Culture: A Bad Tourist’s Guide to Oktoberfest

Expensive Tastes delves into one of the most important, if not the most important beer festival in the world, from the standpoint of our very own man in Munich…

I cannot even begin to describe the buzz and atmosphere at Oktoberfest, unless that video above is anything to go by. At 16 days-long, it is the world’s largest beer festival! In ginormous tents, roughly half the size of a football field, thousands drink, sing, and dance – all to live music, which really pumps up the drinking spirit.

It all started over 200 years ago when the then Prince Ludwig I married his wife Theresa; he held a festival for the citizens of Munich to celebrate their marriage on the meadow named after his wife, the Theresienwiese. But from humble beginnings, it is now a huge excuse for daylight drinking and just general outrageousness. And it is honestly so much fun!

The best way to describe the atmosphere is England winning a football game and directly afterwards, all the fans went into a massive tent to drink, where there just happens to be a German band, and ladies in dirndls (traditional costume that leaves little to the imagination in the chest department). It’s just crazy!

The whole festival takes place under the Bavaria

The whole festival takes place under the Bavaria, a statue in central Munich. It is described by some to be “a female personification of the Bavarian homeland, and by extension its strength and glory.”

To actually enter Oktoberfest is free, which was a happy surprise, and to enter the tents (all expect one) is also free! The drink and food – that’s where all your money goes! One stein costs €10.45. It is fairly big and can last a long time, but still a hefty sum. To buy anything to edible, you’re expected to cough up at least €15. Giant pretzels are also a cheaper alternative at only €5, but it’s no meal and still expensive for what it is. To add insult to injury,  to get a table can be a little bit of a showdown!

So the deal is, you can book a table almost a year in advance, or be a penny-pinching scrounger (like me) and just hope for the best on the day! I went to Oktoberfest a total of five times this year, each time just hoping for the best, and each time it was a success! To be super sure, I would suggest arriving early – about 3pm on weekdays and 12pm around the weekend! It sounds crazy early, but you will be amazed how quickly it goes. Oktoberfest is there to be enjoyed in the day, it’s not just a nighttime thing.

While some tents, like the Augenstiner, remain traditional, others like the one featured in the video, really liven up, leaving all the folk music behind for some rather cheesy tracks like The Village People, Neil Diamond, Tina Turner and Robbie Williams. I’m not actually sure what it is with Mr. Williams and the Germans but they are obsessed with his song “Angels”. It is the perfect song to sing while drunk, but I must have heard it a hundred times!

All of the tents, each of which represents a brand of beer, have unique and beautiful designs.

All of the tents, each of which represents a brand of beer, have unique and beautiful designs.

Moving between tents can be a bit of a challenge depending how full they are. Some days you can move between tents with ease, but on other days just leaving your tent means no return. On the weekend expect long queues and rowdy security with whistles, treating you like pigs in a sty. Luckily inside the tents they have everything you need, but make sure you pick the right one, because you will be lucky to see the inside of another!

Each tent belongs to a certain brand of beer, so naturally in that tent only that beer is on offer. This may be a major factor to some, but to me they taste pretty much the same (many readers will now want to shoot me…)

Another major thing about the festival is the people that attend. It is full of internationals, even with its own Italian weekend! It was surprising to see so many Americans and Australians at the fest that had come especially for the festival. And the most that I spoke to this was their third or fourth time visiting! If that doesn’t tell you it’s amazing, then nothing will.

For those not into the drinking, loud tents, and dancing, luckily there is a really fun fair too! Expectedly it is quite expensive at around €5 per ride, but one or two are okay, and they are really cool rides, a far cry from the repetitive English so-called “fun” fairs.

Finally, I would recommend the festival to everyone (apart from children, of course). Young and old sing together, drink together and just have a wild time! There is honestly nothing quite like it, and it’s one of the best experiences I have ever personally had.


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