Beer. Copious amounts of Beer. At the world’s biggest festival. With tens of thousands of fellow revellers. The best part? I haven’t even mentioned that yet! Any guesses? NO HANGOVERS!!! Welcome to Munich for the world famous, legendary 3 week party that is OKTOBERFEST!! Roamingkangaroo is jumping into the frivolities paws first and trying to be sponge-like in order to soak up absolutely everything – Beers included!
I had booked myself onto a Middle weekend tour which gave me 4 whole days in Munich to get in as much Amber nectar down my gullet as responsibly possible. There was just one downside of this tour, it was a return coach tour from London and after 18 hours on board let me tell you, I needed a beer!
The coach pulled into the Thalkirchen campsite in Munich around 8am on the Friday morning where we were shown to our tents, given our free Tour t-shirts and had enough time to drop our bags before it was time for the first foray to the beer halls. Before things get hazy I’ll give some background info on Oktoberfest. It started back in 1810 and it’s a massive part of Bavarian culture. Attracting over 6 million visitors each year, Oktoberfest also serves up, on average, a mega 7 million litres of beer.
Walking up towards the main entrance gave me a feeling I hadn’t experienced for many years – the excitement of entering what is essentially an Adult’s playground. That kid-like feeling I used to get when going to the local Royal Show, but this time it wasn’t showbags I was giddy about, wink wink. It is so easy to just lose yourself once you enter the grounds but the first thing that you should be doing is getting to a Beer hall. That’s why you’re here. The best bit of advice I can give would be to get down here early, as in morning, as the halls fill up super quick and usually by early afternoon you’ll find it very hard to get a seat so after breakfast, grab your crew, find a beer hall, grab a table, and bunker down for the day – you ain’t going anywhere!!
The only leaving you’ll want to be doing is for nature breaks, everything else can and will be brought to you – Beer, food, even souvenirs if that’s your thing. Eating is probably one of the most important things you can do when at Oktoberfest. Forget to do so, and you will get very sick very quickly and the last thing you want is a bit of bad prep ruining your experience here. I found this out the hard way on Day 1, after 3 hours of solid drinking and only one large pretzel as “lunch”, let’s just say that my opening day was over pretty quickly! Luckily the German food is quite robust and stodgy so it is great for soaking up some of that alcohol. Think Pork knuckles, Sauerkraut, Roast meats with vegetables, German sausages such as Bratwurst and Currywurst to name just a few, Dumplings, the list goes on but hopefully you’re getting the picture now.
The weather in Germany at this time of year has a mind of it’s own. I checked the forecasts before heading out and saw temps of 18 which sounded cool but pleasant so I packed accordingly but sadly, the weather decided to leave 6-8 degrees behind and the days were quite cold – never hitting more than 12 degrees I’d say. My point: pack for any weather, I could have done with a thicker sweater or even a coat!
Another memorable activity during the weekend surely had to be joining in the singalongs in the Beer halls. There will be a live band performing in every tent, offering a set list that is uniquely German but with a few mainstream songs thrown in for good, drunken measure. The official song of Oktoberfest is “Ein Prosit” (Cheers), bands in each tent will play it every half hour or so in an attempt to help revellers get hydrated and to remind them why they’re at the fest –the Gemütlichkeit! You can’t translate Gemütlichkeit directly into English but loosely, it means “good cheer”. Gemütlichkeit promotes a feeling of belonging, social acceptance and leaving your troubles at the door. Whenever Ein Prosit is played you’re obliged to stand up with your Beer Stein and sway along to the tune, toast with everyone at the table and chug that oh so lovely beer!
When the day is done at the fairgrounds the campsite bar back at Thalkirchen will accommodate you for another beer or three, it’s worth a stop on way back to the tents to exchange stories and meet fellow revellers. There was a tour option to head out to Dachau Concentration Camp on the Sunday followed by a stop at Andechs Monastery where I had a lunch of Pork Knuckle, Sauerkraut and you guessed it – Beer. I took some pictures at Dachau but due to the atrocities that occured there I feel it would be disrespectful to publish them here, or on any media platform for that matter. It is important to see these camps for what happened to show us all how very lucky we are to be living now and so that nothing of that magnitude ever happens again.
All in all the 4 days were an absolute blast – many highlights and great people all rolled into the one weekend and come 8pm Monday night when our coach departed there were many heavy hearts – including mine. I’ve gotta say a huge thanks to Pillow, who really do run a great Oktoberfest tour and to their guide Chris who was great fun and full of knowledge. For more information about Pillow and the tours they run, visit them at http://www.pillow.co.uk/ . So there you have it, if Oktoberfest isn’t already on your bucket list of things to do – get it down!! I trust this has been informative and helpful to you if you are considering going. Cheers!