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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 22 Sep 2006

Location: Munich, Germany

MapOKTOBERFEST – 15th – 18th September

Okay, finally it is here. Well part one anyway. It’s a LOOOOONG One, but a great read (I hope) and there's heaps of Videos - you love it if you like drunken singing! At this stage, I have only gotten to early Sunday afternoon, so none of the videos are TOO drunk!

Well, where do I star? Wish I knew. The problem being that so much of it is nothing more than a drunken haze that it will take me some time to piece together the events of one hell of a weekend… makes Aussie drinking events look like milk time at kinder garden. This entry has taken some time to appear for a couple reasons – firstly, simply because I had to re-write it continually when things came back to me, or I’d see photos and have something more write about. But secondly because I started work on Tuesday, and everything that has happened since I got back is a diary entry in itself, so be on the lookout for that one in the next few days, as well as the start of the Oktoberfest photos – took in the order of 400 photos and 5+ minutes of video in just 3 days, and anyone who knows me, know the more I drink, the more photos I take (sorry everyone that keeps telling me not to drink so much, trust me detox is on with the start of work…)., Finally, there’s no damn internet in this place (Southampton in general), which may result in me writing the weekend in two or three separate entries…

The journey started Thursday avo when I headed into London. Any trip that I take now I have to factor in an extra two hours, just to get to London. Rather than try and catch a 910am flight travelling all the way from Southampton, I crashed at Kristy’s place on the Thursday night. Kristy was up at 5am, and I waited till he’d vacated the bathroom at 530 before getting up, and we were on the road by 6am. We made it to London City Airport, catching the tube all the way there, by 7am, and were checked in within minutes. Only problem, Kristy’s mate Ben, who also had a ticket for the flight, wasn’t coming, and no amount of sweet talking was gonna allow him to keep the return leg of the ticket. After speaking to the Lufthansa representative and trying to get Ben’s ticket good for the return leg, we had a small breakfast and headed for the plane.

The flights dragged out – big time. We had to fly to Munich via Frankfurt, fair enough, but the layover killed us, and then the flight was delayed by an hour – urghh! We finally got to Munich, and had our bags at around 4pm, and still had a 45 minute train ride to get to the centre of town. By the time we found the hotel it was 515pm. WE threw our gear in, met up with Shernell, who had arrived earlier in the day after a train ride from Prague, and headed out on a quick orientation tour. Simply put, we walked to the ‘beer tents’ (when I actually became aware of just how big this festival was) and then back to the hotel, so we knew our way. From there we headed to the Hoffbrau House, the oldest and most well know beer hall, as well as the biggest. Unfortunately, by the time we got there just before 7pm, it was packed and there were no seats left in there. Basically, that seems to be the only rule of the beer halls – you have to be seated to drink. So we walked thru, and gave up, and headed back with our Kiwi guide, Big Nik, and his mates Tommy (Too Gay or Booty Hunter) and Buzz, to the Ned Kelly pub. I know – what the? Come to Oktoberfest and drink in the Ned Kelly… Anyway, Nik bought us a beer (Me, Kristy and Shernell) and after we polished that one off, we headed to a hostel in the city (The Wombat – how Aussie are we??) where Kristy and Shernell’s old housemate Bianca was. This is when the night turned weird.

As I walk in behind the girls into the hostel I just hear a ‘Oh my God’ and look into the face of a somewhat familiar, but I have no idea who, female – but she definitely knew who I was. I thought it must have been someone from my night serving free beer in the Istanbul pub before ANZAC Day. She managed to divert my attention to her side where I see her little brother, Adrian Fisher, drinking, and straight away I was able to piece two and two and realised it was Suzanne Fisher – a Rooster Reunion in Munich. Well, it wasn’t long before I was having a couple steins in the hostel and started playing the random intoxicated drunk message game with the whole Bayswater crew – at least for a few messages when my credit abruptly ran out… expensive overseas text messages, especially when I’m not in the UK. So for anyone I woke Saturday morning, or didn't reply back to - sorry, the $$$ got the best of me.

Anyway, Ben finally showed up from his train ride from Amsterdam, and we broke the news to him gently that his £140 flight wasn’t worth anything. Well, as gently as I am breaking news like that to someone I have never met before after a few litres of beer. But he took it like a pro – good bloke. Anyway, Kristy, Shernell and Ben headed back to the hotel, and I kept chatting with the Fishers, the first people I had run into with truly no idea they were travelling anywhere near me, let alone at all. Eventually the bar called free shots, and the two bar chicks knelt on the bar and started ripping the top off the small 25ml bottles of spirits and pouring them down the crowds throat. There must have been over 100 bottles, and I managed a Kahlua, followed by a Gin (ugggh..) and then what I think was a Jaegermeister. After that, the Fishers’ headed off, I somehow ended up with another stein, chatting to randoms and then headed home, crawling into bed at 1am….

What a long day – and the festival hadn’t even started yet.

The alarm went off at 545am Saturday…

This was serious drinking preparation. When is the last time you set an alarm at 545am??? Let alone for the sole purpose of getting ready to go drink beer? Admittedly, after less than 5 hours sleep I turned it off and rolled over to go back to sleep, but 15 minutes later Shernell was up and by 645am Shernell, Kristy, Ben then I had all had a shower and were waiting in front of the kitchen for breakfast. We sat and had a quick breakfast with Nik, Tommy and Buzz, then were out the door and headed to the fair grounds for day one of Oktoberfest - bright and early at 730am.

