Oktoberfest… what can I say? Imagine the craziest German beer hall you’ve ever been to and take the atmosphere and craziness and times it by a 1000 – that’s Oktoberfest! My brother and I had a great time and Oktoberfest in Munich (THE Oktoberfest) definitely lived up to our expectations.
My brother and I flew from London to Munich via Paris on Air France. We arrived in the early afternoon and tried to figure out the self-serve ticket machines to buy our tickets to go from the airport to the city. The machines were not intuitive at all – I was looking for a day travel ticket, but even the english screens didn’t make much sense. Luckily there was a desk where they sold tickets in person. Turns out they have a group travel pass for 3 days for a flat fee of ~€34 euros. Bought that and went to the U-Bahn (the Munich underground) and went to our hotel to check in.
Pretty much everybody in Munich spoke English and clocked us a foreigners as we walked in, although a few times we were mistaken for German – probably due to our German genetics ;). I knew some of the basics from high school German class, so communication was fine.
After we settled in the room, we headed out to Oktoberfest. for us this was only a few stops down to the Theresienwiese U-Bahn station – the main station for Oktoberfest. As we went along we started to see more and more men and women dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls.
The grounds are immediately out of the station and instantly you’re into a fair-like atmosphere. There are fairground rides all over and food vendors, etc. We wandered around, weaving through the crowds and settled on going into the Hofbräuhaus tent. Unbeknownst to us, this was pretty much one of the premier tents at Oktoberfest because Hofbräuhaus is the local brew. We totally lucked out…
We had to wait outside for about 30-40 mins, which in retrospect wasn’t too bad because we didn’t show up till late afternoon once all the tents were already full. I understand you have to go before noon to not have to wait. They have a system of waiting that isn’t exactly fair… you wait in line about 20 people wide by about 5-6 deep behind a line. Your goal is to get across the “no-mans land” area that separates the line from the outside tent area. During this process, many German security men shout at you continuously to move back.
One by one the barmaids will come up to request a few people to fill the spaces they have open on the tables. Generally this was always about 4-6 people they were requesting. As we waited we gathered that there was little chance only 2 people could make it in, so we decided to form an alliance with people next to us to make up larger numbers. Luckily a German guy named Matthew hooked up with us. The next time they needed a few people, Matthew got us in! Boom! We were on our way!
We were seated in an outside table and already stuff was getting crazy. After crawling over a group of guys from Lyon in France we found our spot and ordered our first liters of beer. Turns out our new buddy Matthew was a pretty cool guy. He spoke excellent English and we had a good old chat. We also talked in broken english to our new buddies from Lyon (generally, everybody becomes your new buddy – in a good way!). In the table behind us there was a group of people from Wisconsin! (My brother and I are from Wisconsin). More buddies! The weather was cool, but pleasant.
Inside the tent was great. It was huge and there was a band playing and the whole place was up on the table benches singing along and drinking beer. We somehow found a good spot on a bench near some Australian group, an Iraqi guy and a group from Liverpool. People were falling all over and somehow nobody got hurt.
The waiters and waitresses brought around beer to sell. Thinking back it was amazing how they carried like 6 liters of beer without dropping a single drop, even with everybody bumping into each other. They would also float along with huge trays of food over the crowd’s heads. Never once did I see a spill or any breakage the two nights I was there – totally defying physics.
The band would play a lot of American songs everybody would sing along to, in addition to some traditional songs. In between they would add a filler “Ein Prosit” (something you need to learn the lyrics to before you go) or “Zicke zacke zicke zacke” and the crowd responds “hoi! hoi! hoi!”.
The tent closed at 11 and we headed out to find some food – something we neglected to do while we were drinking. We had a brat, potato wedges and a soda, which tasted good.
The next day we decided to fit in some culture. So we went to downtown Munich via the U-Bahn and walked down to the Marienplatz and watched the clock tower show the Glockenspiel then we went over to St Peter’s church to climb the tower which looks out over the city. Funny thing when we came down the tower, then we ran into the same group from Wisconsin we saw the night before at Oktoberfest.
Next we went down to the Viktualienmarkt (market) and had a brat and big pretzel. Then we headed up to the English Gardens for a wonder, which was nice. We had a coffee and saw some surfers surfing under a bridge. After a meal of roast pork and a liter of beer, I bought some Bayern Munich shirts for the kids. Then we went back to the hotel for a well deserved nap.
That night we went back to Oktoberfest relatively late for a “couple of quiet ones.” We ended up at the Pschorr-Bräurosl tent and somehow weaved our way in past the outside line to join the inside line. In the tent it was okay… the decor was very dated – in a bad way, like wood paneling and sort of dingy decorations. I would say it was a rougher crowd and the band wasn’t as good. All in all, not horrible though. After a few liters of beer the tent closed and we went on a fair ride for fun. I bought some sugar coated macadamia nuts and we ate another brat.
Back to the hotel for a small beer and off to bed. The next morning we woke up and headed straight to the airport for the uneventful trip back to London.
Travel from the airport is on either U-Bahn line S1 or S8. They both take about an hour to get to the town center. One goes approaches from the east and the other the west. 3 day tickets can be bought from the airport desk near the station entrance in the terminal. They validate the tickets at the desk, then you don’t have to deal with it again. We were never checked for tickets the entire time we were in Munich. I also understand that the U-Bahn runs late on the weekends, like till 2:30 AM, but less frequently (like 20 min intervals instead of 10) after midnight.
For travelling around, we pretty much relied on google maps to tell us what lines to take and where to transfer. Generally was pretty easy because we were already on a fairly central line. Walking around central Munich wasn’t a problem either.
We stayed at Park Hotel Laim at Zschokkestr. 55 Munich BY 80686 Germany (020 3788 1841). Was quiet and no major problems. Was also nice to be “going against the grain” when leaving Oktoberfest.
U-Bahn stop is Friedenheimer Straße on the U5 line.
We ate a lot of pretzels, bratwurst (and various other ‘wursts), potato wedges. We had one bigger meal of roast pork/beef that was more traditional that was pretty good. Sneaked a tasty schnitzel at the airport. Plenty of good food options, especially at the main market.
What I learned
- Although it’s counterintuitive, it’s best to go in a group of 6+ people so you can book months ahead and get a table in the beer tents easier. Finding some nearby people to make up a group works pretty well, although you will need to sit next to them, so choose wisely.
- I thought that Lederhosen and Dirndls were a bit cheesy, but in the end I felt sorta out of place NOT wearing them. I’d say that if you go to Oktoberfest in Munich you should make the effort to get into the experience and find yourself the traditional dress somehow.
- We didn’t really eat in the beer tents beyond pretzels, mostly because eating after a certain time would be nearly impossible if people are standing on the tables. Consider eating your bigger meals earlier or outside of Oktoberfest.
- For men, going to the toilet was pretty quick and easy, women I gathered would have to think ahead a bit.
- Learn the words to “Ein Prosit” – http://www.oktoberfest-songs.com/ein-prosit-lyrics.html
- You can never eat too much bratwurst and pretzels!
Sorry for the longish post, ended up being longer than I intended.