Do you want to partake in one of the worlds best drinking festivals, in true style? You’d better meet some Germans then, these Fraulines and Junges sure know how to party!
This traditional German drinking festival raises a lot of questions, I have tried to answer as many of them as possible below.
Why does the Oktoberfest start in September?
To understand this we need to look at the history of Oktoberfest. The very first Oktoberfest was held on 2nd October 1810, celebrating Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburgshausen – with a name like that, how could you not celebrate!! The festivities lasted until 17th October with a horse race on this final day. In the years that followed, the Germans wanted more party time, and so the festivities were prolonged and moved to begin in September – when the nights were longer and the weather more pleasant. This meant the party-goers were able to enjoy the gardens outside the beer tents for longer and stroll across “die Wiesen” (surrounding fields) for much longer without fear of getting cold. This same timeframe continues to this day with the last Oktoberfest weekend traditionally being held in October.
When should I go?
Oktoberfest is held from the second week of September for three weeks to the first week of October. You can go on the opening weekend if you want traditional activities such as the cracking of the keg, and if you want to pretend your on a ‘gap yar’ in Australia (this seems to be Aussie weekend)! But you will find going in the second week, particularly the second weekend is when you get the best diversity of revelers. Most Germans choose not to go in the first weekend as it’s too ‘touristy’ and avoid the last weekend which has been dubbed as ‘Italian Weekend’ and has sometimes been known to harbor more trouble than the other weekends.
How do I get there?
If your on a budget (but are still up for a bit of adventure) you can fly into another airport in Germany and drive to Munich. From Koln / Bonn airport it’s just a 4 hr drive, from Stuttgart airport about 3 hrs. When you’re speeding down the autobahn you’ll see other cars and campers speeding along with German ‘Oktoberfest’ flags and signs in the passenger windows, and if you get stuck in a traffic jam, beer is often passed freely from car to car along with jokes and even food!
If you’d prefer to fly in a little closer to Oktoberfest and want to be savvy with your air fare, fly into Memengen airport and you can hop on a half hour bus. Alternatively, for those who want to get straight to the party minus the road trip, you can fly direct to Munich, and if you book far enough in advance, prices are very reasonable.
Where should I stay?
You can be extravagant and stay in over-priced hotels – whose beds you probably won’t actually sleep in the whole time you are in Munich as you’ll be partying so much. If you’re on a budget but also don’t know any Germans, yet, you can harness the new craze of Air BnB to find very reasonable apartment, Couch Surfing is another good option, if you’re up for meeting some new party people.
Do I have to wear those silly trousers or pirate dresses?
Lederhosen and checked shirts for the boys, and dirndls for the girls isn’t compulsory. Whilst you can just go in your regular clothes, it’s much more fun to embrace the true festival spirit and become a proper Bavarian, even if it’s only for a couple of days. A faviourite of mine is the online store German Wear: for ladies you have the option of a ‘mini’ (short) dirndl, ‘midi’ (just above the knee) or a ‘lange’ (long – or traditional length) dirndl.
What is there to do?
There isn’t really much to say to this, you are here to drink lots of beer, dance on the tables, eat a lot of bratwurst and schnitzel and have a damn good time with your best friends whilst making new ones! Every so often the oompa band will play the song ‘Ein Prosit’ (meaning ‘a toast’)…be prepared! Shortly after this song everyone will be cheering ‘Eins, zwei, g’suffa’, at which point the entire hall (beer tent) you are in will down their ‘mass’ (ginormous) pint glasses and dance on the tables! You can’t say I didn’t warn you!
Other Oktoberfest Festivals Around the World
Many countries have attempted similar festivals, including London hosting it’s own, as well as many UK and US universities…None of them compare.