Every year, Munich celebrates the 200 years old tradition known as Oktoberfest.
For 16 to 18 days, ending the first Sunday in October, over 6 million visitors visit the
Theresienwiese to drink about as many liters of beer.
I was one of this year's visitors, but I'm not sure how many liters I've had.
Suffice it to say I sure did my part to help skew those other numbers away from the 1 liter per person average.
1 liter, that's only 1 of those giant beer pitchers (they're called
Maß) and that was not enough to get me through the weekend!
There were 5 of us, all guys, and we had been looking forward to this for months! One of us had drawn the short straw and drove us for 10+ hours to Munich and back. The driving in and of itself was not the problem: I'm sure he was happy to have a comfortable seat while the rest of us fought over the remaining front seat. But it also meant he would have to be sober by Sunday morning, when we had to go back. I didn't envy him! But he's a responsible guy and stayed off the beer on Saturday night - but he did go all out on Friday night!
Ideally, you'd reserve a table in one of the 14 (big) beer tents. Those tents are enormous - some seat over 10 000 guests - but they fill up fast. Especially on weekends! And without a seat, you may not get served. You can either reserve a table in advance, or show up early in the morning to get a free seat.
And that's exactly what we did on Saturday, when we showed up somewhere between 9 and 10 in the morning - way too early for some, after last night's party. Except, we didn't actually score a table in any of the tents. Weather was perfect and we preferred to be outside.
The terrace filled up quickly and before we knew it, people from all over the world joined our table. And that's probably one of the best things about Oktoberfest: you can easily strike up a conversation with a total stranger from across the globe in no time, and all of them will be wearing the traditional lederhosen or dirndls.
The other best thing would undoubtedly have to be the beer. Sure, you could order a soda or water, but those 1 liter beer mugs are what you're here for, right? They'll set you back a good €10 each, but you'll get quality Bavarian beer (no others are allowed here) in an enormous pitcher that somehow manages to never let your beer get warm. But don't get too confident: if you find yourself puking all over the table, you'll be removed immediately and be asked to pay €30. Security is strict, as they should be at an event of this size.
But even if beer is not your thing or you can't score a table, you can have a great time. The Hofbräu Festzelt has a standing area and it's right in front of the live band - the perfect spot for a party. Or go outside on one of the 200+ carnival rides, get some rest on the grass, and maybe gat a bratwurst when you're feeling hungry - I was surprised by how tasty they were, nothing at all like our bland sausages.
The party stops somewhere between midnight and 1AM but depending on how inebriated you are, the street musicians on the way to the subway could prolong your party for another hour or so.