As I am a girl from Munich, you would probably expect me to go to the Oktoberfest every year. And I won’t deny it – it’s true. I love going to the Oktoberfest or, as it is known in Bavaria, the Wiesn.
But now I’m studying here as a Visiting Student – meaning that for the first time in ages I won’t be able to attend the Wiesn. This year it takes place from September 22nd until October 7th – a really busy time for me. I write this article to prevent myself from experiencing any kind of withdrawal symptoms and bring attention to an area of interest both for us Bavarians and the less established.
Yes, the Oktoberfest is horribly crowded; there are definitely too many drunk people and everything is way too expensive. Besides, most Dirndl* are too tight to be called comfortable and the traditional Haferlschuhe are supposed to be the most painful shoes a boy can wear.
So what is it about the Wiesn that keeps attracting the crowds?
I believe the answer is hard to put into a few adjectives, and probably impossible to give in a completely objective way. Therefore, all I can do is to describe the Oktoberfest the way I experience it.
The first thing I do is hold my breath and squeeze into my Dirndl. As I said earlier, it’s not exactly comfortable, but I would never go without it.
There so many different kinds of these traditional Bavarian dresses, with the most characteristic commonality (besides the fact that they are all very pretty) is probably the apron. Tying it properly requires insider knowledge: doing the bow on the left means that you’re single, doing it on the right means you’re taken.
The most common and easiest way to get to the Theresienwiese, where the Oktoberfest takes place, is taking the “U-Bahn”, the Munich underground. Stepping out of the underground station onto the Oktoberfest is always impressive:
The Theresienwiese, most of the year just a huge empty square, is transformed into the biggest people’s fair in the world. It is full of fairground rides, beer tents and stalls selling Lebkuchenherzen.
What I usually enjoy the most is the fairground rides. One of the most popular is the Olympia Looping, the biggest mobile rollercoaster in the world. Its shape depicts the five Olympic rings; if you are a fan of loops you should definitely check it out.
Another famous attraction is the merry-go-round Alex Airport which, with a height of 55 metres provides a great view over Munich. The 50-metre high Ferris wheel, though, is an absolute classic.
Of course, there are also plenty of options who prefer to stay on solid ground. There are lots of fun houses, raffles and shooting ranges. Besides, it is also really nice just strolling around and enjoying the atmosphere: The music ranges from traditional Bavarian folklore to pop, while there are numerous food trucks where you can buy pretzels in addition to all sorts of eccentric characters.
The next and final stop: a beer tent. Arguably the most popular attraction within Oktoberfest – and for good reason. It’s worth paying a visit, but make sure to do it during the week, otherwise it will be almost impossible to find free tables unless if you queue up from early morning.
One’s first time inside a beer tent on the Oktoberfest is certainly intimidating. There will be noise, there will be crowds, and there certainly will be people dancing on the benches (not too seldom falling off them) with beer mugs in hand.
It is also likely that there will be a live band playing music that you normally wouldn’t like. Trust me, though, as soon as you are standing on a bench yourself, you will literally have a different point of view.
Obviously, most people in the tents drink beer and it’s definitely worth a try – but be aware of the fact that Oktoberfest beer with about 6% alcohol is more highly concentrated than the normal German beers.
If you prefer enjoying a typical Bavarian meal and chatting over dancing and singing along to German folklore that’s also fine – just visit a beer tent around midday and during the week. Personally, I prefer to go there in the evenings – it’s just so much fun.
Time to go, I’m afraid. Let’s hurry up and catch the last underground home. I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I am already half-asleep – having a good time can be exhausting. Don’t you think?
*Dirndl = traditional feminine dress