Tommy and Buzz came with us and Nik finalised some stuff back at the hotel before literally running to the fair grounds, and met us there at 8am. And when Big Nik runs, you know it – he is a Maori and his is BIG! Tommy and Buzz were kind enough to provide a couple of warm Lowenbrau bottles as travellers so that we could open the account early and get the first out of the way. As Ben and I waited in the queue to take out money, hundreds of people, many Germans in traditional garb, were flowing out of the subway and into the fair grounds. It was incredible. By just on 8am, we had grabbed our money, and were standing in front of the Hoffbrau Festzelt (Hoffbrau beer festival tent). There were heaps of people there already and we must have been 30m from the front doors, and all I could think about was the news stories of the Boxing Day Sales back home and how mad people were to get in there.

As we looked around the crowd – so Aussie and Kiwi dominated – everyone was in such a cheery mood, and many of them with beer in hand. Stories started circulating about the previous days 100 club, run the Friday before Oktoberfest out at one of the camp grounds. Essentially it is Centurians – 1 shot of beer per minute for 100 minutes. Even if it is only 8-odd beers, it is harder than it sounds as the gas gets to you after a while – as does the need to pee. Many house rules apply, and this was no different, with penalties being dished out for whatever was deemed a crime, and the usual punishment involving a beer bong mix of whatever ended up in there, from beer and milk, to less savoury items as body waste… hmm glad I missed out on that one.

Finally 9am arrived…. And the doors didn’t open? What’s going on here? Is this some cruel Germany joke to play on Aussies? Eventually, about 10 minutes later the doors flew open, and our entry went as planned – RUSHED. It was like the Boxing Day Sales, with the right hand double door opening just seconds before the others and the crush was on.

We were told to haul ass and just follow Big Nik to table 1. Not the most glamorous, but by far and away the best. Nik has been at the same table for the last six years, and he thinks Edda, the Frauline (beer wench), has been there for the last sixty. The minute we came running in around the corner, Edda was up on her old feet, guiding Nik to his table, and we all piled around. Instantly Nik was buttering Edda up for good service the rest of the trip. The seasoned pros (Nik, Tommy and Buzz) knew exactly what to expect for the 3 hours ahead waiting for the beers to start and pulled out the decks of cards. It wasn’t long before the No Limit Hold ‘Em was on with the three veterans, Ben and myself taking part. No chips, just pen and paper (not the most accurate of methods trust me). Anyway, that killed the best part of 90 minutes with Nik’s and I head-ups, and his pocket A-J beating my pocket kings, when he rivered me with an ace. We ordered a round of soft drinks and lathered Edda up with a small €7 (33%) tip. As soon as she bought our drinks, we placed out first beer order, and it wasn’t even 11am. We wanted to be sure that of Edda’s three tables she served, we got the first round. At €7.40 for a 1Lt beer stein, it isn’t cheap. But when you dropping in €10 for each beer to cover the tip, it gets real expensive. The round of 7 beers cost €51.80, but we ended up giving her €70… keep the change! A nice €18.20 tip, and we wouldn’t see the beers for another hour still!

Prior to the festival officially kicking at midday, there was a large commotion coming from the front door, and then as I headed down to investigate, the marching band came in – directly at me! Following the marching band was some sort of Hoffbrau Royalty maybe, and then the Frauline’s came back in. I just in before the Frauline’s and that’s where I killed the camera, but I should have kept it going. As I headed round the corner, I was trapped between the band at the front, and the Frauline’s behind me, and had to walk right past the table, as if I was in the parade. In this case, what better to do than go with it, and just wave to the crowd!

Finally, once the band had set off, and climbed up on stage, and eventually the cannon’s were cracked, the band fired up, but all you could here was the cheers of the 2000 strong crowd in the beer tents. Now, with the cannon signifying the opening of the kegs, you know you still have a wait till you get one at your table. A few minutes past noon and the First Beer was served. It is an open auction each year to get the first beer. And apparently it ain’t cheap – in the order of €100’s. Some bloke, all in his traditional German Liederhosen got his beer and climbed up on a table in front of the band – probably the only time during the festival that you are actually permitted to walk on the tables. With the cheers going up all around him, he tilted his wrist, craned his neck and started guzzling. The guy must have been practicing, as he looked like a pro – he may have even taken lessons from Bob Hawke himself. The glass emptied quicker than the petrol tank of a Hummer in traffic, and he swung the empty mug to the cheers of the crowd.

Finally the beers started arriving, first the the VIP tents, and then slowly, ever so slowly, the started appearing at the surrounding tables, and it wasn’t long before Edda appeared, hands full with 7 steins.

And this is where things get a little hazy... but one thing is for sure there was plenty of loud (bad, out of tune) singing and standing on benches. Oh yeah, and beer drinking. As the afternoon wore on, and the band got into the groove, hit after hit (who compiled Tripple M's greatest beer drinking songs anyway - these one's rock...).

Here's some singing videos for ya - but watch the volume, it can be loud.

Hey Baby - Let me introduce you to Big Nik (Yellow Top), Tommy (on his left) and Ben (AKA Ghostbusters).

Who The f--k Is Alice? - Dad I thought of you every time this one came on... apparently people only know the chorus??

Well, after all of the singing (and beer drinking) people gotta eat. I know I know, "eating's cheating" but when the food is as good as it is in Germany, why not eat. And it's only cheating if you get caught! One of the people that showed up at our table gets stuck into a Pork Knuckle at 220pm, with Sweet Home Alabama playing in the background.

Anyway, at this stage I must leave you all, to be continued another time. The cafe is about to close and my early Friday finish has been chewed up with this entry... more to follow soon... It is only 220pm on a Saturday afterall, and I didn't get home till 5pm Monday!