Oktoberfest has always been on my Bucket List, as it is such a unique event. As the worlds largest beer festival, it can draw as many as 6 million people over 15 days! It is held at Theresienwiese, a fairground in Munich, Germany. This Volksfest started in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Festivities started on October 12th and lasted for 5 days. Since then, the festival has been prolonged and moved up to late September for weather reasons.
With my Au Pair schedule, I was only able to go with a tour group that left on Friday night and came back on Sunday night. This meant sleeping on a bus for 2 nights and only really having one full day in Munich. Once arriving, and after 12 hours on a full bus, all I wanted to do was get to the festival grounds. First, everyone on the bus had to check in and drop their bags off at our hotel. I paid for a triple room and therefore had to find 2 other solo female travelers. I did, but we only received one room key. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but barely knowing the 2 people whom you are staying with and not having cell phone service at such a large event can be disastrous. Once we freshened up we headed downtown, which was a 40 minute train ride. As soon as we were in the center of Munich we went to buy dirndls, a traditional Bavarian dress. There, we met a group of guys who were staying right by the festival grounds. We went with them to drop their bags off, as they also just arrived from the airport. Then we walked to Oktoberfest!
Wearing my green and purple dirndl I felt as though I fit in. I was amazed at how many people actually dressed up for the occasion. There were so many stands of food, souvenirs and beer! We went right to one tent where the guys had a reserved table with their friends. As soon as we walked in, I was amazed at the ambiance. It was decorated so elaborately, the place was so lively… I couldn’t wait to get a beer!
Then madness happened. It was so crowded I felt I was in a mosh pit. In order to get a beer you have to be sitting, but there were no seats. I didn’t have breakfast nor lunch, and it was about 2 pm. The girls and I finally squeezed into a table to get a drink. Once we got beer, we decided to take it and get some air. Leaving the table area was difficult; it was so crowded and I kept getting hit on by lot of men. It was uncomfortable because they all asked for a kiss and I kept saying no, but they all got in my face. Not being able to walk away because of the crowd made this even more difficult to remove myself from these men.
Once we were out in the open we were talking about getting food. Then we met a group of Irish guys in green clover suits. They invited us to their table, which was not that crowded. We decided to sit down to get another beer and food. After ordering a second beer and deciding on what food to order, one of the Irish guys was also aggressively asking to kiss me. I didn’t understand… “No Means No.” I decided to go to the bathroom, and lost everyone in the process. I went back to where I last saw them, and started talking to another American because he was also looking for his friends. I needed food so we proceeded to order some pretzels. After eating, he also would not respect my wishes to stop being hit on.
Why were 3 different men from 3 different countries thinking it was okay to repeatedly try and force themselves on me? Was it the environment? Was it the alcohol? I was so bothered that I left to go back to the hotel… I was over feeling like a piece of meat for any man to have when he wanted.
I wanted to enjoy this day, but I felt as though others ruined it for me. By others, I mean the men. I am tired of men thinking it is okay to “cat call” women on the street, not just at a beer festival. I am over men not respecting when a woman says “No.” I am tired of this continued sexist world we live in. Something needs to change, and I am ready to speak up to attempt to fix it.
When I got back to the hotel, I found a pamphlet at the front counter, as I needed someone to unlock my hotel door for me. “Have fun, Stay Safe: Tips for Women and Girls.”
Yes, this is a nice resource, but why do we need this? Because men take advantage of women. Why do we need a “Safe Place” for half of the attendees at Oktoberfest? Because men spike women’s drinks. Why does there have to be a pamphlet reminding women that they can be assaulted on the way home?! Because men aren’t told not to assault women. Unfortunately, this really made me angry, as I felt victim to this treatment that day. Thankfully I was not physically assaulted, but having to verbally contest almost every man I spoke with was not enjoyable. I was a lucky participant, as obviously there are cases of assaults since there is a Security Point for Women and Girls. But I still don’t think I was lucky, as I did not enjoy my time to the fullest because of my gender.
Have you experienced a similar situation when traveling?