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Oktoberfest in Munich - Prost!

Image Title: Dressed to Party Bavarian Style in [chafing] Lederhosen and Dirndl. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Dressed to Party Bavarian Style in [chafing] Lederhosen and Dirndl. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Image Title: An authentic St. Pauli Girl at the Pauliner Beer Tent. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
An authentic St. Pauli Girl at the Pauliner Beer Tent. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Image Title: Inside the Pauliner Beer Tent during a sing-a-long. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Inside the Pauliner Beer Tent during a sing-a-long. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Image Title: The Wiesn from the Ferris Wheel. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
The Wiesn from the Ferris Wheel. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Image Title: A beer Wagon headed to the Lownebrau Beer Tent. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
A beer Wagon headed to the Lownebrau Beer Tent. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Image Title: GIngerbread Hearts with Oktoberfest Messages. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
GIngerbread Hearts with Oktoberfest Messages. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

Oktoberferst in Munich is one of the world’s biggest and longest running parties. With an annual attendance of well over five million people and nearly eight million liters (2.1Mgal) of beer consumed, it's hard not to have a good time. Getting to Munich is quite simple with international flights arriving hourly at Germany’s 2nd busiest airport and even more trains, buses, and private cars pouring into the city the last three weeks of September. That’s right, September.  Oktoberfest was started in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (who reportedly came with HUGE tracts of land). In America the annual festival has morphed into a celebration over an early weekend in October because it seems like a good theme for a fall party.

Once in Munich, you emerge out of the central train station in downtown Munch, just a few blocks from the Oktoberfest Fair Grounds, called the Wiesn. The city has taken to stenciling large arrows on the sidewalks pointing the way to the Wiesn. There are plenty of hotels within walking distance of the Wiesn, but as you might imagine, they book up quickly, particularly on the weekends. We stayed at the Adigio Muenchen City and found it to be clean and reasonably priced at €150 euro/night. It also had the bonus of being on the main street for the (not one, but two) opening ceremony parades.  Parade No. 1 on the opening Saturday lasts about an hour and showcased all of the host breweries, each with a team of eight draft horses pulling Keg Wagons followed by their own Umpah Bands and traditional Bavarian costumes and dancers, aka. more Lederhosen and Dirndls. As the beer wagons and bands and dancers file into the Wiesn, the Mayor ceremonially taps the first keg and the wild rumpus begins three weeks of international frat party.  Parade No. 2 on Sunday involves the same beer wagons making another pass but this time in addition to the Umpah Bands, there are a lot more children and civic groups marching in cute costumes for about two-and-half hours.

As you make your way from the central train station to the Wiesn, everywhere you look you see vendors selling Oktoberfest trinkets and there are literally dozens of Lederhozen and Dirndl shops that take over temporary shop space to make sure that everyone looks the part. There is a whole economy set up around selling Lederhozen and Dirndls around Oktoberfest. In the local department stores, you can find high-quality, authentic garments for between €300 to €500 euro.  Or you can find pop-up stalls in the street selling Chinese Lederhozen made of questionable “Leather” for €20 Euro. You can even find Used Lederhosen and Dirndls in some shops and can sell them back after you are done. We opted to go into a temporary store that advertised, “Gentlemen, Complete – €99 euro” which consisted of real leather (read: it chafes) Lederhosen, a traditional red or blue checkered shirt, and wool socks. Another €20 euoro bought a green Tyrolian hat with a pheasant feather. Pro-Tip No. 1: Once in the Wiesn, be sure to get an Oktoberfest pin for your new Tyrolian hat. The “Ladies, Complete – €50 euro” basically bought a Dirndl with a blouse that adjusts for cleavage and an apron. Ladies should be sure to get the correct instructions on how to tie their apron – Right Side means Taken; Left Side means Available; Back means Widowed; Middle means Child.  About two-thirds of the people inside the tents were dressed to party in Lederhosen and Dirndls. ALL the people dressed to party were having a REALLY GOOD TIME. Pro-Tip No. 2: You should also make a point of getting one of the traditional gingerbread hearts with an Oktoberfest message. This charming gingerbread tradition started with the first Oktoberfest in 1810 to celebrate Ludwig and Therese's marriage.

The Wiesn itself is like any State Fairgrounds in the US, with carnival rides like a rollercoaster, fun house, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris Wheel, and all the other usual suspects. The difference is the Wiesn also has beer tents. These “Tents” are permanent structures, many of them with two-stories, that hold 8,000 people at a time seated at long picnic tables. That means 8,000 new BFF's all lushing about hoisting liter mugs of beer, screaming "Prost!" with strangers, and singing along with the best 80’s cover bands they have ever heard. It’s really quite a party.  Getting into the tents is free, but finding a seat is not trivial. Locals are able to get reserved seats and times for free and then buy beer and dinner tickets. For €150 Euro each, we were able to purchase two reservations that included two, one-liter beers and dinner for each of us – there may have been a small handling fee markup between the beer tent and the nice people who sold us our reservations. Regardless, it was totally worth it.  From our table you could look over a sea of checkered shirts and bare shoulders arm-in-arm standing on tables in one giant drunken sing-a-long after another for the whole night. For the record, one of us only drank four beers the entire evening.

        [Pause for a blurry exit from the tent and miraculous stumble back to the hotel]

The next morning was passed nursing a Class 5 hangover while watching the Parade No. 2 Beer Wagons and Umpah Bands go by the hotel.  We were fortunate to have only booked one night in the beer tent because two nights may have done permanent damage. Oktoberfest in Munich definitely lived up to the hype and delivered a world-class festival that everyone should attend at least once.

Phil & Diane