Our trip to Europe was planned in advance, but I am thankful we had some buffer days for unplanned events.
This allowed us the unbelievable experience of the one and only Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest public festival. It is held annually in Munich, running 16 days from mid or late September to the first weekend in October, with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often simply called the Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese).
Many of the local people we spoke to don’t go to Oktoberfest. After all, it usually involves standing in line, maneuvering around thousands of people, and paying a lot of money to get a reserved table, buy beer, and enjoy the food. In fact, there is usually a line up outside the grounds, sometimes up to two hours. When the main gates open at 10 a.m., people run to the tent they want to enjoy. There are usually lineups at the tents as well.
We decided we wanted to go, and our host in Oberstdorf was willing to share the experience with us. Ron had been several times, but I had never even thought about attending. Once we found out it was on, and we were close enough to visit, we took the opportunity to go. And I am so glad we did.
First off, we left a rainy day in Oberstdorf so we likely would not have done much anyway. Secondly, we were able to get a direct train to and from Munich, so we had a relaxing ride in and back. It was over two hours each way but was an enjoyable ride. And finally, because the day was cool and rainy in Munich, we avoided crowds and lineups and were able to get everywhere we wanted, and find a table for the day. We did not experience the frustrations and delays of too many people – although to be clear, there were many people in attendance. On a weekend, or a hot day, it would simply be many more.
Words and pictures don’t really convey the atmosphere and setup of Oktoberfest. The grounds are huge. There are rides, carnival games, food stations, souvenir sales, and the massive beer tents that make Oktoberfest famous. Each beer company has a tent, and inside are rows and rows of tables, box seating that can be rented, a band in the centre playing “oom-pah-pah” music all day long, food, and of course the massive mugs of beer – 1 litre each! Just watching the servers carry up to seven in each hand is entertainment. According to Wikipedia, 7.7 million litres of beer were served in 2013.
Many German people own the traditional clothing of lederhosen for men and dirndl dresses for women. However, many tourists purchase (or rent) the traditional German dress, just to wear to Oktoberfest. We only had to follow the people dressed up to know we were headed in the right direction.
Once we walked around the grounds, we found the tent we were looking for, and went in to enjoy our afternoon. We had beer, of course, and lunch of bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnitzel and a traditional egg and potato dish. We enjoyed the German music and the band’s many chants of prost!
We met people from around the world, and across Germany. In late afternoon, everyone has to leave the tents, so that new people can come in and experience the second “shift” of Oktoberfest. It was back to the train and home safely for us, after a once-in-a-lifetime experience.