The Oktoberfest in Munich, also called Wies’n (meaning “meadow”) by the locals, is the largest festival in the world. Although there are many imitations of this huge beer party, none of them will manage to reach the dimensions of the original Wies’n in Munich that is carried out each year in late September and early October. It attracts as many as 6,000,000 visitors and about 6,000,000 liters of beer as well as an enormous amount of grilled chickens, sausages and pretzels are consumed yearly.
These statistics may seem overwhelming for anyone with a dislike of crowds but the Oktoberfest is such an enormous event that everyone should experience this festival at least once in their lives. Miss the Oktoberfest and you will you will miss a major experience and maybe a lot of fun as well. To make the most of your trip to the Oktoberfest, it is worth planning in advance and there are some essential things you should know and prepare for when you go there for the first time.
The Oktoberfest was first held in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The marriage took place on October 12th, 1810, and on October 17th, a large horse race was organised. The event was repeated and in 1819, it was decided by the city council that the festival would take place every year, no matter what the circumstances. Since then it has been carried out every year at the Theresienwiese, named after "Therese" of Saxony-Hildburghausen, in Munich for two weeks in late September and early October.
The preparation for the Oktoberfest starts about two months before the festivities are opened. Six Munich breweries and about eighty showmen set up their beer halls and various attractions such as ghost trains, roller coasters and a variety of fairground rides.
Don’t be surprised to see a real city with its own infrastructure like streets, toilets, police, post office, first-aid station and even its own sewage system. Hundreds of people are employed every year just to work there. The Oktoberfest boosts not only tourism but also has a major impact on the economy of Munich.
Due to the popularity and scale of the Oktoberfest, it is highly recommended to book your flight and your hotel well in advance and a few months will certainly be much too short. Prices for flights and hotels usually skyrocket during the time of the Oktoberfest. The same applies if you want to sit in one of the large beer halls, most of which are in one of the main roads also referred to as “Bierzeltstrasse” (beer-hall road). Although the beer halls are really huge compared to ordinary beer tents, the places are already booked even one year in advance and it will be difficult to enter one of them without a reservation. You will probably be luckier in finding a seat outside in a beergarden which most beer halls have. This may be the better option as the beer halls can get very stuffy, hot and loud.
The best way to get to the Wies’n is to go there on foot. It is about 15 minutes away from Munich’s main Hauptbahnhof station and is easy to find. In most cases you don’t even have to ask someone, you only have to follow the crowds. Another way of getting there is by underground: use lines no. 4 or 5 and get off at “Theresienwiese” or no. 3 or 6 and get off at “Goetheplatz”. When you use the first option, you will be directly on the Wies’n when you leave the underground, from Goetheplatz you will have to walk a few meters. Tram no. 19 also stops near the Oktoberfest. It is not advisable to use your private car or bike as you will not find a place to park your car. If you come by bike, be sure to leave it somewhere safe but this can be difficult as vandalism by drunkards is quite common.
Another consideration is to be aware of pickpockets by taking care of your belongings. When you use one of the fairground rides (which is better done before drinking beer and eating), it is best to have your money safely in the closed pocket of your trousers – otherwise you might just lose it.
Beer is drunk in large and heavy 1-liter mugs. It is hard to get the usual portion of ½ liter but if you are lucky, you might be able to order ½ liter of Weißbier (“eine Halbe Weißbier”) but this is not the usual thing. The Oktoberfest beer is a special kind of beer that is stronger than the ordinary beer so beware. When you are not used to drinking, even one of these 1-liter mugs with this strong Oktoberfest brew might be too much! Not only beer, but everything is quite expensive on the Wies’n compared to normal prices.
Although there are many toilets in the Oktoberfest mainly in the side streets next to the beer tents, you will probably have to queue up for quite a while. This causes many drunkards to pee directly on a meadow (they call it “wild peeing”) and is not something to be recommended as you will be charged if caught by one of the many policemen that are around. So, don’t be shocked when you see people peeing out in the open or lying drunk on the meadow near the main entrance.
Things become worse as the evening progresses and it is important to keep your distance when you see aggressive drunkards with large beer mugs as it can be quite dangerous to be hit by one of them. For many, the best option is to go to the Oktoberfest quite early or even better, during the week. The same applies if you want to attend one of the many popular events held on the first weekend as you have to arrive very early to see something.
On the first Saturday at 10.45 a.m., there is a march of the Oktoberfest innkeepers to the Wies'n with their brewery horses lead by the Münchner Kindl and the Major of Munich. Its route is from Sonnenstrasse via Schwanthalerstrasse to the Theresienwiese. At midday, the Major of Munich taps the first barrel of beer in the beer hall Schottenhammel. On the first Sunday, there is large parade of traditional costumes and riflemen to the Wies'n that starts at 11.00 a.m. at the Siegestor in Ludwigstrasse in Schwabing.
If you keep in mind everything mentioned here and are even lucky with the weather, you will have a great time at the Oktoberfest. Just watch the people (many of them being dressed in traditional costumes), enjoy the Oktoberfest beer and have a good time!
Thursday, August 8, 2013