. When we were in the clear, Ashley laughed and told me the man had been trying to offer me €4 to see my breasts. I was a bit insulted not only at the request in general but because I think my flashing someone is worth WAY more than just €4. “Well, now I feel weird for thanking him,” I said.
We hung out in the biergarten for a while and tried to make friends with a few different people, but to no avail. At one point, Ashley started talking to some Brits who were there for a stag do, but they turned out to be a bit rude and had no interest in talking to us—which I thought was strange, considering we were two attractive women and they were in the midst of a bachelor party. Oh well.
Eventually Ashley started chatting up a group of Americans standing near us. All of us instantly hit it off and we spent the next couple hours drinking together and sharing a table with a fun group of Germans. After a while, the group decided to leave and we unfortunately left Ashley behind due to mis-communication. For the remainder of the evening, I got to know one of the girls as we waited for the others to get their fill of carnival rides while we walked around and bought some souvenirs. If you’re interested, I got myself a tiny stein to put my jewelry in, as I have a terrible habit of leaving it by the sink.
Once 10:30 p.m. rolled around, I was exhausted and knew I needed to get some rest before attempting to wake up at 5 a.m. for our flight at 7:45. I headed back to the hotel alone, but it was only about three of four blocks away, so I was sure I would be fine. As I speed walked down a street, two teenage German boys came into view.
“VERE ARE YOU GOING?” one of them shouted at me.
“Back to my hotel,” I answered simply.
“BUT IT’S TOO EARLY,” yelled the other. “YOU MUST COME PAHTY VITH US.”
I laughed and told them I would party in my hotel.
“CAN VE PAHTY VITH YOU?”
This made me laugh even harder. In response, I touched them both lightly on the arms, smiled, and said, “Maybe next time.”
Out of all the weird, creepy men who had spent the day gawking at my chest, I found the two boys’ enthusiasm refreshing. Normally, guys don’t hit on me—a fact I lament with my best friend. I’m not looking to replace my boyfriend or anything, but it’s flattering to know a stranger found your looks compelling enough to strike up a conversation with you. It’s not that I wanted the type of attention I was getting from the Italian and his perverse brethren in the biergarten, but the two teens were so persistent in trying to get my attention, that I found it quite flattering indeed.
I made it home safely and Ashley arrived with one of the Germans from the table earlier. I knew she was a little out of sorts because she suddenly had a British accent. We tried to get as much shut-eye as we could, but felt awful and the exact opposite of refreshed when we woke up.
Thankfully we made it to the airport quite early and had sandwiches for breakfast. When we were sitting at a booth in the airport cafe, Ashley admitted she was still possibly drunk. I wasn’t, but I admit felt pretty sick. Our conditions were only made worse by the baby who cried/giggled/screamed for the entire hour or so back to London. However, we arrived so early that I had plenty of time to nurse myself back to full strength.
The first thing I did? Take a nice, long, hot, PRIVATE bath.