Rose’s Pick – Oktoberfest in Munich
travellers in 2015
years of rail travel experience
If you’re looking for a world party, Munich’s got just the right one for you!
Oktoberfest begins on Saturday morning with a grand entrance by Münchner Kindl (Munich’s Mascot) on horseback, followed by the Lord Mayor of Munich. Brewers ride in on ornately decorated horse and carriage. Following behind them, floats carry servers and bands through the parade crowds. After this procession to the Wies’n fairgrounds, the Lord Mayor taps the first keg and shouts “Ozapft is!” (The barrel is tapped!), starting the 16-day-long party!
Thomas Mann, a long-time inhabitant of Munich and its most famous resident author, once described Munich as a city that sparkles. This city, destroyed by two World Wars, still shines among the most travelled of German cities.
As the so-called “secret capital of Germany,” Munich’s self-imposed, fun-loving and festival-obsessed attitude has developed through its 206 years of Oktoberfest celebration and history.
Held annually from the second-to-last Saturday of September, through the first Sunday of October, Oktoberfest, or the “Wies’n” as it is affectionately named, began on October 12, 1810. On that day, Crown Prince Ludwig married Terese of Saxony-Hilburghausen. All the residents of Munich were invited to attend the wedding celebration in the fields in front of the old city gates. This field was thereafter named the Teresienwiese (Teresa’s meadow) in honor of the Crown Princess. To this day the grounds still hold the name of their beloved princess, while her statue watches over the festivities.
In the beginning, the amusements were sparse. Between 1914 and 1918, WWI prevented any festivities. From 1919 through 1920, Oktoberfest was relegated to an “Autumn” festival. Between 1923 and 1924 it was cancelled altogether. 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest.
Today Wies’n (derived from Teresienwiesen) covers 310,000 square meters or 192 square miles. You’ll find 14 beer tents (Festhalle) which can hold between 2,500 to almost 11,000 seats. Among these are the infamous Hofbräu-Festzelt, Hacker Festzelt, Löwenbräu Festzelt, Augustiner-Bräu and the Hippodrom. There are also 21 “small” tents with 60 to 900 seats. In these, you’ll not only find the same beer served in the larger tents, but coffee, tea, cocktails and other refreshments. And let’s not forget the large number of food and sweets vendors, and souvenir kiosks.
Oktoberfest is not all about the beer. Luna Park, also on the fairgrounds, boasts thrill rides for old and young; rollercoasters, a ferris wheel, the Frisbee, Der Star Flyer 48, and the Münchner Rutschn, just to name a few. My favorite is the Frisbee!
Oktoberfest attracts between 5 and 7 million visitors annually, with approximately 70% from Bavaria, 15% from Germany, and 15% from other European countries, North America, and Australia. Beer is served in a Maß (one liter servings); and on average 60,000 hectoliters or 1.6 million gallons are sold during the celebration.
Amid all the celebrations, Munich and the surrounding area are a great base for anyone wanting to travel through the German Alps. Add a German Rail Pass or Eurail pass and include day trips from Munich to towns such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Füssen near to the Neuschwanstein Castle, Berchtesgaden, Mittenwald, and Oberammergau. Or travel to Austrian cities such Salzburg, Linz, Vienna and Innsbruck. Here is where you’ll find the true charm of this region! And the reason why I love going back as often as possible.