The name congers images of busty women carrying large mugs of beer, men in short leather pants and suspenders, oversized pretzels, and oompah bands. What began in 1810 as a horserace to celebrate the marriage of Kronprinz Ludwig, later King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen transmogrified into the world’s largest volksfest.
First, let’s set the record straight. If you are in München, German the last two weeks in September that end with the first Sunday in October, inclusive, and attend the event at Theresienwiese, then you are at Oktoberfest. If not, then you are at an “Oktoberfest celebration”, for there is but one Oktoberfest.
And we are attending just that event. 😎
Unfortunately, we don’t have a full 16 days to explore Oktoberfest, but we’ll do our best to highlight the fun and festivities. But first, let’s take a tour of Munich itself.
Munich Buildings and Landmarks
Because folks in Munich have style and a sense of destiny, they do not allow buildings to exceed 99 meters in height. Thus, the twin domes of Frauenkirche can be seen from many parts of the city. Those towers have been in existence since 1488.
Marienplatz is a central square in Munich’s city center and home to the famous Rathaus Glockenspiel. Now, before you say, “WTF?”, the word “rat” means “advice”, and “Rathaus” means “town hall”. The square was originally known as Schrannen but it was renamed Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) as a way to ask Virgin Mary to protect the town from a cholera epidemic. Spoiler alert: she didn’t.
From as directly in front of the tower as I can get, the fine detail of the building can be seen. We don’t build them like that anymore, do we?
The Glockenspiel (“Bell Games”) begins. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel celebrates the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine with a joust featuring life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (Renata’s home town, in red and white). The fight is fixed, and the Bavarian knight wins every time.
This is followed on the bottom half by the Schäfflertanz (the coopers‘ dance), celebrating the coopers dance during the plague of 1517 in Munich to “bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions,” symbolizing perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times.
The whole show lasts somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes long depending on which tune it plays that day. At the very end of the show, a very small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps quietly three times, marking the end of the spectacle.
The Altes Rathaus borders Marienplatz on the east side. It now houses a historical toy museum and large Gothic ballroom.
Difficult to see but none-the-less an important landmark at Marienplatz is the Mariensäule, a highly-stylized depiction of the Virgin Mary.
At the west end of Mariensplatz is Isartor, named after the Isar river, and is far more impressive that this photograph depicts.
Yet another large square in Munich is Odeonsplatz, named after the Odeon concert hall, which was destroyed during the Zweiter Weltkrieg. Odeonsplatz is bordered by the Italianesque Feldherrnhalle, Theatinerkirche and Hofgarten, a former court garden.
Feldherrnhalle has a famous or infamous past, depending on your political and historical perspective. It represents military and was the scene of battles and grizzly deaths. Except for that, it is a beautiful monument.
Okay, enough with the buildings. Let’s take a look at typical German food in Munich.
We are window-shopping at Maelu, frightened — for good reason — to actually enter the building. From their website: “MAELU has established a reputation for being the epitome of sensual taste experience, extending further than national boundaries.” They meant “farther”, but the statement is true, nonetheless.
We indulge ourselves in a piece of fine German chocolate from Eilles, renown for tea. Because, of course we do.
We don’t think of “Germany” and “seafood” in the same sentence, but we should. Germany is bordered to the north by the cleverly named North Sea, and Munich is very near the Ammersee and the Starnberger See. As natives of Southern California, we can tell you: the seafood is delicious.
We do not neglect traditional German dining with its thick bread, plentiful portions, and blonde girls. We are slowly gaining weight, I think.
On the advice of the locals, we order peach schnapps. It is sweet and delicious.
The schnapps is served with a slice of peach; it includes a wooden stick so we don’t make a complete mess when we drink it. Yum.
What else is happening in the city besides Oktoberfest?
The European version is the original; it was heavily re-written for the more delicate American sensibilities. We wish we had time to see it.
And yet another event we wish we had time to see. Dammit, Munich, can you please schedule these events better?
Yeah, we won’t go to this; it’s what’s called a “bro party”. But the bottom phrase on the left has us puzzled: Nagelstation mit Ficken Likor. Make-up artists with fuck liquor. We don’t know how to explain this.
The hat looks stupid, and no one should shop here. Unless you need some barf.
And then there was this poor fellow. He thinks it’s Mardi Gras and is so, so sad. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Let’s go to the Weisn!
Before going to Oktoberfest, we first visit Alpenmädel to get fitted for a real dirndl. We spend two hours picking out just the outfit we want, choosing all the accessories down to the ribbon, ensuring that the boobs are pushed together and lifted in the classic Oktoberfest manner. ( – Y – )
The lederhosen were purchased in the 1990s. With proper care, they last a lifetime.
As you can see from this photograph and from the two photographs before it, Oktoberfest is more than beer. There are many rides, most of which seem to be designed to induce nausea. We watch, but do not partake. Instead, we head for the beer. 😛
Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest beer under the aforementioned criteria are as follows:
Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.
The beer halls are buildings with extensive areas under tents. There are balconies for smoking and phoning for when you get tired of having fun with your friends.
Inside the beer hall are long tables occupied by friends and strangers-who-become-friends-after-a-few-beers.
Oktoberfest bands play traditional German music and a collection of favorites that the party-goers know the lyrics to, such as songs by Frank Sinatra and John Denver. Really.
The beer has a head, but by the time it is served, it has settled and the beer will be exactly one liter. The modern Maßkrug is slightly larger than 1 litre, with adenoting the level to which the beer must be filled to allow room for its head to expand. Using mugs without a calibration mark, or with a mark that is below the true one litre position, is prosecuted as fraud.
Experienced waiters need an average of only one and a half seconds to fill a Maß.
Oktoberfest food includes delicacies such as Hendl, Schweinhaxen, Gebrannte Mandeln, Weißwurst, Currywurst, Brezeln, Käsespätzle, Kaiserschmarrn, and Stecklerfisch. We have samples all but the Stecklerfisch. Fish on a stick just isn’t our thing.
Some folks drink too much too fast and need a time-out. I wish this fellow would take it outside, know what I mean?
Some folks stand on tables, but it’s at their own risk.
But sometimes, the only way to get anywhere is to walk across the tables. Space is optimized for sitting and drinking, not for moving about.
There is no shortage of souvenirs to purchase to remind you of your drunken escapades when you awaken the next day.
Yes, I am a fan of dirndls.
Note the lady on the right: that is the correct way to hold one of these glasses. Your hand does not tire and you can easily raise the glass to your lips to drink.
Some folks are very intrigued by the notion of a camera.
At Oktoberfest, you can learn about all sorts of modern technology, such as cameras.
Notice the server with the large tray in the background. When you order “chicken” at Oktoberfest, you get a whole chicken.
Let’s drink some beer!
Not shown here: All that liquid does not stick around for very long. Be prepared to stand in a line to use the W.C.
The benches are so close together that you get a free back rub from the person behind you.
A couple of cross-dressing Brits pose with us. Well, they wanted to pose with my wife. She seems to be quite popular here are Oktoberfest.
Italians guys pose, interested in a bit more than beer. Note the spilled beer on the white shirt. Yes, these fellows are pretty drunk.
We can’t help but have fun at Oktoberfest!
Beer is in abundance at Oktoberfest, but the camaraderie of the friendly volks is what makes the experience magic.
These photographs provide only a small taste of the adventure of Oktoberfest. So much to do and see, so many wonderful people to meet. Added to the history and culture of Munich, and you’ve got memories to last a lifetime.
Treat yourself to Oktoberfest. You deserve it. 😀