If you love beer, the place to be in late September is in Munich, Germany to lift a stein during the Oktoberfest extravaganza. Over the 16-day festival, over 6 million revelers from countries spanning the globe consume nearly two million gallons of beer!
Oktoberfest was originally a horse race held to honor the wedding of the Crown Prince Ludwig to his Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. The celebration was in a field that became known as Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Meadow), but citizens shortened it to Wies’n, which remains the local name for Oktoberfest today. Many of the original traditions and parades are still celebrated 200 years later and the festival is intrinsic to the Bavarian culture. It is the largest fair in the world, drawing people from many other countries. Don’t be misled by the name; Oktoberfest actually begins in September, running for 16 days to end the first Sunday in October.
Oktoberfest Food and Drink
As anyone who has ever gone to a county fair knows (or any traveler, for that matter), enjoying the local food and drink is one of the best ways to really participate in the local culture and color. At Oktoberfest, food and drink are served in tents – 14 large and 20 small tents – each with their own character and specialty. Admission is free and beer tents open at 10 a.m. (9 a.m. weekends) but can easily fill to capacity by 2 p.m. (11 a.m. on weekends). Travel Maestro tip: You must have a seat to be served, so pick your tent early or make a reservation in advance.
The mayor of Munich traditionally opens the festivities by ceremoniously tapping the first barrel of beer and crying, “O’zapft is!” (It’s tapped!) The beer served can only be from one of Munich’s six breweries. It is served in 1-liter steins and the waitresses can carry tray of up to 10 at a time!
The traditional rich and warm “comfort food” includes warm potato salad, roast chicken and duck. Venison and pork knuckles, sausages and cheeses, giant pretzels and delicious pastries are all part of the fare.
The Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade, held on the first Sunday of the festival, is a must-see. Most tents have musical entertainment, normally Bavarian music until 6 p.m., then pop or rock bands play their hits at night and the atmosphere gets more, um, you might say unrestrained. As noted before, you must have a seat to be served, but you can dance on the benches – just not on the tables! Those servers hefting trays of steins have to be able to get through the crowds and deliver more beers to the tables. Children are welcome and there are parades, rides and family-friendly activities, but evenings at Oktoberfest are really not the best place for kids. In fact, children under six must leave the tents after 8 p.m.
The 2012 Oktoberfest is in full swing right now, but if you’d like to be part of the celebration next year, the dates will be September 21 – October 6, 2013. Let Covington Travel’s Germany Specialists make all your arrangements so you can raise your stein and say “Prost!” in your favorite Oktoberfest tent.