Oktoberfest: The Most Fun I Can’t Remember Having

So, as some of you have probably seen, we did a trip around Europe late last year, which went something like this: France -> UK -> Netherlands -> Belgium -> Germany -> Italy -> France. It was super fast paced and super fun, but there was definitely a lot of stress involved too, especially since we were basically moving from country to country (almost) every day.

But! That’s a story for another time. Today, I want to talk about Oktoberfest! Mostly because it was one of my favorite experiences ever and some of the most fun I’ve ever had (though the details at the end of the night are pretty hazy).

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PJ and I at the Hippodrom

We actually ended up staying in Munich for two nights, simply because I thought we’d need the time for recovery. Yes, yes we did. The first night we were there, we went to the Hippodrom, which is supposed to be a really cool after party place where you hang out post Oktoberfest festivities. Unfortunately, there was a huge soccer game that night and we ended up being there (almost) alone. I also managed to drink an entire liter of beer and not be even a *little* buzzed. (Turns out it was half lemonade. Thanks.)

However, the next day we were set to go to the real Oktoberfest and party wildly, and let me tell you guys, party we did.

Since PJ (my older brother) and I are actually German, we wanted to make sure we dressed in authentic German clothes while there. And David…just wanted to fit in. So! We bought authentic lederhosen and a dirndl for me, which ended up looking totally fabulous (but I’m not biased).

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Looking great

The day of, we arrived around 2pm, worried that we were showing up too early. Not so, my friends, not so.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Oktoberfest, it’s essentially an enormous, month-long festival that celebrates Bavarian culture and beer. There’s a huge carnival outside, with rides and roller coasters. There are also tons of stands selling souvenirs at gouged prices, which we happily paid. (I bought a heart-shaped cookie with the word Bussi written on it, which means kiss)

There are also about 20 tents from various German breweries, ranging in size from 200 to 6000 people. These tents are filled with wooden tables and busty serving ladies who brusquely shove beer at you in exchange for Euros. There’s also traditional German food, ranging from sausages to schnitzel, which we ordered immediately upon arriving.

So, like I said, we were worried about showing up too early for the party and being the lame people alone in the tents. Well, there were about, I dunno, 1000 people in our tent by the time we arrived? While we were able to find a seat, it was definitely crowded, and another couple immediately came over to share with us. (This is the norm).

We each ordered a different entree’, and quickly dug in once our food arrived. David got himself some bratwurst, which he managed to take two bites of before the elderly German couple next to us sighed and took it away from him.

“This,” they explained in thickly accented English as they dissected his sausage, “is the skin. You cannot eat the skin of the bratwurst.”

They then gave it back to him and watched as he attempted to…de-skin his sausage, before taking it back and doing the whole thing for him. I’ll never forget the sight of an old German woman flailing a sausage around on a plate while David watched in awe. Those are memories, my friends.

There is only one size of beer you can order, and that is the liter. If you can’t drink it, get out. For obvious reasons, many people are incredibly drunk, and the Oktoberfest police are all over it. If you look tired, or put your head down, or seem as if you’re going to be sick, that’s it, you’re out.

That being said, one of the most entertaining things to watch during Oktoberfest are the numerous idiots attempt to down the entire liter of beer in one shot. This happens so often, it’s actually an Oktoberfest challenge, and every single person in the tent stands up to watch you try. Immediately after receiving a beer, you stand up, put one foot on the bench, and get to chugging. Initially, the crowd cheers for you, but if you’re too slow, they start booing, and they boo loud. They also throw schnitzels, sausages, and other assorted debris at you, you big loser.

So obviously, I had to try it. The short answer is yes, I can drink an entire liter of beer at once. The long answer is no, I cannot keep it down. (Or at least I chose not to, since it was still early in the day and I didn’t want to be comatose)

I’m so classy.

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Classy.

Every so often, the live band situated in the middle of the tent would start playing, and everyone would stop what they were doing to sing along and wave their beers in the air. I don’t know a single word of German, so my singing went a little something like this, “blaaargle laaaaargel mein roviaaaa OI OI OI!”

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Then we would clink glasses and drink deeply. Rinse and repeat for 11 hours, and you have the entire Oktoberfest festival.

