One of the most famous beer festivals in the world, Oktoberfest is one that is not to be missed if you are in Munich between mid-September and early October. This spectacular event is not just beer lovers, but a truly worth while experience for anyone looking to witness an awesome German cultural event.
The well-known saying amongst Oktoberfest goers is that once Oktoberfest arrives, the rain arrives. The rain began the night before the opening ceremony and continued throughout the day along with very chilly temperatures. Ponchos are 5 euros each and many visitors kept their traditional German costumes in the closet in lieu of the weather. Bring rain gear and warm clothes to stay on the safe side.
The tents are not exactly what you may think of if you have not been to Oktoberfest before. The “tents” are actually large and study temporary wooden buildings, not some flimsy tent that you try to get under if the rain pours down too much. If you want a reservation, reservations must be made in advance and are only available for groups of 10 or more. If you are a group less than 10, then best of luck. It is certainly not impossible to find a seat with strangers (or new friends!) in the free-for-all/singles section, but you will need to be friendly and personable to convince others to let you squeeze in with them. Some tents are more popular than others such as Schottenhamel, (where the mayor taps the keg at noon on opening day) or Hofbräu, but there are still chances to squeeze in at all the tents.
The rule is that you can only be served beer if you are sitting down at a table inside of a tent. However, there are someways to get around this. Sometimes the waitresses/waiters will come outside to those waiting in line to get into a full tent and will help out by serving beer while you are waiting outside (Hofbräu is known for this type of generosity). Inside, as long as you are standing near enough to a table and can point to an empty seat (or just the edge of a bench) and say that is yours, then they will serve you. Unfortunately, beer can only be found in (and maybe around) the tents. No beer is sold by any of the food or souvenir vendors.
With terrorism continuously present in our everyday lives, my worries about an attack were very much present when planning my trip to Oktoberfest. Thankfully, I was able to remain safe during my time there. Backpacks and (to my personal dismay) large purses are not permitted inside. If you bring a backpack or large purse, you must check it across the street for 5 euros. The security staff checked all bags whenever anyone entered into the festival and also every time anyone entered a tent. The security was excellent. I never felt violated or frustrated, but felt continuously safe.
There are plenty of food options available throughout the festival. Inside the tents, unless you are sitting at a reserved table, your best luck inside is an oversized Bavarian pretzel. Get outside into the festival to smell the roasting nuts and find the greater array of food options.
Every tent (at least on opening day) had their own live music band. While they play the short German song that everyone is supposed to drink to when they hear it about every 2 minutes, they also play great music in between including classic American songs like “Sweet Caroline”.
Where to Stay
Utilizing the S-Bahn is the best way to get around Munich. The Schusterhäul Inn was the perfect hostel stay for me. Easily bookable through Hostel World, the inn is located near the Germering-Unterpfaffenhofen station and beautifully situated in nearby forest for a true Bavarian-feeling experience. The inn was clean and secure and the staff was extremely helpful and kind.
Oktoberfest is an experience that many people want to check off their bucket list and it’s truly one not to be missed. Buy the traditional German costumes (dirndl dress for women and lederhosen for me) go with a group of friends, eat, drink and be merry at this exciting and spectacular German event.
Article by Megan K. Lethbridge
October 10, 2016