Walking in to the gigantic tent, you would think that you had stepped back in time 200 years – there are wall to wall wooden benches filled with men in form-hugging lederhosen and women in dirndl. An oompah band plays atop an elaborate stage shaped in the likeness of an old wooden sailing ship, the combined stale stench of beer, sweat and roast chicken assaults your nostrils.
A single syllable word suddenly rings true above the ear shattering sound of thousands of steins crashing together in unison.
In fact you wouldn’t have stepped back in time but you would be standing in the Augustiner-Festhalle beer tent in the heart of the world’s largest festival – Oktoberfest. Even if you have never been to Munich during Oktoberfest then this one word instantly evokes images of Lederhosen’s, songs of merriment, drunken revelry and strong armed Fräuleins touting large jugs.
Oh and don’t forget the gigantic beer steins too…
Oktoberfest was first held way back in 1810 in celebration of King Ludwig the Firsts marriage to Princess Therese at the appropriately named fields Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”), although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn”. The city of beer loving Bavarian’s enjoyed it so much that 2 years later they decided to hold it again. And again. And again.
Now celebrating its 178th year (cancelled 24 times due to various mass illnesses and wars) it attracts between 5 and 7 million tourists from around the world. Unsurprisingly it’s our drunken cousins across the ditch, Australian’s, who show up in the greatest overseas numbers. In fact, with no Australian embassy located in Munich, an official must travel down from Berlin for the entire of the festival to hand out temporary passports to the Australian’s that lose them.
It’s no surprise that the festival is so popular and the beer is so good considering that there are over 1250 breweries located withinGermany. However, only Munich brewers are allowed to sell their finest at Oktoberfest every year in their own tents (tents being a loose word for gigantic wooden structure holding up to 10,000 revellers).
These are no mere mortal beers either.
The average alcohol content being over 6 percent can quickly turn any self-styled beer connoisseur on to their ass. Luckily after the first day I had quickly learned my lesson that you cannot take them lightly…
Thankfully Oktoberfest is more than beer chugging and memory loss.
The share size of the spectacle blew my mind (and our bank accounts). The family atmosphere is great to see and all the locals bring along their children to the event to have fun on the various rides and activities from Ferris wheels to crossbow shooting.
The first day we managed to fly into Munich early on Thursday morning so grabbed the last remaining un-reserved table in the Augustiner-Festhalle tent. Unfortunately the beer was absolutely delicious and I didn’t heed my own advice before sitting down at the table and quickly consumed a few too many steins without eating enough of the roast chickens and pork knuckles.
Needless to say I went home early and missed the best parts of the evening with dancing on the tables and more raucous singing.
Friday morning led to some bleary eyes and sore heads. I am pretty sure my brain was trying to force its way out of my skull until I downed a few panadol. We tentatively made our back to the Wiesn and squeezed our way in to the Winzerer Fähndl tent where they were serving the sweet tasting Paulaner brewed beer.
The first stein went down quite gingerly but considering that this is the largest tent holding 8,450 inside and another 2,450 people outside this quickly changed. The atmospheres are so addictive that you quickly find yourself on the benches singing wildly out of tune along with the others.
Unfortunately by not having reserved tables we were booted off our one at 4pm for the locals. And when you can’t sit down at a table then they won’t serve you another beer. The upside was that I wasn’t too drunk to enjoy the rides and activities outside and won some inexpensive prizes at the shooting galleries.
Just one last thing, if you decide you want to go along and want to join in the festivities then don’t buy the cheap ass nasty costumes like we did. Seems like a good idea at the time but I felt like I was disrespecting the traditionally dressed up men in leather lederhosen’s. We never actually had anyone say it was disrespectful or bad taste, but they just didn’t look quite right.