A few months ago as Jeff and I planned our trip to Rome over Easter break, we thought we would try to hit all the major events in the neighboring countries (Running of the Bulls, Tour de France, etc.) and really test our tolerance for large, claustrophobic crowds and overpriced hotel prices. A fleeting thought of spending time in Germany for Oktoberfest came up to be dashed and replaced with maybe trying Amsterdam at the same time as a cheaper alternative. Thank you, Trip Advisor.
As luck and calendar planning would have it, it didn’t quite work out. But, we were invited to go to the one and only genuine German beer hall for Oktoberfest in the heart of London. It was the first time Jeff and I had gone out to enjoy the London night life, so why not embrace this traditional celebration from the comfort of our own city.
So off we went toward Liverpool Street to meander through construction and side streets until we found Bierschenke, the authentic Munich beer hall. I had no idea what to expect upon walking in, but I was expecting to see a ton of people with copious amounts of beer.
The reality was much different. It was a bunch of older men sitting around circle tables with their pints watching the German football match on the big projector screens. No singing and dancing with beer spilling on the wood floor. But the night was still young.
We headed downstairs where there was more seating and more people. This is where the party was. Our group leader, Elizabeth, had the good sense to book a table or two for our huge group. It was true Bavarian style seating with five people per bench–an intimate setting for a couple of introverts to converse with what turned out to be zero Londoners. Our entire group of thirty people were mostly American, a couple of native Frenchies, and one true German. It was really interesting in the city of London, not one British accent was among our group and for that matter, in ear shot.
We started off with drinks. Several steins were ordered as the place boasted their native German beers. Interestingly enough, there were only one or two choices of German wine, but I stayed safe with South America.
Jeff ordered a typical Bratwurst with cold potato salad and a pretzel. Served with mustard and cold, the food came just in time for the oompah band to begin: The Bavarian Strollers. What a lively group of guys! They had a whole catalog they played throughout the bar to really get people excited for Oktoberfest. Some of our group started singing along to the songs and cheering them on. At the end of each song, they would raise their respective glass of ale and cheers all of us. Nothing like drinking on the job to make you feel laid back.
The food was decent, or at least from what the resident German at our table said. It sure looked German, but then again, it also looked quite English. What is the main difference between English and German pub food, I wonder? Spices? Mustard? The fact that the potatoes came sliced instead of as fries (or chips)? After the second beer, it all tastes the same anyway.
As the night wore on, the louder the bar got. A rowdy group invaded the table behind us with shirts marking the city they have hit each year for Oktoberfest since 2009. It was like a bachelor party of frat guys that has an excuse to travel each year to get drunk. It was about then, Jeff’s allergies really started to kick in and I realized that the pub scene was not really the ideal place for us. We’re not huge fans of having to get louder as the room gets louder just to converse with each other. And talking across the table? Forget about it. We tried to still get to know the people around us, but we were only catching every third word.
We called it an early night and settled up the bill with our waitress dressed in a casual lederhosen and headed back home. Like we realized in Dublin, we just aren’t the loud and party-late kind of couple, which leaves us sad and relieved at the same time.
We had a fun night out with new friends, but we are both so glad we didn’t decide to try out the real Oktoberfest with 5,000 of our closest friends packed into intoxicating tents only to walk out showered in beer. We had our experience and we’re ready to explore Germany in calmer times.