Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What NOT To Do at Oktoberfest

Opening weekend of the greatest beer festival in the world was last weekend and it seems everyone we know just got back or is on their way. We have been twice before, beginning and ending our year abroad in 2007-2008, but we didn't even talk about going this year. As amazing as the festival is, we are hesitant to make our way back.

Let's start with the amazing:

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest 2008

What to Love about Oktoberfest:

  • More than 6 million visitors from around the world descend on the beer tents of Munich to celebrate the 16-day Oktoberfest extravaganza. That's a lot of people ready for a good time.
  • Last year's visitors consumed almost 8 million mass of beer.
  • There are 14 diverse beer tents with seating for about 10,000 people that offer a taste of Munich's breweries (we are partial to Hacker-Pschorr and it's "Heaven over Bavaria" theme).
  • 500,000 chickens, 120 oxen and other delicious German bites are devoured in bulk.
  • The festival is a great excuse to buy Tracht - traditional Bavarian wear. Many Americans think
    Oktoberfest Munich
    this is what Germans wear all the time, and many Germans delight in telling Americans never. Both of these are not really true as a Berliner would never be caught in this style of leather pants, but some people in Germany really do wear elements of traditional clothing everyday. At Oktoberfest, outfits are on sale from the cheap & touristy tacky to the haute couture of German wear. We bought. We love. (My dirndl was about 45 euro & Ian's was about 140). 
  • Far from being all tourists, Oktoberfest is a great opportunity to mix with real life Germans! Card games are played and stories are exchanged.  If you approach with enthusiasm for the event and respect for the culture, it is a great place to meet strangers and be least for the day. I would also recommend avoiding the Hofbräuhaus tent as it is a tourist mecca. 

Obviously these are some pretty great reasons to attend the ultimate fest. Now for the What Not to Do, which we have kindly tested out for you. While we escaped with our lives, we could have managed the affairs much better.

The not so amazing Facts of Oktoberfest:

  • A Mass (liter of beer) costs 9.50 this year. That gets pricy fast. There is no way around this - just prepare for a little sticker shock.
  • Lodging is extremely difficult to find and pricy. Both years we planned last minute and we were able to find somewhere, but both were a little strange. You can almost always find cheap accommodation at “The Tent,” a hostel (well, really, a massive tent) outside the city for 40 Euros per night. We did it and while it was far from comfortable, it got the job done. Couchsurfing is an option if you plan in advance, but you must be extra courteous.
  • Even though the food is reasonably priced, we failed to eat anything either year. We were so full from the beer and drink has a way to muddle your thinking. There is absolutely no good reason for this and it definitely contributed to our uncontrolled drunkenness. If you want to eat on the cheap, get a meal in before and either pony up to a full meal at 12 -15 Euros, or step out of the tent for a snack (pretzel/wurst) for around 5 Euros.
  • Realize you don't need to stay all day. It's actually best to come early or (make reservations and go late), drink your beers, and be on your way. For us, it worked to get there before the tents begin to fill at noon, or at least before reservations kick in around 18:00. You get the experience of singing, prost-ing, and the crowds with little fuss. Note that without reservations you need to pick a tent and stick with it as seats fill up. If you must stay late, realize most of the tents close at 22:30 with the Kafer open until 1:00.Other people prefer to be organized, reserve a place, and arrive at peak evening time. Do what works for you.
  • Don't get lost! We lost each other at both festivals and it is stressful. Something about beer and wandering around a huge overpopulated fairgrounds. Make a plan so you always have a meeting point. Define exactly what table to meet at,  what tent, or what point of interest. 
  • Now down to the nitty-gritty. Don't get swept out when going to the bathroom! Yes - this happened to me (ebe). On my way back from the bathroom a group was literally getting forced out of the tent and I got swept out. Trying to make my way back in, reservations had kicked in and they weren't allowing me back in. I had to wait for Ian to realize I was missing and hope he exited with my bag (with camera & cell phone). It took about an hour
  • Hot tip: Cell phones accompany you everywhere for "I'm lost!" calls. 

Hopefully these tips help you find your bit of bliss within the madness of Oktoberfest and not falling asleep on the toilets (don't ask). Be safe out there kids.

More Tips from my posts on Germany Travel:

Oktoberfest 2008
Löwenbräu Tent 2007
Oktoberfest Löwenbräu
Löwenbräu Lion
Hacker-Pschorr Tent
Hacker-Pschorr Tent

If you've missed the event this year and are hankering for your next drink, here are the next best drinking festivals around the world.

Seattle lederhosen
Fremont Oktoberfest (Seattle)

Or more drinking stories from us!


Alex, Speaking Denglish said...

The bathrooms really just cause problems all around - sorry y'all got swept out!

My advice is to find an awesome table and stick with it - especially because the bands are better at night!

Unknown said...

Good call - bathrooms are trouble. No to bathrooms everyone!

Cheryl said...

I feel almost as if my visit to one night of the Oktoberfest in Berlin was enough. :)

Munich does sound pretty fun though! I love the pictures of you guys, so cute.

Kaitlin said...

We always reserve a table way in advance. This includes of course the table, but also 3 Maß, and a half of a chicken! This year we paid 36 Euro per person for all of that and thats pretty rad. GRANTED, this isn't at the Munich Oktoberfest but the one in Stuttgart which is, in my opinion a thousand times better and not swamped with tourists! :-)

Unknown said...

@Cheryl - our two trips have me perfectly sated on Munich Oktoberfest...for now :)

@Kaitlin BUT great suggestion! Maybe we just need to try another city's celebration. Berlin's is pretty lame, but I can see why you so enjoy Stuttgart's.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008