This surely needs no introduction! We’d wanted to visit the last two years, but life had got in the way, and we weren’t able to make it to Munich for Oktoberfest proper. Fortunately, we were able to take a few detours and change our schedule to be in Munich late September for Oktoberfest this time!
Backstory: Many years ago, while we were travelling around Australia, we’d met some Germans that were doing the same. We spent a bit of time together in Cairns (while our van, Deli-chan, was having the fuel pump rebuilt). They lived near Munich, so we’d always promised that we’d come and visit and go together. Sadly they’re not all living near Munich anymore, so it wasn’t a full reunion.
Our friend, Simon, had space for us to crash in his apartment just outside of Munich (in Rosenheim). It was late by the time we finally arrived (after spending copious amounts of time in Ars Electronica) from Austria. Even though all of us were exhausted from travelling (they’d just returned from Bulgaria), we were excited to catch up – which meant another late night.
We set alarms and woke early. Our bodies were resisting, but the hot shower did wonders. We were lucky to be loaned a pair of traditional clothes for the day – the leather pants weren’t the kinds of things I’d want to wear everyday, but I got used to them soon enough. We loaded up on breakfast, and caught the train in to Munich.
I was still sceptical that we needed to go to the festival so early, but I trusted their judgement and went along with the plan. There were a few others on the train wearing the traditional clothing, and slowly with each stop, more and more partygoers boarded the train. We arrived at the underground station, and there was now a full assortment of security and police guiding and monitoring the crowds making their way upstairs.
I’d heard all about the festival from my brothers, who visited many years ago. Still, I was amazed when we finally saw the enormity of it – and couldn’t believe how many rides were set up. We’ve been to the Oktoberfest in Brisbane (said to be one of the largest outside of Germany), as well as London, and they really don’t/can’t compare.
It was a little after 11AM by the time we’d arrived. Even though it was a Friday, I was still amazed at how many people were here and already drinking. There were still plenty of free tables, so we took the opportunity to have a quick walk through the grounds, and visit some of many beer halls here.
It was amazing to see all the people dressed up, too. I guess if we lived nearby, we’d probably have our own clothing, too. Oh, and we learnt that the location of a woman’s bow indicates whether or not they are looking for a man – whether or not any men actually look at it is another question entirely.
By the time we’d had our quick walk around, the free space in the tent had greatly diminished – and I am thankful that we didn’t wait much longer to come this morning!
We’d barely sat down before we were approached by a waitress, who came right back with four enormous glasses of beer – at a price of €11/L. Our friends said that the bar staff can make serious money over the festival – some in excess of €10,000! It looked like it took a toll on their bodies though, with all of them having some form of strapping or bracing on their wrists.
The beer was delicious, and went down far too quickly – and just as quickly to my head. To save an embarrassment of an early end to the day (and an exhaustion of my wallet), I slowed down a little. Each gulp felt like my entire face was being cupped by the enormous stein.
As much as we (I) loved the beer, we were also really looking forward to the food. We grabbed one of the enormous pork knuckles, as well as a ¼ duck and pork belly. Also, to try and soak up some of that alcohol, I grabbed a giant side of spatzl. It was incredible, if it didn’t look it. If I could eat it again now, I’d happily make space for it.
The band finally started playing in the small rotunda in the middle of the beer hall. It seemed that between each and every song, they sprung into a short drinking melody, ‘Ein prost!’ which always ended with cheering – and drinking.
Throughout the day, people would climb up onto the tables and attempt to finish a beer in one go. Once the rest of the hall noticed, they would start cheering. However, it was tough love. If they deemed that you were taking too long (or spilling too much), the adoration quickly turned to boos.
As well as the beer sellers, hoping to sell a few extra steins of delicious beer, there were people selling snacks as well as some terrible souvenirs. The hot item appeared to be a fluffy mechanical chicken that you could wear as a hat – and a squeeze of the side would start it dancing. Thankfully our neighbours bought one, and let us play with their €35 toy.
In all, I finished three steins of beer (there was only one variety on offer) and was feeling in pretty good shape – no doubt helped by that enormous lunch.
The party ended a little prematurely, as the tables are all reserved from 5PM. At 4:30, the entire hall was cleared out, and we had to leave.
Not ready to go home, we walked around the grounds, including climbing up the Bohemia (Bavaria?) statue for an elevated view of the grounds.
There were all sorts of rides, including a rollercoaster with an exceptional five loops (the Olympic rings), as well as the usual twist/shake/drop attractions that can be found at most fairs.
There was that stood out though. It was a helter-skelter, but there was a twist. Helping the riders to the top of the ride was a giant conveyor belt – which was running at full speed. It was absolutely hilarious to watch punter after punter attempt to jump on, lose balance, and then struggle and backpedal in vain attempt to regain balance. There were staff on hand to help, however, most seemed determined to fight off their assistance as they flopped about helplessly. I really wanted to know if I could do it (it was like jumping onto a really fast moving travelator), but not enough that I was willing to part with €5.
The side-show alley was as terrible as any other we’d ever seen. Odds were just as stacked against you, and the prizes were generally terrible. However, there was no shortage of people wanting to give it their best to get that fluffy bear thing.
It was only 5PM, but there was an incredible amount of wasted people in terrible states. I couldn’t imagine what it was like after it got dark.
But, with the beer halls closed to us, we didn’t have many other options to keep the night going. We decided to make a return to Rosenheim, where we binged on ice-cream!
Even though we’re not big drinkers (though, I do love the taste of beer), it was fantastic that we got to experience this (and with local friends – thank-you!!). Heck, I’d return just for the pork knuckle. Prost!