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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Oktoberfest


I’m sure you’ve all heard of ‚Oktoberfest‘ – basically the most famous thing about Munich! It’s the world’s largest Volksfest (People’s Fair), running for 16 days from late September until early October. More than 6 million people from all around the world attend every year, with the majority being from Bavaria and surrounding EU countries. Residents (including myself!) refer to this festival as ‘Wiesn’, after the fairground’s location (Theresienwiese).

Munich’s Oktoberfest has been running since 1810 when it was originally a wedding celebration between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese and it has grown ever since. In over 200 years, the festival has only been cancelled 24 times (due to war and cholera outbreaks!)
This year was my first year at Oktoberfest and I hadn’t realized quite how big and varied it was! Of course there is beer-drinking (almost 7 million litres of the specially-brewed beer is served)

There are fairground attractions: amusement rides, sidestalls and games

Food stands serving Hendl (roast chicken, Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages), Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato / bread dumplings) Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (cabbage), Obatzda (cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (white sausage) – all Bavarian traditional foods.


Since 1850 there is a parade at the beginning of the festival – 8,000 people in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through Munich’s centre to Theresienwiese, the grounds of Oktoberfest.

Since 1950 there has also been a 12-gun salute and the midday tapping of the first keg by Munich’s Mayor to open the event.

Only certain beer can be served at Oktoberfest – it has to meet the “German Beer Purity Law” (Reinheitsgebot) and brewed within Munich.

Six breweries meet this standard and can serve proper Oktoberfest beer (2% stronger than normal beer):
· Augustiner-Bräu
· Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
· Löwenbräu
· Paulaner
· Spatenbräu
· Staatliches Hofbräu- München


Every year the tents are set-up and taken-down (a process taking months). There are 14 large tents and 20 small tents – all with varying seating amounts (info courtesy of Wikipedia).

Name
Seating
Comments
inside
outside
Hippodrom

3,200
1,000
Translates as "Horse race place" from Greek. One of the larger tents, it's the first tent that many visitors see at the fest. As well as serving normal Wiesn beer, it has aSekt (sparkling wine) bar and Maß of Weißbier. Considered one of the trendiest tents, and attracts the occasional celebrity. Traditionally in the evening the Oktoberfest band theMünchner Zwietracht (de) plays all the Oktoberfest classics. 
Armbrustschützenzelt

5,839
1,600
Translates as the "Crossbowman's Tent", a competition that has been a part of the Oktoberfest since 1895.

6,896
3,622
The counterpart to the famous Hofbräuhaus, this tent is especially popular with Americans, Australians and New Zealanders.
Hacker-Festzelt

6,900
2,400
One of the largest tents on the Wiesn, they have a rock band that plays during the evening break of the brass band. This tent is also known as "Himmel der Bayern" (Heaven of the Bavarians).
Schottenhamel

(Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu)
6,000
4,000
Reckoned to be the most important tent at the Oktoberfest, mainly because it is where it starts. On the first Saturday of the event, no beer is allowed to be served until the mayor of Munich (currently Dieter Reiter) taps the first keg, at noon.[22] Only then can the other tents begin to serve beer. Very popular amongst younger people. A substantial part of the tent is guaranteed to traditional Studentenverbindungen (a particular form of student fraternities) and outfitted with their distinctive colors and coats of arms.
Winzerer Fähndl

(Paulaner)
8,450
2,450
Translates as "Winzerers (bavarian surname) flag". This tent is noted for its huge tower, with a Maß of Paulaner beer sitting atop it.
Schützen-Festhalle

4,442
0
This is a mid-sized tent. Situated under the Bavaria statue, the current tent was newly built in 2004.
Käfers Wiesen Schänke

(Paulaner)
1,000
1,900
The smallest of the large tents at the Oktoberfest, it is frequented by celebrities, and is known for its especially good food. In contrast to the other tents (which must close by 11 pm), it is open until 12:30 am, but it can be very difficult to get in.
Weinzelt

(Nymphenburger Sekt / Paulaner Weißbier)
1,300
600
Translates as "wine tent". This tent offers a selection of more than 15 wines, as well as Weißbier.

Löwenbräu-Festhalle

(Löwenbräu)
5,700
2,800
Above the entrance is a 4.50 meter (15 foot) lion who occasionally drinks from his beer. This is overshadowed by another tower where another drinking lion sits.
Bräurosl

(Hacker-Pschorr)
6,000
2,200
Translates as "brewers Rosemary". Named after the daughter of the original brewery owner (Pschorr), this tent has the usual brass band and a yodeler.
Augustiner-Festhalle

6,000
2,500
Considered by many locals to be the best tent, due to the fact it sells the favourite local brew, Augustiner, from individually tapped wooden kegs rather than stainless steel vats used by the other tents.
Ochsenbraterei

(Spaten)
5,900
1,500
True to its name, this tent offers a great variety of ox dishes.
Fischer-Vroni

(Augustiner)
2,695
700
Translates as "Fishers Veronika". Another of the smaller tents. Fisch is the German word for fish and this tent carries a huge selection in its menu. The main dish isSteckerlfisch, which is grilled outside of the tent.

With work, I went to the Schützen-Festhalle tent which was great fun – lots of music and people dancing on their benches.

 



Of course we also had a few litres (“mass”) of beer.


Through work we had tickets which meant we had tables from midday. Approx 4.30pm we were kicked off our table to make room for the evening bookings and so headed to the crowded shots bar.




On the first Saturday of Oktoberfest, I had one of my besties come over to visit me. Ticket-less we headed to the festival on probably its busiest day! Rookie mistake. We couldn’t get into any of the tents as they were already full and, understandably, no-one was leaving once they made it inside! We queued for about an hour in the on-and-off rain before giving up.

After wandering around the fairground…

…and treating ourselves to some pickled herring…

We came across the Café Mohrenkopf tent.

By this stage, it was like finding heaven!

This 400-people tent is the only café-tent with its own bakery at Oktoberfest and has been at the festival since 1950. It had a lovely relaxed atmosphere inside and we happily took a seat in the pastel coloured paradise!


 
The tent serves Dallmayr coffee (one of Germany’s most renowned coffee specialists) as well as cocktails and other drinks. As a non-beer drinker, I was delighted! We opted for glasses of Proseco to celebrate our success.

Followed by an indulgent piece of cake….the tent’s speciality is the “Mohrenkopf”, a small, chocolate-glazed cream-cake, but I went for a nutty layer cake instead – yum yum !

A lot of attendees wear traditional Bavarian dress (or tourist versions of!): dirndl for women, lederhosen for men. Check out my dirndl-buying experience here

It also turns out that the locals have nicknamed the middle weekend of Oktoberfest “Italian Weekend” due to the large amounts of Italians (& Australians) that flood to the city over this time – they consider Munich to be the northern most city of Italy!!

If you missed this year and want to go next year, it will be running 19 September – 4 October 2015. Or there are other beer-related festivals in the same place in April/May (Spring Festival – Frühlingsfest) and December (Tollwood-Festival).

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