Yesterday officially marked the end of Oktoberfest, so in honor of the end of the festival, I wanted to share the amazing 12 hours we had at Oktoberfest. Trying to really describe Oktoberfest can be difficult, and the only comparison Lexi and I came up with is that it’s like a game day tailgate, but on steroids. Our dad is also adamant about us using this platform to inform everyone (since we know literally everyone reads this blog) about what Oktoberfest really is. (also – sorry for the lack of quality photos, we only took our phones. expensive cameras + liters of beer probably isn’t the best combo)
Before my parents moved to Frankfurt, I, along with probably the rest of the states, envisioned Oktoberfest as this giant party that takes over the entire country of Germany. But, it started in September? Whatever, I guess Septemberfest didn’t really sound as cool. We definitely celebrated September/Oktoberfest in the states, too, by eating hotdogs and drinking Coors Light…because, brats and beers, amiright?
So wrong…so, so wrong. Oktoberfest is a Bavarian tradition and is actually only truly celebrated in Munich, which is the capital of Bavaria (southernmost state of Germany). Oktoberfest first took place in Munich in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig (later became King Ludwig I), and the citizens were invited to attend the event, which took place in front of the city gates. The end of the event was celebrated with horse races, and the decision to continue these horse races each year is what helped continue Oktoberfest. As the years went on, agricultural shows were included, carnival booths were added, and it was officially decided that Oktoberfest would become an annual event. This also meant lengthening the event, and pushing the date forward, because September brought longer, warmer days.
Fast forward to 2014, and Oktoberfest is one of the most popular international festivals, bringing in annually over 6 million people, dressed in lederhosen and dirndls, sloshing liter-sized beers around. The event kicks off with the mayor of Munich tapping the ceremonial first keg, and the beer continues to flow for two weeks. There are carnival rides and prize booths, but the best part of Oktoberfest is inside the beer tents.
There are 14 tents in total that line the fair grounds, and they are actually quite spectacular. Inside the tents are packed family-style picnic tables, live bands, food…and beer. Only six Munich breweries that meet strict brewing standards are allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest: Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. The majority of people order a liter-sized beer, or a “mass,” and they all range from about 9-10 Euro each. If you are in a specific tent, for example, Hofbräu, then you will only get that brewery’s beer. But, they’re all delicious, and at some point they all begin to taste the same, so don’t worry.
Getting into the tents is the only tricky part. If you want a table inside, especially one of the larger tents, such as Hofbräu or Löwenbräu, then you will have to make reservations WAY in advance. Also, if you haven’t been to one of the larger tents in the past, it might not be possible to get reservations no matter how far in advance you try. I suggest looking at the Oktoberfest website, and reading their instructions on how to contact each tent to make reservations. The majority of times, you will have to buy food and drink tickets for 10 people, so if you’re going with a larger group and especially if you’re going on a weekend, a reservation is the best way to go.
However, my family and I went on a Monday, decided to wing it, and it worked out perfectly. We lucked out and the weather was perfect – sunny and in the 70s. The tents do have biergartens, and when the weather is nice, it’s sort of a first-come-first-serve scenario. So, we started walking down the fairgrounds around noon in our dirndls (minus our Dad) and stopped in the first tent we saw, Löwenbräu, and there was plenty of open seating. After one beer there, we decided to continue to walk around and see if we could get into any of the other tents. We visited quite a few, and Hofbräu was by far the most crowded, which was expected, but we still got a seat outside.
After dinner, my parents decided to call it quits, but Lexi and I wanted to stay longer, and are so glad we did. We popped back into a tent and it was alive with music, dancing, and people yelling “prost!” All in all, we had an incredibly fun time at Oktoberfest, from our first beer to our last. We met people from all over the world – a South African couple (who asked us to hold their baby – sure), Italians, Texans, quite a few Australians (we tried to teach some how to two-step, we failed), and of course, a lot of Germans.
If you can swing it, I truly think Oktoberfest is worth the trip – just try to plan ahead a little. We stayed at a hotel that was about 15 minutes by metro to the fairgrounds, but there are plenty of places to stay – people also camp along the fairgrounds too, if you feel like going that route. If you go on the weekend, we were told the tents get packed very early, so try and make a tent reservation. If you go on a weekday and you don’t have a reservation, you’ll probably have more luck finding open seating, especially if the weather is nice. The tents got really crowded in the mid-late afternoon, so go before that to ensure a spot.
Oh, you also have to wear a lederhosen if you’re a guy or a dirndl if you’re a girl. I mean, you don’t really have to, but it makes things so much more fun, and then you’re set on a Halloween outfit for the next few years.