If you have a taste for beer, have a hankering for fun and excitement and have a few bucks to blow on an over the top good time — grab your significant other or a friend and make reservations for next September’s Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
You will be joining about six million other frolickers who attend this annual fun festival to drink, eat, dance and generally have a great time. I recently had the opportunity, as part of an extended vacation, to spend a couple of days with my girlfriend of twenty years, a close friend and his wife at this explosion of annual hard-core partying.
Oktoberfest is an extension of the celebration of the 1812 marriage in Bavaria of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Five days after the wedding a large festival was held at one of the gates leading to Munich and the tradition was born. Many of the revelers today attend the fest wearing the traditional garb of the 1700s and 1800s, lederhosen for the men and dirndl (pronounced dern‘ dull) for women.
Many locals wear this traditional garb to work and head straight to the beer tents to celebrate after work.
There is live music all day and well into the night. The food is delicious, especially if you like huge soft pretzels, German sausage of all types, and wiener (veener) schnitzel.
Beer flows in the tents like water over a dam. The beer steins hold a liter of beer, about 34 ounces, and weigh about five pounds fully loaded. It helps if you build up your arm strength before arriving at Oktoberfest. The beer itself is a light hued lager and is about 6% alcohol.
There are six official Oktoberfest breweries that produce the beer for Oktoberfest to a traditional recipe but with slight differences among producers.
Although there is a great deal of activity taking place throughout the day, the beer tents, with an average of about 8,000 fun loving beer drinkers in each, really start to rock and roll around 7:30 to 8 at night.
Rock bands now take over from the oompah bands, energizing the crowds with the likes of Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley, and become the music of the night.
By this time everyone, and I mean every person in the tents, is standing on the benches (the only furniture in the beer tents is picnic tables) singing, laughing, waving their arms in the air and gyrating to the music. Some might call it dancing but gyrating is a more appropriate description of the action. Imagine 8,000 people simultaneously having the time of their lives in a closed tent and you get the picture.
The tents are heavily populated by twenty- to thirty-somethings. The average age seems to be somewhere in the late twenties to early thirties. The energy generated in the tents would probably measure somewhere north of 5.5 on the Richter Scale. Although this is primarily a young person’s venue there are people of all ages participating in the fun, including retirees.
In case you were wondering what it is like to be part of a group of 500,000 beer drinkers, we were amazed the decorum of the crowd. There was no raucous overtone of negative behavior or public displays of drunkenness. Security personnel were very much in evidence in the streets and avenues of the grounds and at the access points to the beer tents. Much of the crowd control was achieved by the fact that beer steins cannot be carried into or out of the tents.
In order to have a seat in a tent you have to reserve a spot a year in advance. However, if you go without having a reserved spot, as we did, each tent has covered outside seating areas that do not require advanced reservations where you can sit, eat, and drink and then go into the tents and enjoy the revelry.
Although the Oktoberfest grounds are the center of this festival, there are many beer halls in Munich and all over Germany that join in the celebration. We spent a couple of hours in the original Hofbrauhaus in the center of Munich. While there we not only drank a full measure of Oktoberfest beer, enjoyed the traditional Bavarian food and oompah music, but we also shared our picnic table with other American tourists from both New York and the Midwest.
All in all, the experience was a total blast. The grounds have a carnival atmosphere with rides of every type, from a huge Ferris wheel to death defying conveyances taking its passengers to dizzying heights above the crowd. The outdoor stands and kiosks offer everything from every type of food you can imagine to souvenirs, including sweatshirts, T-shirts, ice cream, sausages and more.
If you decide to go, be sure to book your reservations well in advance. Airbnb is a good choice for saving money, as prices are high due to the influx of tourists. Accommodations anywhere near Oktoberfest will be next to impossible if you wait to the last minute. We secured travel and living reservations over a year in advance. If you go you will be rewarded by an experience you will never forget. Prost!