How to survive the Octoberfest is a manual full of essential tips and advice for you to leave this event with mainly positive experiences, and the least possible amount of misfortune and misunderstandings. It should help you adjust, grasp and most of all- enjoy one of the best known folk festivities in the world.
“O’zapft is”, an expression which is heard on Sept17 at midday. Words that the Mayor of Munich uses to open the festival literally mean “It is tapped”. These words begin a small revolution. A revolution which turns things upside down, changes the course of events, and brings fantastic atmosphere together with heaps of tourists into the town each year.
Everyone knows more or less, what Octoberfest is. Some of us have been, some might have heard of it. You can find plenty of information, statistics, facts about history etc. etc. on the internet. But my article aims for something else. I only intend to describe briefly, what to expect, what to be prepared for, what to foresee, and what to ignore. I want to help you avoid misunderstandings, and speed up your adaptation. With that, your visit may become truly L E G E N D A R Y!
Here I go: 7 tips, how to go through the Octoberfest safe and sound.
1. Learn the basic phrases
Locals rarely use the term “Octoberfest”. That word is used by unknowing tourists and foreigners. In case that a Bavarian asks you to meet him at the “Wiesn”, stay calm, don’t panic, and go to the Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Meadow). That is the place where this biggest beer festivity, named after Princess Theresa, takes place. In 1810, horse race was held just here, in honour of the Bavarian Prince Ludwig and Princess Theresa’s wedding. Quite understandably, thanks to its success, the originally meant ONE time event turned into a world wide known tradition, which has lasted for more than 206 years.
The feeling of being alone, or just with a close bunch of friends, is going to vanish after about an hour spent in one of the tents. See, in this moment occurs something, which I call :”All at this table are my buddies” phenomenon. Now, it is time that apart from some pleasantries, you should also know how to touch glasses with those ‘buddies’ of yours, that you took a liking to so much. English ‘Cheers’ will also do, but you as an educated tourist will surely make a good impression with ‘Prost’ or ‘Zum Wohl’. These phrases are going to occur more and more frequently with each beer on the table. Eventually your friendship will come to a phase which I call “Social distance is just a relic”. And as well as the pork knuckle goes together with beer, so should your basic phrases go with the knowledge of wishing “Bon/Guten Appetit”. Even more sophisticated Bavarian way to do so is “An Guad’n”, which is going to win you a fair amount of appreciation.
2. Book in advance
Booking a table is not an obligatory thing in general, but if you are a part of a bigger group (6 and more), you might have a problem to find a table in some of the tents. Booking can be done 6 months before the Octoberfest takes place. So this year, you have already missed your chance to do so. (For 350€) Booking terms vary. For every tent is seems to be a bit different. Usually, one table can seat up to 10 people, who can share the expenses together. The booking fee includes 1 or 2 beers and something to eat (half a chicken for instance). Remember though, if you don’t sit, you don’t get to order. Which gives you something to think about for the next visit. The other possibility is to look for a table at about noon. Or you can go and try the tent Festzelt Tradition at Oide Wiesn. (traditional Wiesn). The entrance fee is 4€.
3. Dress up for the occasion
You are going to need appropriate clothes, if you don’t want to stick out in the crowd. Lederhose and Dirndl are an integral part of Bavarian culture and the Octoberfest itself. They are a must have for almost every local living here. All colours and shapes. During the 3 weeks of Octoberfest, the frequency of proud Lederhose and Dirndl wearers increases rapidly. It will probably make you want to become one of them too. Price of such goof will cost you about 250€. If you are a little hesitant and decide to wait with such outlandish decision, go for something much cheaper. A checked shirt will do. Or something knitted (sweater, socks), or felt (purse, hat). And top it up with deer, alpine flowers and heart decorations of any kind. That will make you a proper member of this mob, I promise you.
4. Choose your shoes wisely
Never, NEVER wear sandals to Octoberfest. Not even shoes with your toes out. This piece of advice is going to be your life saver, especially when you step into something unidentifiable. Remember, this is a beer festival. People drink lots of beer. (To be more precise 500 000l of beer are drunk each day of the festival.) Consequences of this consumption are not something I want to bleat about. Let’s just say, you quite easily might step into these ‘consequences’. Apart from that, it is safe to have good solid shoes. People dance, step on your feet often, drop things, break glasses. Yep, wear good shoes!
5. First things first
This is also a very useful piece of advice. In case you came to Octoberfest to have a whale of a time, and you wish to avoid all awkward, painful moments, I recommend doing the fun stuff in this order. Carousels first, then the drinking part can follow. The sooner you go to the funfair, the better. That rule stands also if you are not planning to drink at all, and came just to look around and take a ride. See, taking a ride on the Ferris wheel in the afternoon or evening hours can become an adrenaline discipline. Why so? Well, there are some, who completely ignore this well meant tip of mine, take those two steps in the wrong order, and end their lovely tour à la beer at some carousel.
6. Bring loads of money/get ready to pay
One of ours might start feeling a bit sick at this point. If so, just take into consideration some of the other touristic attractions in the world. That will help to get your head around the prices of beer here. 10.40-10.60€ probably seem a lot, but you’ll learn to accept it if you realize it is only a one time thing. Plus, it is quite probable, you won’t be able to drink too many of 1l glasses of beer either. All of these facts, together with fantastic atmosphere, the experience of a folk feast as such, they make the prices here seem much more acceptable. However, when you add money for some Bavarian pork knuckle, ride on a Ferris wheel or some other carousel, you have to be prepared, it can add up to one month’s rent. What can I say? To celebrate German style is not cheap.
7. Sing along
Octoberfest is known for its music on every corner. In each tent you will come across something folky-traditional, like music, dance or singing. Each day starts with professional performances of bands, dancers, or even whips crackers. The later it gets, the more difficult it is to distinguish between professional and amateur performers. Most members of the crew are singing, even though it seems sometimes everyone is singing a song of their own. Many people stand on the benches, dance, and the rest is swinging together with the tune at least. You also will be carried away and swept along with the crowd, and will find yourself standing on the bench like a jolly fella. With a smile on your face you will be squeezing the shoulder of your new companion to your side with one hand, and holding a pint in the other. It sure would be kind from me to give you a list of all the songs which are going to be played. But a bit pointless too, thanks to the alcohol and its power which will be gnawing at your memory. The most important for you-an educated tourist- is to acquaint yourself with widely known and regularly repeated song: Einprosit. You will surely get the credit for knowing what the custom is, when the others sing this tune. The least it might give you is the good feeling that you are not among those, who confusedly look around in desperate attempt to keep up. The only thing you have to do in fact is: raise your glass, and when you hear the words “Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa!” clink it with everyone around you.