As a lover of good times, Oktoberfest was on my bucket list since hearing more about it when I started working for Mueller. After accepting the Secondment (i.e. short term work assignment which we also refer to as our Employee Exchange Program) with PKF Munich in Germany, I actually did not realize the real and official Oktoberfest took place in Munich. I was ecstatic upon learning this fact and even more excited for the exchange. Even better, my Managing Partner, Dave invited us to the first Monday of the fest, PKF invited us to the first Tuesday, and three of my best friends jumped on a plane to join me for the second weekend.
A few days before the fest, a Mueller colleague, Mike McAvoy and I went to buy the traditional lederhosen knowing it would add to the fun and help us fit in. Luckily, one of our PKF friends, Lina Tümmler, was there to be our style guide. The lederhosen turned out to be functional and broke in with each dance move on the tables.
On the first night, Monday September 19, we went in a group with Dave, Dave’s son, and fiancé, our first Exchange Employee Isabella, Mike and I, Amy, Mueller Tax Partner and her husband, and a potential future Mueller employee from Germany. Heading into the fest, the big question was what Dave would be wearing. It is rare to see him without a suit on. Although he was not wearing lederhosen like Mike and I, he fit in with a vest and traditional checkered shirt. We had a reservation at the Armbrustschützenzelt tent (serving Paulaner beer) and walked to our table on the second level balcony overlooking the beer tent. The tent was decked out in green, lined with faux animal trophy heads, a risen center stage where the band played, and packed with tables of merry revilers. We were all jammed into the table and it was toasty.
Immediately, we each ordered a maß (‘Mas’), or liter, of Oktoberfest bier. This beer was no ordinary Miller Lite. Not only was it delicious, it has a higher alcohol content than any nonlight beer back home. The beer lady carried all of our maßs at once, which was an impressive sight. We started with an appetizer tray of various mystery meats, radishes, and cheese. Although not an adventurous eater without knowing what I’m getting into beforehand, I made the effort to try each of the meats. The taste ranged from needing to wash it down with the maß of beer, to decent pot roast. With the first maß, giant sized pretzel, and mystery meat in us, the conversation started flowing and the heat became less of a concern. The band played music ranging from traditional Bavarian folk, to old school American classics such as Sweet Home Alabama, Sweet Caroline, and New York, New York. It was amazing seeing the primarily German crowd belting out these classics along with us. Another song that will be stuck in my head for the rest of my life is ‘Ein Prosit’; a song basically played every 15-20 minutes where you sway around with your maß, belting out:
– Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
– Der Gemütlichkeit
– Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
– Der Gemütlichkeit.
OANS ZWOA DREI! G’SUFFA!
– The translation:
– A toast, a toast
– To cheer and good times
– A toast, a toast
– To cheer and good times.
– ONE TWO THREE! DRINK UP!
By the third Mas, it was party time and Dave was the party ringleader. Now I heard stories of Dave’s partying while in Germany from other Mueller Exchange Employees, but I had to see it for myself to believe it. Indeed, the stories were true and Dave was the first one to get up and hit the dance floor that circled the band in the center of the tent. After he got back to the table, he rallied Mike and I to join him in Prosting (clinking another person’s maß and exclaiming ‘Prost!’) what seemed like every single table in the tent, totaling to over 500 prosts. Every person lit up with joy and the only tragedy was Dave’s broken glass when the other proster got a bit too excited and cheersed with full knockout force.
We ended up staying until the lights were turned on and we were told to exit. Mike and I were able to use the buddy system and get home with no issue and we were ready to do it all over again with PKF the next day.
The work day went as well as one would imagine. The main item on the agenda was a meeting about a new software, LucaNet, which is a supercharged Excel capable of improved consolidations and analyses. As an avid fan of Excel this software excites me about the potential to help our clients spend less time on recording functions and more time analyzing and operating their businesses. The meeting included Amy, Dave, Mike, a few PKF partners and managers, and a LucaNet expert. This was one of the most interesting meetings during my tenure at Mueller and I think Mike would agree. While the Americans wore suits, the PKF partners and managers were dressed in full lederhosen acting completely casual. I wish we had events back home where we could dress up for important meetings in festive attire. After the meeting, it was party time yet again.
This time around, we were in a smaller tent (holding less than a few hundred patrons, with PKF making up around a third of the total) giving the place a stronger community vibe where you could get to know each other. The tables were already set with the same meats and enormous pretzels we ordered the night before. Mike and I ordered the roast chicken and a plate of pommes frites (french fries), the same entrée as the night before and our favorite meal in Germany to date. It did not take long for the lights to go down after the meal and everyone collectively stood up on the tables. Dave tried to coax the tent manager to let us karaoke to Sweet Home Alabama on the balcony stage, but the guy must not have trusted our beautiful singing voices and passed. I had a blast meeting and talking to all the PKF employees off the clock, moving around to different tables and dancing. This tent had the added bonus of shots of Schnapps to turn up the party even more. Walking into work the next day, everyone was sitting at their computers with barely a sign of the night before. Bavarians are champs at Oktoberfest.
The next two days of recovery were much needed with my three friends arriving before Friday evening for another two nights of Oktoberfest. Friday night, we walked through the infamous front gate that says, ‘Willkommen Zum Oktoberfest’ before hitting the Hofbräuhaus tent, which Google listed as the number one party tent.
We heard from many others that getting into a tent at prime time was difficult, but we were determined. We walked around half of the outside of the tent seeing a line outside each of the multiple entrances. I was near giving up when one of the entrance doors with barely a line opened up and it was our time to shine. We marched in, greeted by hundreds of tables of dancing people, a floating beer angel, a band with a full saxophone and brass section, and smells of beer and pretzels. We saw an opening on one of the middle tables and scooched our way in. This tent seemed to have more of a party atmosphere and less rigid with where you could sit. We spent the next few hours dancing to the familiar songs from the first night, plus some additional ones like ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees. This tent is known as the international tent so we met people from all over the world leading to interesting conversation. The main things we all had in common were smiles, dancing, and drinking great beer. The tent was hot with the amount of people, but that was no concern. It was sad when the band played the final notes and the lights came on, but we were exhausted.
We woke up Saturday and it was finally nice out after a couple weeks of cold weather and rain. Oktoberfest was packed to the brims, making it hard to move even in the wide paths. I love concerts and am used to crowds, but this paled in comparison estimating over 100,000 people. The next day highlights included drinking weißbier or wheat beer at a special tent near a quadruple looping roller coaster (only place we could get in during the day), immediately going on a twister ride to test ourselves, and riding the Ferris Wheel giving us a stunning view of the fest.
After the Ferris Wheel, we settled for a beer garden outside one of the tents as it was looking unlikely we would get our table dance on. After a maß, we decided to make one last ditch effort to make our way into a tent. We immediately lost one of our friends after stepping into the crowds and knew there was no chance of finding him until we regrouped back home. The three of us went back to the one place we felt there was a chance: Hofbräuhaus. There was less than an hour left before closing so people past their limits were streaming out, giving us a way in. We strolled near our spot the night before and heard a roar of our names turning around to see our lost friend. An Oktoberfest miracle! We had a blast this last hour knowing it was our last day together at the fest. The legend of Oktoberfest held up and it’s an experience I recommend to all.