And so I left Davos. It was sad. But I was broken, a little bit: used up, run out of steam, bottom of the tank. My summer in Davos was one of the best summers of my entire life – I am pretty confident saying that – but three straight months of adventuring and hiking and running and working in the mountains really takes it out of you. I went a long time without taking a day completely off: even my off-days had fieldwork, which was a fair bit of walking up high. By the last week, I wanted to keep going into the mountains, but I could barely drag up the energy to do so.
(Don’t worry: there were a few last spectacular trips. I won’t make you jealous by posting about them.)
I arrived in Munich just in time for Oktoberfest. My buddy Daniel met me at the train station, helped me haul my bags to my new place, and then went to work for a few hours while I unpacked. Then, we met up again, with our other best bud Andres, and hit up the festival.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was different, and better, than I could have imagined. It wasn’t as rowdy or as dirty as I had been led to believe. Make no mistake, it’s the biggest party you’ll ever go to: they sold something like 7 million liters of beer. But it’s a party run with German efficiency. Everyone in the tents is completely wasted, standing on top of their benches in their lederhosen and singing at the top of their lungs. But they still get the beer and food they order in a timely fashion. They don’t puke all over the tables. They don’t fight with each other or break shit.
(Perhaps this is an argument against the silly American drinking age of 21: Oktoberfest has way more beer than any college party I’ve been to, but was incredibly less destructive both to health and property. I know it’s not a fair comparison, but seriously: picture an American college kid here. They would die.)
The other thing I definitely wasn’t expecting was that it was also a fair. Like, the kind with rides and games. Who combines beer and rides? That gives new meaning to the phrase “vomit comet,” except that here, it didn’t seem to. The centerpiece, I would say, was a rollercoaster that featured the Olympic rings: five complete tight loops going upside down. I didn’t try it, but I did admire it. There were more rollercoasters and rides, funhouses, shoot-em-up games, and everything else you can imagine. We didn’t sample too extensively but we did do bumper cars several times over the course of an increasingly intoxicated evening, and IT. WAS. AWESOME.
The entire thing takes a month to set up (and, we wondered, how long to take down?). It’s not just the rides that are trucked in, but the buildings, too. People call them beer tents, but that’s not fair. Only the roof is a tent. The rest of the structure is wood, in many cases elaborately built in the Bavarian style. They use the same structures over and over again: in one restroom building, I could see that each panel was numbered so that the small shedlike-building could be put up in the exact same way next year. Each of the Munich breweries has one of these giant halls, most of which also feature a stage with a band that plays old music like “Country Roads,” apparently the most popular song of the festival.
I arrived on a Tuesday and the last day of Oktoberfest was that Sunday. We went three times. The first time, we underestimated the potency of German beer. Both Daniel and I ended up with horrible hangovers (Andres somehow escaped unscathed), which made my trip to get registered as a resident of the city quite a bit less pleasant. The second two times I was a bit more cautious. Our last evening ended with a lovely stint on a beautifully-painted old carousel, where a bar had been installed in the middle. You could sit along the edges and be spun, very slowly, through the view of the festival. It was nice.
Most of all, though, it was great to see Andres and Daniel again. They are two of my closest friends in my masters program, and I couldn’t be more excited that they are here in Munich with me. The three musketeers ride again! Minus, of course, a few other essential members of the team. But hey, our cohort is particularly fractured right now between not two, but now five different universities. If three people are all we can have, then, well, this is an awesome group of three. It’s making my departure from the Alps much less of a tragedy.