This year, I decided to take on the challenge that is Oktoberfest with Stoke Travel. For six weeks, from the start of September to the middle of October, I would be camping in sunny, warm Munich (please note the sarcasm here), turning a patch of forest into the mythical land that we affectionately call Stoketoberfest.
The actual Oktoberfest spans two weeks and three weekends, from mid-September to the first weekend of October. The name thus is quite deceiving, as most of the festival actual takes place in September. This is allegedly because the Germans initially put the festival in October, but decided to move it forward to September as the years went on because they enjoyed drinking outside and this is obviously more pleasant when you can’t see your breath when you exhale.
I arrived in Munich a hopeful, tanned, fairly thin girl and emerged on the other side a slightly more squishy, pale war veteran with a desire to never see beer again (slight exaggeration, but still). Do I regret doing it? Not one bit.
Setting up the festival took about ten days and over a hundred staff members. I came in hot to the campsite and took advantage of the stacks and stacks of crates of beer that had arrived before me. Stoke Travel pays its staff in beer, shelter, and food, so it only makes sense to drink what you believe to be your rightful wage. In my now more confident state of mind, I decided to offer my help to the new chef on site, yammering on and on about how I had worked as a cook in my family’s restaurant for eight or so years. He and I had some laughs and made some top quality food for the staff members. I cleaned the dishes as we cooked, which apparently is quite impressive. Before I knew it, he requested me to be on his kitchen team and for the next few days, he and I were partners in cooking up breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of the staff. Instead of putting up tents all day, I got to hang out in the kitchen. This is the happy tale of how I became Stoke Travel’s Oktoberfest kitchen bitch (which means Drunk Kylie wormed her way into a paid staff position. HIGH FIVE!)
After a few more days, the rest of the core kitchen crew arrived and we began our lives as the “Kitchen Party,” or, as I like to say, my little kitchen family. This meant waking up two hours before the rest of staff and finishing up three hours after everyone else at night, but it also meant listening to great music and cooking food instead of manual labor. I didn’t hate it.
Set up continued and the rest of the staff began to trickle in and before long, we were at our roughly 160 staff mark. Most of my friends from last year’s season were back and they mixed in with countless new friends. Every night we would hang out around our ever progressing campsite, which before long included a full DJ stage built out of empty beer crates, a “Wheel of Misfortune” (more on this later), and a fully functioning bar called “Neil and Ian’s Tavern,” after the two Bar Lords’ fathers. We partied as hard as we worked, and still woke up with the sun to continue our labors.
The first weekend customers arrived, we had about 1500-2000 people at the campsite. During our first dinner service, a mosh pit of customers pushed into the wall of the kitchen so hard, they nearly knocked our shelves completely down. I lost my voice from yelling at them to form a line, give me their meal ticket, or use their manners when asking for their food. Before long, my remarks were sharp and people didn’t know whether to laugh or cry in response. This became a fun game that helped me get through the two plus hours of hectic service twice a day, every day.
When I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was egging on customers to spin the “Wheel of Misfortune” with me. This is, like the name suggests, a wheel much like the Wheel of Fortune, with the only difference being the wedges to land on are generally not very favorable. The choices included “do a beer bong,” “Kiss a Stokie,” “swap clothes,” and the ever popular “nudie run.” Let’s just say I landed on each one at least once.
Once we got through the first weekend of customers, everyone was rostered at least one day completely off. This meant that from Monday to Wednesday, throngs of Stoke staff members made our way into the actual festival.
Oktoberfest is as much a carnival as it is a beer festival, so once we had a stein in us, we would split up into small groups and head out to hit the rides. On the first day we went in, my friend and I rode pretty much every ride before joining back up with our group of misfit children in the beer halls. This is the view from the top of the ferris wheel. We enjoyed it a little too much.
One place you are guaranteed to find at least one other Stokie is the Oktoberfest fun house. This is a mythical place that for some reason, we were only ever able to find when we were good and drunk. Try and find it sober and you’re bound to spend an hour wandering around the festival, wondering how the hell you’ve ever found it in the first place.
Upon entry into the fun house, you are given a pair of paper glasses created either by God or by someone who really likes taking acid. The glasses turn every bit of light into a rainbow burst and make walking generally impossible. Pair these with a maze full of laser beams, rolling tunnels, and slides, and good luck getting any Stokie to find their way out. For 5 Euros, we would go in and make the ride staff’s lives miserable. Here’s a video of what it’s like, so you can get a better idea.
The next weekend was our biggest yet, with about 2500 customers at the campsite on Saturday. This year, we actually lost several hundred customers due to fear of terrorist attacks at the festival. It’s always a danger, no matter where you go, and to those who cancelled I refer you to my previous blog post, Don’t Let the Terrorists Win. But hey, to those who came anyway, we salute you.
That second week went by in a blur of rain, cold temperatures, 4:50 am wakeups, and banana pancakes. One Monday we had a massive kitchen party which involved two bottles of Jose Cuervo, four bottles of Sea Lord rum, and three Costco sized boxes of gummy candies. Morale at camp was slipping and people were starting to grow tired of beer. One by one, staff members were packing up and leaving, completely violating my idea that we were all in this together, as a family, one team one dream.
But those of us that did stay were the ones who were in it for the long haul. We were truly a family, and we worked not only because we love it but because we care about each other. We made it through our last weekend like a well oiled machine and soon, the last customer remained and it was time to start packing down and partying because goddammit, we did it. For the kitchen, it was back to 15 hour days, but at least the kitchen was warm and dry.
By now, we were all off the beers and mostly just wanted to cuddle for warmth at the end of the day. This meant lots of movie watching and cuddle puddles, and the occasional coffee with Bailey’s. Our last night together, we had a massive staff party complete with six kilos of haloumi and an awards ceremony from three of our most eccentric staff members. It was then that I became Stoke Travel’s honorary “space cadet,” a title fitting the girl that for some reason always seemed to be in a different world. Someone spiked the punch and the night ended in a massive bonfire, during which I ceremoniously burned my signature gold leggings (may they rest in peace). Just like that, Stoketoberfest was finished.
I won’t delve into too many anecdotes about this festival, but let’s just say it ended with roughly five staff hospital visits, 560cm of rainfall, and 40,000 L of beer drank (sorry about the metric measurements, this came from the Stoke newsletter). It was a magical six weeks that simultaneously flew by and dragged on. I’m not sure if I’d do it again, but damn, it was a good time.
If you want to get involved in any of Stoke’s festivals, use my promocode “KYLZ” to receive free unlimited beer and sangria.