Image by Bill Townsend
IT’S the world’s largest beer festival – famous for enormous steins, buxom Bavarian waitresses and throngs of paralytic tourists. Oktoberfest is a must-attend event, whether you’re a beer aficionado or just enjoy fancy dress. Planning your trip is one thing, planning how you’ll survive it is entirely another. These tips will get you through, however nothing will save you from the heinous hangover that will follow.
Get in to character
Nothing says you’re serious about drinking beer than a rocking up to Oktoberfest in a traditional Bavarian costume. Buy a dirndl (dress) or lederhosen (pants) in advance from an array of online stores. The complete outfit will cost you upwards of €100 but the investment guarantees you will feel part of the action and be made welcome by the locals. Buy a cheap nasty costume off eBay and you’ll be laughed out of the festival. They’re tacky and scream ‘tourist’. If you can’t afford the duds then opt for jeans and a checkered shirt.
With six million people expected to converge on Munich, you should prepare for big crowds, long lines, and plenty of waiting. If you haven’t pre-booked a table in a beer tent then make sure you get on the queue bright and early in the morning if you plan to spend the day drinking or arrive mid afternoon if you want to join the rowdy evening festivities. When a space opens up it’s every man for himself, as you must be seated to be served. No seat means no beer and no beer at Oktoberfest would be a travesty. Once you are planted on a bench, hold on to it for dear life.
Prepare to spend
At around €8, a stein is not cheap and though they are huge, a very long day of drinking quickly adds up. Don’t expect or demand change from a tenner – failing to tip your waitress will make it very hard for you to be served again. Pretzels are a cheap way to balance out the booze but it will be hard to resist the delicious traditional fare on offer. It’s a meat lover’s paradise. Bring enough money to avoid having to leave your seat to find a cash machine, but make sure you’re watchful of your purse or pockets.
Whether you’re a beer beginner or a seasoned drinker, chances are you’ve never drunk quite like this. Settle in for the long haul and take your time drinking while you enjoy all the action going on around you. Ladies might prefer to try a Radler, a mix of beer and lemonade, while blokes will heed no advice and end up face down in the gutter outside.
Make up or break up
Attending Oktoberfest with your significant other is more than likely to end in tears, and vomit. If there are niggling issues between you, sort them out beforehand or risk being at each other’s throats several steins later, then drowning your sorrows in even more beer. The spectacle will provide great entertainment for those around you but it will make the ensuing hangover all the worse.
Mix with the locals
You’ve arrived dressed to impress and, if you’ve taken the previous advice, single – so mingle! Bench seating at most of the tents allows you to get up close and personal with the neighbouring Bavarian lasses and lads. Just don’t forget; you’ll have your beer goggles on!
Respect the tradition
Though the busty Bavarian waitresses may seem flirtatious, keep in mind they’re working for tips. Get a souvenir photo that will be the envy of your mates back home but keep your hands off – the ladies truly are not interested. As for aggressive or overly boisterous behaviour, it will guarantee you a quick departure from the seat you have carefully guarded for hours. Whether you’re on the way out by choice or force, ensure a stein isn’t still hooked on your arm. Thieves can be fined up to €50 for each glass they’re caught with. If you’re mad enough to want to re-live the beer drinking experience at home, buy a stein from one of the many souvenir stands.
Do more than drink
Oktoberfest isn’t just about beer, though let’s be honest, hard drinking is what we’re all going for. Outside the tents you’ll find plenty of entertainment, stalls and rides – venture onboard at risk of disembarking covered in beery vomit (yours or that of fellow passengers). As a city, Munich has plenty more to offer. Take a walking tour to learn about local history or venture further afield to witness the Dachau Concentration Camp or Neuschwanstein Castle.
Don’t arrive in October
Oktoberfest is not, as the name suggests, entirely in October. Each year it runs for the 16 days leading up to the first Sunday in October, which makes it more like ‘Septemberfest’ – but who is going to argue with ze Germans?!