All over the world there are cities known for staging particularly popular events… New Orleans has Mardi Gras, Rio De Janeiro has Carnival, and Munich has Oktoberfest. Wiesn (as it is called by locals) is the worlds largest beer festival which lasts approximately 2 weeks from mid-September and is attended by over 6 million people every year. Surely this was something to add and cross off the ol’ bucket list!
It all started with an invitation from my German friend who lived in Munich: Dominik. At a work conference in Amsterdam, Dom asked me to think about attending the “Wisen” and I immediately said yes. He was able to book us a table at the Kalbs Braterei tent seven months prior to the event (got to be quick people!). The tent itself was to be one of the smaller ones, but more authentic, this would be a great way to introduce me to the culture as I’d never been to Germany before!
After a short 1 hour 30 minute flight from London (Love that I can do this 🙂 ) I was in Munich and you could feel the vibes! Obviously I have nothing to compare this to as it was my first time in this city, but the streets were filled with people and a lot of them were wearing the traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl (quite a site for sore eyes). I took a day to do a walking tour of the city, visit famous monuments like Marienplatz (Central square), Frauenkirche (Cathedral), Viktualienmarkt (Farmers market) and the English Gardens… All of which were very nice, but I was keen to check out the real reason I was here! I met up with Dom that night and we headed to Oktoberfest on an earlier night than planned to check it out and grab some food. It was different to what I expected, there were huge rides, music playing, food stalls, it looked similar to what you’d find at Winter Wonderland in London. We had a little walk through some of the big tents that evening and the party atmosphere was in full effect! Unfortunately they wouldn’t serve us beer as we weren’t on a table so we decided to just take in the festival vibes and go big on our reservation night.
As Friday finally rolled around, I met up with Dom, his fiance Anja and a bunch of their friends, in total there was 10 of us which always a respectable drinking group! When we arrived at the Kalbs Braterei tent we were greeted with a selection of German food like schnitzel, bratwurst, pretzel etc, and of course a 1 litre mass (stein) of specially brewed Oktoberfest beer, good start to the evening. Reserving the table in advance was definitely a good idea; it cost €720 total for entry, food and first litre for us all, and they were already taking reservations for next year! As the late-afternoon turned to evening, the music got louder and the second rounds of beers started, here we go. At this point in the evening, people were getting louder and were allowed to stand on the benches in the tents (do not get on the tables). It was mainly German folksy music but you’re in Munich so take it in your stride and try to sing along. Little tip for single folks: the way ladies show they are single at Oktoberfest is to wear the ribbon on the their dirndl to the left, if it is on the right that means they are taken… something to keep an eye out for ;).
The larger tents in the evening can get quite wild and you often see people throwing beer and just having a good time, my favourite one to visit was the Haker tent. Our tent (though not as lively as others) still had a great feel to it and people were dancing and singing their hearts out! I met a lot of Germans that night and wierdly a lot of Americans, I’d say atleast 1 in 3 which was surprising to me. Most people had worn the traditional outfits but I wasn’t brave enough initially… by the end of it I promised that I would wear one next time, it’s just fun to join in isn’t it!? Something strange I noticed was this little white powder floating around, but don’t be alarmed, this is not cocaine… technically. It’s something called Wiesn koks (Oktoberfest cocaine). Despite the name, this legal substance made of menthol and sugar has become a locals’ pick me-up of choice, it gives you a small sugar rush when it hits and has a cool sinus-clearing effect, but be careful of taking too much! The last beer is served at 10.30pm and the lights were turned on at 11pm. As we stumbled out of the tent having had 4 steins each (respectable number given the size and strength of the beer) we headed home, passing many crawling drunks along the way. Oh and btw, try not to pass out on the famous hill of Oktoberfest, it may be convenient and some even use it as free accommodation, but people will pee on it and it will roll down on to you! FYI said from observation and not from experience 🙂
I can comfortably say this was one of the better things I did in 2017, something I’d never imaged doing before and now I want to make it an annual thing. Next time I’d like to try one of the bigger tents and see how it compares, but either way Wiesn is a must add to any bucket list you may have, what an experience!