“Among the many attractions, the “liquid gold” is probably the most important thing at the Oktoberfest. As usual, over 6 million liters of beer will be drunk this year.”
By Marla Horn Lazarus
If you are looking for the worlds biggest party, look no farther…the 183rd Oktoberfest will be started with the traditional “O’zapft is!” cry, meaning “It (the barrel) is tapped!” by Munich’s prime mayor Dieter Reiter in the Schottenhamel tent at noon of Saturday 17th. And then the beer starts to flow. Every fall, millions of visitors descend upon Munich, Germany, to celebrate Oktoberfest, Germany’s famous beer-and-pretzel-laden celebration. The festival, the largest of any festival in the world with over 6 million participants, began in 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The newlyweds invited all the citizens of Munich to celebrate their royal event outside of the city gates, on a field now named Theresienwiese (Therese’s fields). The party was such a hit that the future king and queen decided they wanted to recreate it every year. Oktoberfest has been held at the Theresienwiese every year since, with the exception of 1813 (when Bavaria was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars). Munich is the home to the original Oktoberfest (which, despite its name, occurs each year from late September through the first weekend in October) where Oktoberfest fans and everybody who wants to become one can enjoy the biggest fair in the world for 17 days.
As a visitor to Oktoberfest, you should definitely plan ahead with 14 tents to choose from, and each one more awesome than the other with atotal of 98,000 seats. The big six Munich breweries (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten and Hofbräuhaus) will offer their special Oktoberfest beers with an original wort of about 13%. Bavarian specialties like roast chicken, horseradish, Obazda (spread cheese), pork sausages and fish on a stick go especially well with the festival beer. Everybody can enter all of the tents for free. You don´t need any ticket to get in, however it’s possible to book seats in advance as early as possible. If you visit the Oktoberfest, arrive as early as possible, otherwise, you run the risk of not being able to enter the tents at all because they’re already full and those without seats won’t be served any beer!
The Festival Grunds
This year’s Oktoberfest is a so-called “Kleine Wiesn“, the smaller of the two versions with a size of 26 hectares or 64 acres with 524 businesses participating. From market stands and gastronomical delights, about 13,000 people work at the Oktoberfest.
The Schottenhamel is one of the most important tents of the Wiesn, as everything starts inside this tent. On the opening day, this is where the mayor of Munich taps the first keg and shouts his proclimation confirming that the tapping was successful. It is only after this that all other tents may begin to serve beer. It’s hard to believe that the Schottenhamel tent, which in 1867 was just a small beer booth with 50 seats, has become the largest tent with 10,000 seats and is the favorite hunting ground for Munich’s young people to drink and party.
The Oktoberfest crossbow competition in this tent is considered one of the great highlights as marksmen have been letting it fly since 1895. But don’t worry, this tent doesn’t only feature marksmen and shooting. It is also especially comfortable and the proprietor Peter Inselkammer will ensure that your physical well-being isn’t neglected. Regardless whether you choose to sample the roast chicken, knuckle of pork or traditional sausages with sauerkraut, you’re sure to hit the Bull’s Eye each time! There’s always good company and great fun that go hand in hand in this tent, which may also have to do with the excellent Paulaner beer and the PLATZL Oktoberfest brass band getting you into the “groove”.
Welcome to the Oktoberfest-paradise for pastry-lovers! The look of Café Kaiserschmarrn is something to feast your eyes upon, but on the inside all sorts of treats await your sweet tooth. Run by one of Munich’s most renowned bakeries, “Rischart”, you will be tempted to enjoy the large variety of scrumptious specialties with a nice breakfast with all sorts of coffee-specialties and bakeries from croissant to pretzels. As the music starts up at 2:00pm you get to choose from various variations of cakes and pies. And, if you don’t feel like coffee anymore, there is also a bar that offers wine, champagne and cocktails.
Feisinger’s Kas-und Weinstub’n
It’s all about cheese at Feisinger’s and because it goes so well with cheese, wine is another specialty at this little tent. A very popular party food, which you won’t find anywhere else at the festival, is Raclette: a special process melts the cheese, which is served over bread or potatoes with spicy additions like little gherkins or onions. But that is only one of the many delicacies served, so if you are not a cheese lover, you can also find the somewhat more custom dishes like pork and sausage. Feisinger’s is always worth a visit, as they don’t give away reservations for more than half of their seats in the tent and there is always quite a good chance of finding an empty table here.
The Heide family has solidly managed the tent “Braeurosl” for seven generations. The name of the tent originates from the daughter of the brewery owner Pschorr. Entertainment is of great importance in this tent where you will find a tent-own yodeler, who answers to the name “Bräurosl” and ensures a great atmosphere with traditional Bavarian songs. But that’s not all! Because when “Bräurosl” goes on break, the Luwig Thoma-Musicians take up the beat and last but not least, the South Tirol Spitzbuam (musicians) performs daily.
The counterpart to the Hofbraeuhaus located in the city of Munich is also a huge tourist attraction. The proprietors Margot and Günter Steinberg know how to treat their guests well. It is not uncommon to find glasses being raised to toasts and guests rocking back and forth to the music because Hofbräu guests come from all over the world where you can find true Bavarian delicacies and other specialties.
Who says that you always have to drink beer at the Wiesn? The Wine Tent offers a selection of more than 15 different wines, in addition to different types of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne. The proprietors of the wine tent are the Kufflers and have been a part of Munich’s gastronomy scene for a long time, and know very well what Wiesn visitors will appreciate.
No longer a secret: celebrities from all over the world, and especially those from Munich flood into Käfers Wies’n-Schänke. It’s no wonder that proprietor Michael Kaefer has created an extremely comfortable and cozy retreat in his comparatively small tent. It’s very clear that the gourmets are truly at home here and the delicious Käfer-roasted duck is something that should not be missed. In contrast to the other tents, Käfers is open until 12:30am. However, it’s very difficult to get past the bouncer after 11 pm unless you have connections or are a well-known celebrity.
Although Oktoberfest began in Munich, you can find fantastic celebrations throughout the country from Berlin to Hamburg to Frankfurt and Cologne, all with their own flavors. So, raise your beer stein and prost (cheers) zum whol (to you health).