So you decided on going to the Oktoberfest in Munich this year. Congratulations on choosing one of the greatest pastimes in the world. While the Oktoberfest by now has the character of a proper festival, there is still plenty of the tradition around.
As a Münchner Kindl (child of Munich) who is more than happy that so many people from different parts of the world visit us to have a good time, let me give you a helping hand to ensure you have a truly remarkable experience at Oktoberfest.
To beer or not to beer
The Oktoberfest has the word “fest” built in. If you want to set yourself apart from your travel mates and represent your country properly, take it a little easy.
Nothing ruins your day (and the day of the people sitting around you) faster than throwing up under the table at eleven in the morning after chugging a Maß and being escorted out by security. (For those who do not know yet, beer is served in a beer-stein that holds a quarter gallon and is called “Maß”).
Yes, we Germans drink a lot and on any given occasion, but on the other hand, we rarely get pass out drunk and it is generally frowned upon. Therefore, take it easy and try to make it through the day, however good the beer and the music may be.
Oans, zwoa, g'suffa!
For the aspiring Bavarian Oktoberfest attendee, the choice of the proper tent is likely a major point of discussion. In my experience of attending the Oktoberfest for the 20th time this year, let me tell you that your choice likely will not matter much.
You will have a blast regardless of which tent you choose. If you have the chance, stick with the Hacker tent for a younger, party-avid crowd or the Schützen for some proper Munich "Schickeria." Another place to consider is the Schottenhammel, there's a young crowd and good music by a rather traditional band.
At all cost, stay away from buying a “Lederhosen” or a “Dirndl,” the typical Bavarian dresses. Whatever you get offered prior to Oktoberfest is likely a cheap and awful knock-off that will make you the laughingstock of your table.
A proper “Lederhosn” will likely set you back $500 plus, and a “Dirndl” as well. Jeans and a blue shirt will serve you just fine and you will blend in with the rest of the crowd.
I am well aware of the concept of pregaming, but I strongly advise against it on the day of your Oktoberfest experience. This day will likely bend any boundaries you have known so far and it is more thank likely for you to consume the equivalent of at least a gallon of beer.
Additionally, the guys over at the Munich breweries brew a special and stronger beer just for the Oktoberfest. If you think you know German beer, think again. In regards to volume, four Maß are roughly two handles but in regards to strength, it might very well be twice that.
Pregaming is not really a necessity, as you will be drinking more than enough. Plus, the Oktoberfest festivities begin at nine in the morning and you should not be there much later in order to get yourself a good seat. Look for one that does not have a reservation sign and is as close to the band (action) as possible.
Creation of a Proper Basis
Oktoberfest is an all day experience, so skip the “breakfast” at your hostel and head straight out to the party (maybe grab a pretzel from a local bakery on the way).
In your tent of choice, have a breakfast of “Weißwürst.” These Bavarian style sausages come to your table in a nice ceramic bowl filled with hot water and are eaten with a pretzel and sweet mustard. Note that only the filling of the sausage is being eaten and the skin is left on your plate.
With that breakfast, you will likely have your first beer. If you want to go slow, which is not a terrible idea, order a “Radler,” a mix of beer and Sprite. This is absolutely common and no one will give you a strange look.
Then, there will be a couple of hours of drinking and folk music. The proper party will not start until later in the evening, so keep it easy and enjoy a truly authentic experience. For lunch, the so-called “Kasspatzen” which is basically a way tastier version of macaroni and cheese, is perfect.
It's really tasty and gives you a solid basis for a long day of partying. Your dinner order should be placed at around 5 or 5:30 since the major party will begin at around 6.
For dinner, order a “Hendl mit Kartoffelsalat,” grilled chicken with potato salad that is eaten with your hands and gives you the much-needed strength for the last few hours.
The dos and don'ts for the first-time Oktoberfest visitor
Tipping is a very important aspect of your well-being in the tent, as you heavily depend on your waiter or waitress. At one point or another, there will be way more orders than available beer-steins, and someone will have to sit out. This is very likely the person who was skimpy on the tips before.
Another thing you absolutely want to avoid is getting too drunk too fast. Security is pretty strict and you will be thrown out without any notice if they think you behave significantly out of line. In order to avoid that, throw in one of the aforementioned “Radlers” every now and then. They taste good, hydrate you and very likely still have more buzz than your average American beer.
You may want to pace yourself because Oktoberfest gets better later in the evening. Tents close at 11 sharp and therefore, everyone is aiming for exactly that point. However, please note that 10 is usually the time of the last order, and the band stops playing at 10:30. The party peaks at around nine, so it would be an absolute shame to be wasted at 5 and stumble out of the tent by then.
However, we Munich people with jobs live off those people since they are the ones that ensure that we find a table after we get off of work. And last but not least: Skip the after-party. I sincerely hope you had a great time at the Oktoberfest. If you're traveling the next day, do yourself a favor and go to bed straight away.
Drink another Maß -- water this time -- and take an aspirin, you will need it. If you happen to stay in Munich, go to bed anyway and save the energy to head out a second time the day after. It gets better every time!
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