Imagine the world’s largest fair. Now imagine it again, only this time, with lots and lots of beer. The idea is not a mirage but manifests itself in the form of a 16-day festival called the “Oktoberfest” held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. The world’s biggest beer festival, Oktoberfest is an orgy of drinking, eating and singing. Rowdy, raucous and raunchy, Oktoberfest is simply surreal and what better way to explore every crazy aspect of this festival than coming on a trip to Germany with RLT.
Mugs and Steins overflowing with frothy German Beer, long haired barmaids wearing traditional bust-popping dirndl balancing ten or more beer mugs full to the brim, this festival is an out-of-body experience which we at RLT would love to share with you. Held since 1810 during late September to the first week of October, the Oktoberfest attracts almost 6 million tourists each year. The festival has gained prominence with each passing year, so much so, that today, several cities across the world organize “Oktoberfest celebrations” on the lines of the original Munich festival.
Sort of like a crazy gathering of hedonists, both Bavarians and tourists stagger together in Oktoberfest to drink tons of beer while singing the familiar German drinking song, “Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!.” Head-spinning, dizzying, vomit-inducing rides welcome you into the grounds. Next, the cacophony of accordions, horned instrument and overly boisterous cheering of electrified drunken crowd pierce your ears, making you wonder if it’s a festival or a city-wide riot. We at RLT would be more than happy to share this awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience with you. Only beer containing a minimum of 6% alcohol content and brewed within Munich can be served in the festival. With almost 6,940,600 litres of beer flowing in the festival, many unable to digest the copious amounts of beer often pass out and are called “Bierleichen” meaning “Beer corpses” in the German language.
It all began on a joyous day October Day in the year 1810 when the Crown prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, the fairy tale king’s grandfather married his bride, Princess Therese of Saxe-Hidburghausen. The wedding reception was such a big hit that it materialized into a weeklong party and an annual celebration which now attracts some six million visitors from all over the world. Today the fest could be called a September fest because it has been moved up a year to take advantage of the better weather.
To figure out the formula for future Oktoberfest dates is easy. The fest always finishes on the first Sunday in October. A holiday always follows on the following Monday or Tuesday and then it wraps up on either day. It begins two weeks prior on the Saturday. This year’s Oktoberfest begins on Saturday, September 21 and ends on Sunday, October 6.
It takes two months for construction workers to transform the fairgrounds from its massive asphaltic expanse to a pulsating city of beer tents and roller coasters, and one month just to assemble everything. The Oktoberfest is held on the Theresienwiese, or Therese’s meadow, fairgrounds named in honour of Princess Therese although it’s usually abbreviated by Munich locals to Wiesn. It is located half a mile south-west of Munich’s main train station. Collectively the six million people who visit the fairgrounds during the two week events consume some six million litres of beer as well as four hundred thousand kilos of grilled chicken and two hundred thousand pair of sausages. Within the city limits of Munich, there are six breweries: Augustiner, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner. Primarily each brewery is represented on the fairgrounds by two tents. The word tent however is widely misleading since these massive structures are actually well constructed beer drinking halls that can accommodate up to 5000 people. The largest of these is the Oschsenbraterei tent serving Sparten beer to some ten thousand people.
Leading up to the official start of the event is the traditional Opening day parade which is known as the Festival of Innkeepers which begins in the city at 10 45 and finishes in front of the beer tents at 11 45. The parade is an hour long procession of horse drawn brewery wagons transporting the ceremonial first beer kegs to the grounds. Riding on these wagons are owners with their friends, family and staff dressed in traditional and provocative Dirndl or Lederhosen. Led by Münchner Kindl and the Major of Munich, Its route is from Sonnenstrasse via Schwanthalerstrasse to the Theresienwiese. Once the wagons arrive at the fairgrounds, the climax is not too far off.
At the stroke of 12 noon, the Mayor of Munich clobbers the very first keg of Oktoberfest beer with the traditional cry “”O`zapft is!” (“It is tapped!”), followed by a 12 gun salute, the official signal that beer can be served, precisely when determined barmaids begin the mad dash of carrying fiscals of frothy mugs to dry mouth patrons crying out for beer mugs like nesting chicks begging their mother for food. The prelude to the second day of the Oktoberfest is another traditional parade but this one happens to be the largest, the most beautiful, historically rich, full costume parade in the world comprised of some sixty five hundred participants marching in four and a half a mile long spectacle through the city to the fairgrounds. The participants are members of different clubs from different parts of Germany and Europe, proudly displaying their regional colours. This is truly a spectacle not to be missed. Don’t forget your camera! Be there with RLT to celebrate the biggest party in the world.
All though there are more than one hundred thousand visitors everyday to be a part of this Oktoberfest, a trip here is an enjoyable, must-do experience for young and old, family and friends. This Year, come along on a Roads Less Travelled trip to Germany to experience this one crazy ride. Raise your stein and say “prost!” before knocking back a lager at Oktoberfest.