We ended up wandering from tent to tent, and eventually wound up sitting with a few guys who I thought were German, but actually ended up being deaf Americans.

See, it’s really loud in the tents, and when you can’t understand what people are saying, you just assume they don’t speak the same language. One of the deaf guys, who thought he was extremely fabulous, happened to be the twin brother of some model dude who was on Dancing With the Stars one time. I guess that makes him…famous? Anyway, he got really mad once he realized I had no idea who he was. His friend, who was clearly there for moral support and maybe also to chauffeur him around, looked a little like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. He was much nicer than his famous friend and we ended up talking for quite a while before he invited me to join them on their road trip to Italy and I fled in case they were axe murderers. Fun!

As the hours wound on, everyone got more drunk, more cheerful, and infinitely louder. Let me lay out the scene for you:

The sounds of the crowd crashed around me as I peered around, blearily, looking for David. My arms wrapped around my brother on my left and an unfamiliar friend on my right David’s face leered into my vision, a dramatized version of himself as we swayed to and fro. “Oi oi oi!” We shouted, clinking glasses as we stood, wobbling on the wooden benches of the festival table.

All around us, voices reverberated, a thousand thousand revelers cheering as they drank deeply from their mugs. Waitresses hurried through the gaps, clutching five, ten beers apiece as they rushed towards their thirsty customers. Everywhere I looked, people were grinning, cheering as they celebrated this age old festival. Across from us, a family with their daughter, no older than fourteen, sang and laughed, enjoying the family friendly environment.

Beer sloshing down our fronts, we drank, another and another and another. On the ground, flirty females wound their way through groups of interested men, their aprons tied expressly to one side- telling everyone, “Yes, I’m free. Yes, I want to talk.”

New friends made drunken promises, creating plans to meet- in Germany, in France, in England. From everywhere these people came to celebrate, to indulge in the age-old tradition of simple food, simple drinks, and simple fun. And indulge we did.

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Us on the train ride home

-Carissa the Oktoberfest Queen

Norway! Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Trom(sø): Part 1

Hey all,

Today I want to talk about our trip to Norway this past December. I know when I started posting up photos at least half of ya’ll were rolling your eyes and sighing “are they traveling again?”
The answer to that was yes! Our trip to Norway, while short, was one of my favorite trips of all time.

How did we even pick that place, you ask? Well, you can thank a bottle of wine and Google Chrome’s saved credit card information for that. I mean, I’m not saying I regret it, but I’ve definitely made more informed choices!

That being said, the number one reason I jumped on the flight tickets out there was because they were going for an awesome price- it was $335 round trip from New York to Oslo, so obviously we had to go! (Fun fact I accidentally bought two tickets for myself and had to have David call Norwegian Air’s help line to reticket his) How did I stumble onto these tickets? I follow a nifty website called travelpirates.com, which you’ll find is a recurring theme in my posts. I’m a sucker for good deals.

Once I started researching Norway, it became clear that some of the things they excel most at are winter activities. Duh. Since our trip was only a few days long, I booked us a flight straight up to Tromsø, north of the Arctic Circle, to get our money’s worth on our trip.

Sadly, it was too early to stay in an ice hotel (igloo?), but there was plenty of snow to be found. With an average temperature of 25 degrees (ok but really it felt colder) and daily blizzarding, it truly felt like we were in the arctic. Or, like, Canada.

Now, I don’t know if you guys know this, but Norway is an insanely expensive place to live/eat/play. We found this out to our detriment during our first meal, where our cheeseburgers and fries cost a cool $25/each plus tip. Luckily, most of our activities included food (reindeer stew!) so we didn’t have to pay often.

I’m going to divert here for a second and tell you guys about our hotel. I promised that I would explain to you how we get to travel so much, and while I didn’t use a ton of tricks for Norway, (aside from cheap planes tickets) I did do a few things to help keep costs down.

As anyone who has had to be near me for more than 10 minutes knows (Sorry Chrissy) I am super into the credit card reward game. I just started last year, but already it has helped make my travel…just…incredible. There are a number of really good travel rewards cards out there, but one of my favorites is called the Citi Prestige. Amongst numerous other perks, the card offers an unconditional “buy 3 nights get the 4th free” deal on all hotel bookings. And I mean all. That’s an automatic 25% discount on any hotel you’re trying to get. So that’s what I did! I called them up, had them reserve it for me, and a few weeks after I finished my stay, the money was back on my card, plus taxes. It’s a really sweet deal. We ended up staying at the Scandic Ishavshotel, which was centrally located and really nice. It even had heated floors!

