The evening before Oktoberfest I slept in a campsite somewhere in Munich. The party had already begun here and by the state of things it looked like it had been going for a while. The place was a little…..unsanitary. By 8 PM it was very chilly and I was wrapped, fully clothed, inside my sleeping bag with earplugs firmly in place.
That following day would be the final push to my Oktoberfest campsite. Which I prayed would be cleaner than the one I just came from. The last ride this side of festival was a pleasant one. The day was mild, dry and the route took me through some nature. Nature is always nice in a city.
My arrival in the early afternoon confirmed my hopes. This campsite was clean, it was quiet (at the moment) and looked very well kept. My ticket was booked with a particular group who organise events for Oktoberfest and they even supplied me a tent! I had space to sit up, stretch my legs, all with a door that zips closed! Luxury.
I put on my complimentary red checked shirt that I guess was our groups uniform. Then I joined some other people at the campsite and drank liquid courage until we took a train to the action.
The festival was packed. I hadn’t anticipated the sheer volume of people in the city over this period. Someone had summed it up to me as ‘drinking beer in tents’.
Over 7.5 million litres of beer will be poured in the coming weeks. Its more like a city-wide, 18 day festival and the ‘tents’ were close to pop up warehouses!
That’s bigger than the ‘tents’ I’m used to!
This was just one of multiple ‘tents’ dotted around the festival. Our group tried to find a table and ordered a round of beers. I was a little bit day-drunk and quite overwhelmed by it all.
Needless to say, as the day went on things got enjoyably out of hand. People were singing jumping, shouting and dancing on tables, everyone falling over each other, beer was everywhere, fights erupted and ended just as quickly and people too drunk to move lined the walls. It was wonderful carnage. People were blowing off some serious steam and for the most part, it was good-natured.
Amongst the thick of it, and being a bit…inebriated I had manged to smash the screen on my phone. Me, being a man of clear minded rationality, decided I had to get it fixed before I bought another beer. (how else would I know how much beer money I would have left?)
I somehow snuck my beer stein out of the tent and out of the festival grounds.
I went looking for a phone repair shop, drunk, in a city I didn’t know. The memories become a little fuzzy here I will admit. But I remember wandering the city and darting into a bar desperate for a wee. I kind of asked/ maybe volunteered some kind sir, who was likely on his lunch break from work, to look after my beer. I couldn’t wait for his reply and I was off in search of relief.
He was actually very helpful when I returned. He directed me to a phone shop and wrote his number down in case I got lost again. I wasn’t lost, I just didn’t know exactly where I was.
Some time and an empty wallet later my phone was fixed. My stein needed refilling, so I followed the lights and noise back to the Festival.
After returning, my memories become even more staggered. I remember visiting an ATM and then buying another 15 euro stein of beer. (It was €10.50 but you rarely saw change). Then I remember stumbling across my group.
Im not sure when, be it minutes or hours, I was ‘walking’ or being lead to a bus that would take us back to the campsite. I remember being cold because someone had ripped all the buttons off my shirt as he fell from the table in front of me, grabbing whatever he could.
I was right there, I remember the bus and I remember the familiar faces. Then *poof* all of a sudden I am alone, still at the bus stop, but with no bus or people in sight.
I will never know what happened. However my evening’s drama was not over yet. I somehow found my way to a train station and just sat on the next train that arrived. Not a smart move. It was going the wrong direction. I found that out from a helpful passenger who noticed me staring, with one eye open, at a map. Getting off at the next stop (I think) and there is another black spot in my memory. The last thing I remember that night is a flash of being in a taxi, shivering cold in my open shirt, huddled next to a stranger…
I woke up inside my tent, sunlight trying to pierce through the fabric. I have no clue how I got there or how I even found it amongst all the other green tents. Slowly, I gathered myself, my thoughts, and went through my pockets for clues. A receipt for a €130 phone repair, a wallet with no money in it, my phone and a balance slip from my travel card account. I wont say how much money I spent that evening. But lets just say If I bought anything more than a loaf of bread, I wouldn’t have enough money for a train home. Oops. I did very little that day but eat a bread roll and lay down, severely hungover, inside my tent.
A day later was the 23rd of September 2015. Exactly two months and one day after leaving home. The rest of the camp was getting ready to head back into the city for another day of beer and oblivion. I checked and re-checked my financial situation in an attempt to justify it, but it could not be done. I was happy and fulfilled enough, plus I would not miss another hangover.. As everyone else prepared to leave for the metro station, I made a silent exit. Wheeling my bike in the opposite direction to make the final bicycle ride to Munich Central.
I’d cycled 1150 miles (1850km), visited three countries and created more memories than I could shake a stick at. I felt accomplished, I felt pride and I felt that I wanted to do it all over again somewhere new.
I hauled my bicycle onto the first of many trains. I would travel a total of 12 hours on three different trains back to Brussels that day. From there I waited until my good friend Howard came to pick me up on his next trip to Belgium.
Mixed feelings followed me back. I did not wish to go home, not yet. It was not because I didn’t want to see friends or family, of course I did. But I had learned to enjoy my own company. I’d found a rhythm where it didn’t feel like a battle of compromises. My mind was quiet, my body was fit and I had a sense of calm never before experienced.
I was hooked.
If you’re thinking about travelling by bicycle, please check out my Bicycle Travel Tips. There may be some information in there thats useful for you!
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