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Drinking Beer at the Oktoberfest Munich

Waitress at the Oktoberfest MunichThe Oktoberfest Munich is one of the most famous festivals in Europe. Other than many local festivals in this time of year, it is not a traditional harvest celebration. Instead, it originated as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810. Today, the celebration is mainly about drinking lots of beer, in the traditional surroundings of Bavaria in Southern Germany.

Back in Europe we enjoy the September celebrations in our hometown Roelofarendsveen. As many local celebrations in the northwest of Holland, they originated from traditional harvest celebrations, and include drinking a lot of beer. Since we intend to continue our World Journey with a second overland route to Eastern Europe, we have the opportunity to compare our local celebrations to the biggest beer festival in the world: the Oktoberfest in Munich.

From Holland we hitch a ride to the center of Munich, where the Oktoberfest has already started. It is a little difficult to find accommodation, but at the fourth pension we are lucky. Although we are pretty tired, we decide to get out to find some food and to get a first impression of the festivities.

Only on the Theresienwiese

Inside one of the beertents at the OktoberfestWho would think the complete city of Munich, or even the whole of the Bavaria district would be full of festivities, is wrong. The Oktoberfest is celebrated only on one terrain in Munich, the Theresienwiese. Obviously, it is a huge terrain with a large fairground and 14 gigantic beer tents. Today is Monday, and also because of the rain, the fairground is not very crowded. We also decide not to take any rides today and directly head for the beer tents.

When we enter one of the huge tents, we are amazed of what we see. An enormous space with lots of long tables where people are drinking and singing loudly with the schlagers that are played on the central stage. Many of the people are traditionally dressed: lederhosen for the men, and dirndl dresses for the women. Obviously, they have been partying for a while already, and since we are sober and tired, we are not in the same condition. When we have stared enough at the drunken people and the waitresses with arms full of large beer mugs, we leave.

Historic center of Munich

The Karlstor in MunichThe next morning we decide to explore the city first. Luckily, it’s dry, but it is still quite cold. As we noted earlier, there are no signs of celebrations in the city, but there are some places of interest in the historic centre of Munich. We walk through the Karlstor, one of the medieval gates, into the old town. Nice shopping streets with many old buildings. Souvenirs are everywhere, especially of the Oktoberfest.

Through some alleys we find the Frauenkirche (cathedral of Our Lady), with its two towers the major landmark in Munich. On the inside it is not very special, though. We walk on to Max Josephplatz, where the Residenz is located, an enormous palace with richly decorated treasure rooms.

Then we enter the main square of Munich, Marienplatz. This square is dominated by the tower of the old town hall, with its famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Every hour the tourists are staring up to see the action, but we don’t see anything, probably broken. Other than this there are two nice churches on the square, and there is the Marian column, a large pillar with a statue of Mary on top.

In search for a typical German restaurant, we walk on to the Schendlingertor, another medieval gate, where we find such a restaurant. Situated in a cellar, we get a large steak for not much money. And the beer is cheaper than a soda, too, so we have a very good lunch.

Back to the Oktoberfest

Beerbarrels on a horsedrawn carriageAfter lunch we head for Theresienwiese, the terrain of the Oktoberfest Munich. It is still dry, so we visit some more of the attractions on the fairground, and see the city and the beer tents from the large Ferris wheel. We also see the statue of lady Bavaria, watching over the festivities, and we witness the arrival of the barrels of beer on a horse-drawn carriage. But then it’s on to the beer tents.

We enter one of the tents and this time, it’s still early and there are no drunken people yet. We take a seat on one of the long tables, and order a few beers. They are served in 1 liter mugs only, so we take our time to empty them. Many vendors pass by with souvenirs, and the typical German treats: radish, pretzels, wurst, and half chickens. Since the beer mugs are so huge it is a bit disappointing how often the waitresses pass with their arms full with mugs. And they are walking so fast that making a picture is very difficult.

When our beer is finished, we make room for the people who had reservations for the table we are sitting on. Apparently, reservations are required after a certain hour. We decide to visit one of the other tents, where we sit higher on a balcony with other foreigners. We order another beer and a half chicken while we watch the party downstairs getting wilder. People dance on the tables and there is beer everywhere. When we finish our third beer we decide to leave the party, feeling a bit like intruders on someone else’s party. You need to be with a large group to really participate in such festivities.

In only two days we did get an impression of the Oktoberfest Munich. It truly is an experience, although best visited with a larger group. It is no wonder that copies of the fest appear everywhere on the globe, with the typical German clothes, music, and food in large tents with long tables. But it is obviously best in Munich, with the charming old town in the background.

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