Another trick I used, and I use the word minimally, was to find a hotel that served a full breakfast. This seems obvious, but in a location where meals routinely cost $50/pop (yes, even for breakfast), this really saved our asses. Happy and full, we were able to skate through the day without spending tons of other money on food.

Ok! Now back to the good stuff! By far my favorite activity was the dog sledding that we did on our first day. Now, Tromsø has some really decent tourist activities. They’ve also got a boatload of options for dog sledding expeditions. However, scrolling through the available options, there were ones of different difficulties, differing lengths, etc. If you guys have met me, you probably know that I’m the kind of girl to be like “oh yeah you gotta flip upside down then climb a mountain naked? No problem.” (Which is why I’m constantly injured). So, barely restraining myself from the multi-day dog expedition, I picked the full-day one. It was costly- but oh man was it worth it.

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It was just four of us on the full length expedition. Well, the four of us and our guide, an Australian named Tim who was in Norway on his summer break. He had been coming up for a few years and knew extensively the surrounding locale, which was really nice. Also great was the fact that he spoke native English, which our Spanish companions didn’t seem to love. Whoops!

So, as we started out, he warned us that the snow had just fallen a few days before, and that it was possible there wouldn’t be any trails created for us to follow. Let’s just say that was an understatement.

Let me lay the scene out for you.

The vista spread out before us, a sprinkling of snow falling atop the dog kennels, where those who were left behind bayed with longing. “Now here,” Tim said, his Australian accent thicker behind his balaclava, “you simply step up onto the sled, and when you want to go you simply shout ‘yip!’ And the dogs will move. Does that sound ok?”

I nodded, bundled in my Arctic gear, barely able to move behind the layers of fabric. Jumping onto his sled, Tim signaled to his dogs, bounding away in a smooth line. I was next- the others behind me, and my heart squeezed with anticipation. Leaping onto my sled, I too, called to the dogs, a bright ‘Yip! Yip!’ That sent them lunging forward- at last- to run free through the snow, my sled bumping behind. I bent my knees and leaned forward, gasping in the freezing air and reveling in my freedom, when, abruptly, the sled stopped. I pitched forward over the top of it, catching myself on the bar and peering in front of me in confusion. What was going on? Behind me, the dogs of the other team started whining, and I narrowed my eyes- not believing what I was seeing. Yes. I, Carissa, the dog sledder of the century- had successfully raced my dogs across the moor- a full ten steps before my lead dog stopped to take a shit.

Grace is my middle name.

After that snafu, my team began to run again, and I quickly caught up to Tim, the rest of our expedition behind me as we raced through the wilderness. One of the first things I saw was a pack of wild reindeer, gallivanting away (lest we make them into soup). Soon, however, the trail ended, and the real work began. It is a little known fact that in the case of trail-less activity, dog sledding instead becomes sled-pushing-up-a-mountain-in-arctic-gear-ing.

Nevertheless, it was a blast, and we stopped at midday in the midst of the swirling snow to eat lunch. Perched atop reindeer pelts, we drank hot cocoa and ate chicken pesto sandwiches, a rare delicacy only found in such places as “Sub-way” and “Qui-znos”

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I call this “lunch in a blizzard with a bad camera”

Finally, once finished with our lunch, we climbed back onto our sleds for the last half of our rollick through the snow. In the winter, it never really becomes daylight, it only becomes “less dark,” and our time of “less dark” was ending quickly. (It usually goes from about 11am-1pm). Strapping headlamps to our heads, we took off, sledding for another few hours before turning and heading back towards camp.

Once returned, we peeled off our gear, which had performed admirably, and sat down to eat a traditional Sami meal in a traditional Sami tent. It was dark, smoky, and hot, and absolutely perfect after a long day of dog sledding.

Boarding our bus back home, we could barely climb up the metal steps. Dog sledding was exhausting, nerve-wracking, and a little dirty, but one of the best times I’ve ever had. Worth every penny.

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Post dog-sledding. Exhausted and thrilled.