5 years, 10 months ago
Oktoberfest means something different depending on whom you ask. For most outsiders, it is a tent flap for millions to enjoy (or overindulge in) countless varieties of top quality beers – all conforming to the ‘German Beer Purity Law’ and all brewed within the city limits of Munich. But for the locals, the main draw is the fact it is the largest fair in the world and a celebration of Bavarian culture; with traditional foods like Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Weisswurst (white sausage) and Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), live Bavarian music and fairground attractions. Here are some tips and tricks to enjoying the height of Bavarian brevity as if you left the womb clad in lederhosen.
1. Never call it Oktoberfest
That’s what the Saupreusse (non-local person with, let’s say, below average results at pub quizzes) call it. Always refer to the fair as die Wiesen (pronounced “dee vee-zin”).
Images © saucy little minx
2. Wear the costume
The traditional Bavarian get-up can be found either online or at many stockists in and around Munich. To quote Henry Thoreau: “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life“, and what better way to do it than in an outfit designed to catch meat drippings and bier.
Image © traveller_40
3. Watch the traditional opening day parade
Dating from 1887, and known as the Festival of Innkeepers, the parade is an hour-long procession of horse-drawn brewer wagons taking the first kegs to the millions of thirsty visitors. The mayor of Munich will tap the ceremonial first keg, and as a public servant he will most likely double, triple and quadruple check that it’s safe for consumption.
Image © elkit
4. Explore the fairgrounds
With giant Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, a flea circus, the Revue der illusions, a Toboggan and die Teufelsrad (a rotating wheel with foam balls pelting you), the fairgrounds are a lesser-known attraction and not just for the kids.
Image © meironke
5. Get to the beer tents early
…and preferably on a weekday to avoid the weekend rush. Keep in mind that you can reserve a table at each individual beer tent, so head there first thing and get that headache (as it were) out of the way.
Image © aleciah
6. Make friends with the locals
They can teach you Bavarian drinking songs, the proper descriptor for a glass of beer (it’s a Krug by the way, not a Stein), tell you the story of how die Wiesen began in honour of the Bavarian royal family…or even let you pinch some of their Strauben cake.
Image © el_guary
7. Family Tuesday
For many years, Oktoberfest’s Tuesday is traditionally the day dedicated to families. From 12:00 until 18:00 most of the festivities, including the rides and food, are half price for kids and everybody makes an extra effort to keep the little ones entertained, and refrain from blowing their horns and quaffing their Krugs too loudly.
Image © LenDog64
While die Wiesen is a great time to be in Munich; its friendly residents, interesting locations and delicious, hearty foods are available year long. Being a riverside city, it is a great place to visit in the summer (and even try your hand at river surfing), while being situated just north of the Bavarian Alps allows winter visitors to strap on some skis and go carve up the powder.