MUNICH’S OKTOBERFEST originated in 1810 as a horse race to celebrate the royal wedding. But everyone apparently enjoyed the drinking a lot more than the horse racing and had such a great time they decided to do it all again the following year.
The horse race is now part of history, but the beer certainly isn’t. Oktoberfest is officially the world’s biggest party, drawing about 7 million visitors a year to southern Germany. The action takes place on Munich’s fairgrounds, called the Wiesn, southwest of the city’s main train station.
When to go
Oktoberfest 2013 is currently underway and finishes on Sunday, October 6. There’s often a mad rush to find a seat before the beer starts flowing at 10am (9am on weekends). There’s a parade on the second day and a gay party on the first Sunday. Weekdays are much quieter than weekends, especially around lunchtime.
Which tent to pick
Most of the drinking is done in the 14 big beer tents — actually big wooden halls. You can reserve tables through oktoberfest.de, but most sell out months in advance.
The festivities officially start in the Schottenhamel tent and often reach their rowdiest in the Hacker (Haven of Bavaria). The bright red Hippodrom tent near the main entrance can’t be missed: It’s the place to see and be seen among Munich’s hipper, younger, set.
The Hofbru tent is famed for pulling far more tourists than locals; the Augustiner might be the best for Bavarian authenticity; and the Lowenbrau becomes a good option when everywhere else is full.
Where to stay
Munich’s Thalkirchen Camping Ground could be the cheapest place to stay, with tents available for just a few euros. There’s a small supermarket onsite, regular buses to the Wiesn, and a 24-hour party ambiance during Oktoberfest. It’s at Zentrall, 49, Munich.
A handful of good hostels sit just south of the main train station, about a 15-minute stagger back from the Wiesn. Check out Jaeger’s for its friendly bar, or the top-rated Wombat’s. Both are in Senefelder Strae.
What to wear
Practically anything goes, but for an extra layer of fun, consider kitting out like a local. For guys, a pair of Lederhosen leather shorts start from 120 euros.
For gals, a traditional Dirndl dress costs about 100 euros. Tip: When worn correctly, Dirndls also reveal the wearer’s availability. Look just above the apron: If there’s a bow on the right, she’s taken. A bow on the left means she’s still to be had, and a bow bang on the front marks a virgin.
What to eat and drink
Beer!? The amber fluid is served exclusively in one-litre glass mugs, called Ma (mass), that cost about 8 euros. The beer is slowly brewed through the summer and packs a 6% alcoholic punch. For a change, try the beery-lemonade mixture called Radler, or head out to the wine tent.
Food is everywhere. Popular picks are roast chicken (Hendl), pork knuckles (Schweinshaxe), and giant pretzels. The huge hearts hung around girls’ necks are made of gingerbread. For the daring there’s the ox (Osche).
What to say
- Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sitzen? (Darf ik mik zoo dear sit-zen?)
- One beer, please! Ein Ma, bitte! (Eyn mass, bit-tey!)
- Cheers! Prost! (Prawst!)
- Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of cows. Deine Augen sind so schn wie eine Weisen Tulpen. (Dine-ny ow-gen sind so schern vee eyen vee-sen tul-pen)
- Let’s go back to my tent for a coffee! Gehen wir mal zu meinem Zelt f?r einen Kaffee! (Gay-en veer mal zoo mine-em zelt fair eyn-en kaf-ey!)
- I need to chuck up. muss kotzen. (Ik moose kot-zen).
- I have a killer hangover. Ich habe so einen Katter. (Ik hab-ey so eyn-en kat-er).
***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***
* This post was originally published on September 16, 2008.
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Stuart Anderson left his home country of Australia in 2005 for a life of travel. He's never looked back since.