Which Oktoberfest (as there seem to be so many of them across the UK, USA, Canada, Europe)? Munich Oktoberfest of course – the real deal. You may have been to various alternatives of Munich Oktoberfest but if you haven’t been to the original celebration in the Bavarian capital yet – well, you must go as it is a completely different and exhilarating experience that has been running for over 200 years!
Let me say that compared to other Oktoberfest around the world, this one is at a completely different scale. It is not just that the fairgrounds, Theresienwiese (which locals simply call the Wiesen) are like a huge theme park for all ages, it is the entire city of Munich that is transformed for the carnival. The atmosphere is invigorating, people walk around in traditional dirndls and lederhosen and the joy is contagious!
Depending on how long you have got to spend in this Germany’s party capital, here are a few rules and tips so you can make the most of your experience and let loose like a local:
- You must wear a traditional dirndl dress (for women) or a pair of lederhosen (for men) trousers. Additional accessories for women include a shiny colourful dirndl necklace (edelweiss pendants and also heart shapes are the most popular ones), woolly socks and boots for men and a traditional Bavarian hat (Tirolerhüte) for both men and women which contains a tuft of goat hair or feather (and apparently the bigger the hair or the feather , the higher the status of the wearer).
- Girls be careful with the apron knots – if the knot is on the left it means the wearer is single, if it is on the right – the wearer is married or has a boyfriend, if it is in the middle – the girl is a virgin and if it is at the back – apparently the lady is open to anything (literally).
- If you are in a smaller group be prepared to share your table with others and the etiquette requires that you talk friendly to each other, sing along and …occasionally share beer.
- There is a band playing traditional songs in every tent and you have to learn at least one – “Ein Prosit” (“A toast to you”) that is literally being played at least 80 times a day. Don’t worry below are the words and the main part that you need to know is:
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Here you can check how it sounds like http://www.oktoberfest-songs.com/ein-prosit-lyrics.html
- Later in the afternoon/evening when the spirits get high people will stand on the wooden benches and sing along with the band and toast “Prost”. You will see some people on the tables as well but the etiquette requires that only one foot can be placed on the table, so you should never completely stand or dance on a table. Some people will jump and twist on the wooden benches but fear not – I was told they are seriously solid and flexible and never break (German quality obviously).
- Different types of local beer are served in 1 litre jugs (called stein) in every tent. It will be unusual to order anything smaller than that and in most cases you can’t even have other type of alcoholic drink apart from beer. And let me say that every year there are only 6 breweries from Munich that are allowed to serve their beer at Oktoberfest. These breweries are Hofbräuhaus München, Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu, Paulaner Bräu, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr Bräu and Augustiner Bräu and each of them has an individual tent at Oktoberfest. These breweries produce beer with a higher concentration of alcohol (about 6%) for the Oktoberfest compared to the rest of the year production. The taste is sweeter than a normal lager and some are tricked into believing the alcohol concentration is actually quite low (when in fact the opposite is true).
- The exception to the beer only rule is Kufflers Weinzelt tent (which translates wine tent), the most luxurious and expensive of all tents. Here you can order wine throughout the day and in fact they stop serving beer after 9pm and you can only order wine. Other aspects that make this tent stand out are the best food in the entire Oktoberfest, best music (they play all types of party music and not as much traditional songs like other tents),best atmosphere and design and of course the latest closing time – this tent closes past 12.30am while others close at 10.30 – 11 pm the latest.
- Waitresses and waiters can be very friendly, so it is not unusual to share a stein of beer with them or offer them a stein from your table – they will be very grateful.
- Saturday is by far the busiest day throughout the week so if you can – avoid Saturday day/evening in order to escape long queues everywhere and massive squash and crowds both inside and outside tents.
- Try to get into as many tents as possible – they are all different with different themes and decorations. Augustiner-Festhalle for example is well known for the beer served here that comes from Munich’s oldest brewery and is still tapped from classic wooden kegs. It is also famous for its friendly waiters and waitresses. Hofbrau Festhalle is world famous and one of the largest tents. It is particularly popular with Americans and Australians and offers food for more economical prices than other tents. Kufflers Weinzelt on the other hand is more sophisticated, better organised and more expensive than the other tents. But it also has better food, music and it closes later.
Here is a map of Oktoberfest and more details about each of the big tents: http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/events/oktoberfest/beertents.html
- Also if you’re in a smaller party and you are not there on Saturday (when there is a fight for seats everywhere) you may consider moving to different tables so you get to meet and speak to different people.
- Make sure you order some traditional food while in the tents – meat is usually very tasty and fresh due to enormous demand, everything is prepared on the spot. Same as ordering beer though – you really have to catch waiters’ attention and if they’re busy pay in advance so to make sure they will bring you the food and drinks.
- Don’t spend all your time in the tents simply drinking beer – go on some of the many rides in the park – don’t miss for example the famous Riesenrad (the Ferris Wheel), some 50m high with great views over the entire area. Also why notmtry local delicacies outside in the sun (snitzel, bratwurst, pretzels, creamy ice-cream, caramelized fruits, ginger bread they are all delicious, fresh and waiting for you)?
- Depending on how many days you have to spend in the city, I would recommend you pay a visit to Munich city centre – it is less than 30 min walk from Oktoberfest area and there are some remarkable landmarks such as Marienplaz, Frauenkirche (the symbol of the city), Viktualienmarkt with its many stalls with fruits and veggie, arts and crafts, souvenirs and beer garden and restaurants. Additionally the sightseeing tourist bus is a great way of discovering the wider city with surprising attractions such as Nymphenburg Palace and Royal Gardens, or the English Garden.