Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

8 Ways to Rock Oktoberfest if You Aren't Into Beer

Munich Music + Nightlife Food + Drink Festivals
by Barbara Litzlfellner Sep 7, 2016

First, do your research or there might be no Oktoberfest.

When you come to Munich in October and want to visit Oktoberfest, the likelihood you made a lot of effort for nothing is high. Most of Oktoberfest actually occurs in September. The festival’s finale falls on the first weekend in October, and it only runs for two weeks.

Bavarians are famous for beer, not exactly efficiency and logic.

Realize that all is fair in love, war and on the Devil’s wheel.

Have fun on one of the oldest attractions at Oktoberfest. Sit with a bunch of strangers crowded together on a polished wooden disc, which is shaped like a shallow cone. Try your hardest to be the last person remaining on it while it spins quicker and quicker and people start slipping off the wheel, crashing into the surrounding buffers. Friends turn to mortal enemies within seconds. Evil carnival workers throw huge balls at you to distract you from their real aim: pulling you off the disc with lassos. The only thing that counts now is to be the last one, the lone survivor, and you will not want to leave this place till you’ve made it at least once.

Give your heart to your loved one for dessert. Literally.

Gingerbread hearts are as unavoidable on Oktoberfest as beer and Grillhendl. Sold all over the place in various sizes (the biggest one is 60cm), they are decorated with colored icing and usually a short text. Depending on the heart’s size you can get a “Spatzl” (which translates as “darling”), a simple “I love you,” or several more complicated Bavarian declarations of love which cannot be translated without losing their charm entirely.

But be careful – Bavarian language is famous for a very broad spectrum of curse words and offensive language, and where to better place them than on a sweet gingerbread heart? So before you buy “Schleich Di” (“get lost” would be an innocent translation) for your girlfriend, you better ask the vendor for a consultation.

Buy a Tracht, but chose a proper one.

During Oktoberfest the average cosmopolitan Bavarian rediscovers his or her national heritage and digs out traditional garb from the depths of a wardrobe. Men wear Lederhosn (leather pants), women dress up in theirDirndls. If you want to assimilate, no problem: a couple of weeks before Oktoberfest, dozens of temporary shops for cheap Dirndl pop up all over Munich. But please, do me and everybody else with an appreciation for tradition a favor: do not even think about getting a pair of the leather shorts resembling hot pants that are often marketed to women. The same goes for short Dirndl or for Dirndl in neon colors with so many sequins that the vampires from Twilight would look inconspicuous next to you. Keep it simple, and remember: Dirndl are made to show your boobs, not your buttocks. Choose one that at least covers your knees. If you want to go authentic Bavarian it should even be covering your ankles.

Also, choose carefully where you tie the knot of your apron. If it’s on your right side, it signals that you are married. Knots on the left side are a call for attention, as they mark you ‘available’.

To the guys: there’s no cheap version of the traditional Bavarian Lederhosn. The price for a proper Lederhosn starts around 300€ and goes up to more than 1000€, so for a one-time visit to Oktoberfest you’d better stick to jeans and t-shirt.

Oachkatzlschwoaf – or ask a local to teach the Bavarian language basics.

You might have difficulties finding a real Bavarian on Oktoberfest between all the tourists and – even worse – Northern Germans, but when you finally cross paths with a local man, you can easily recognize him. Keep your eyes open for a manly beer belly, an impressive moustache and a giant Gamsbart on his hat (some clichés are just too good to not to be true). Ask him to teach you the most important Bavarian words for your visit on Oktoberfest: Grillhendl, Brezn, Obazda, Oachkatzlschwoaf. and most importantly: Wiesn. This is how the locals affectionately call Oktoberfest.

Use your new language skills to get a traditional Wiesn lunch.

Try to get the attention of one of the beer tent waitresses, who ignore you with Bavarian Wiesn-grumpiness. Here is the time when all your hard work of learning Bavarian words pays off: order a Grillhendl, some Obadzdn and a giant Brezn. In case you are wondering what you’ve just ordered, don’t worry, it’s just a harmless roasted chicken, some traditional creamy Bavarian spread made of Camembert, onion, pepper and several other spices, and a giant 35cm pretzel.

You want to know what Oachkatzlschwoaf means? Ask your lucky waitress.

People watch in front of Toboggan.

Toboggan is a 20m high tower you climb up to slide down a 40m helter-skelter. Sounds simple, right? Now to the fun part: to get to the top of the tower, you have to use a conveyor-belt over 30m long, which is operated at an extremely high speed and goes uphill. Even for a sober person, it is quite a challenge not to stumble, fall, and land very ungraciously. The later the day, the drunker the visitors, and the more fun you will have watching them.

But do not worry; there are several professionals who continuously watch over the brave individuals who give it a try, and offer help to conquer the conveyor-belt as needed. The only thing that seriously gets hurt from time to time is some people’s pride.

Indulge in chocolate, candy and fish.

No matter where you walk, you can’t escape the sweet smell of freshly sugared almonds, hazelnuts and cashews. Every few meters you pass by a shop where huge piles of temptation are calling your name, begging you to buy at least one package of each sort. Allergic to nuts? Go for the pure sugar sin and get some cotton candy. Healthy food? Choose from the huge supply of chocolate coated apples, strawberries, grapes and bananas. Then, treat yourself to sweet waffles with sour cherries and cream, covered with a thin layer of powdered sugar. Those without a sweet tooth should head to the main street and get a fish sandwich with herring and onions. And then? Do it all again.

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