I’m a bit late with this, given that we got back from Octoberfest a month ago but it stays pretty much the same each year. So for those who are merely interested, this will be a fascinating account as usual. For people going to Octoberfest 2014, this should give a bit of a heads up as to what to expect. Hint: bring Berocca. I wrote this soon after we got back to London.
OCTOBERFEST!!! What is there to say? My bucket list has been pretty shortened recently what with a visit to Pompeii and now a slurring stumble through OCTOBERFEST!!! (That’s how it has to be pronounced I’m afraid.)
So what is OCTOBERFEST!!! (alright, I’ll stop now) actually like? Mrs Word of Ward and myself were a bit mental in that we went in October. Most of it is in September, but the Bavarians obviously decided Septemberfest sounded stupid. I highly recommend going mid-week because it can get ridiculously busy at weekends or holidays. Our first day was a Monday and we found a seat in several ‘tents’ pretty easily, which was a relief and erroneously made us think things would always be this civilised. Each time we moved to a new tent we wandered about, found a bench, then chatted to the other inebriates at the table. It was a pleasant international pissup indeed and a fine way to start the week.
Here’s a breakdown of things as they happened.
We arrived at around 3pm and headed for one of the bigger tents – the legendary Augustiner Festhalle (www.festhalle-augustiner.com). We found a seat pretty quickly – between an older couple from Vancouver and a group of drunken Italians. A middle aged German waitress, who was very much in charge and a little bit scary, took our order. Which was pretty easy because there were just two options – a litre of lager or nothing. She then took several other orders. Five minutes later she was back and carrying TEN litres of beer. Just one is heavy, ten beers weighs more than my wife. Probably.
There is a band in each Octoberfest tent and every 15 minutes or so they play a drinking song which then necessitates everyone to cheers each other. Or specifically – say ‘Prost’ and smack glasses together. Everyone on our table chatted to each and it was all remarkably friendly. The Augustiner beer is probably my favourite lager there and I pride myself on being a beer connoisseur/mild alcoholic.
After our first litre we went for a wander. The festival is a bit like a standard fair with several roads lined with food stalls, fairground games, a few rides, and lots of drunks (the latter are common in British fairs too but at least here there is an excuse). The Octoberfest beer halls are immense – some can hold up to 10,000 people. The amount of beer being drunk is quite awesome and inspiring to behold.
We decided to check out a few more of the beer halls because that was the whole point of being at Octoberfest after all. We had a guide we had printed from the all-knowing internet that gave a rough overview of each hall and their differences and specialties. Frankly, by our fourth ‘Festhalle’, we realised that they were all pretty much the same. A massive hall with a band in it and tons of wasted people singing and shouting ‘prost’ every few minutes while incredibly strong German women charged around with tankards of ale. Of course it could also have been that after four litres (actually a bit more as I gallantly helped Mrs Word of Ward with some of hers), your ability to analyse, discern, or even see is somewhat compromised.
As the evening wore on, the halls got more and more packed and the people got more and more drunk. By the time we left I was amazed that so many were still able to walk, although there were a few casualties sleeping it off here and there. If this had been anywhere in Britain there would have been fights, vomiting, rioting, random nudity and so forth, but the Octoberfest was ridiculously nice.
On the second day we got there in the early afternoon and it was noticeably more packed. It was the 2nd of October and the 3rd is German reunification day and a national holiday. It seemed as if everyone had taken the afternoon off, knowing they could sleep in the next day. We went to a tent called Schützen-Festzelt (www.schuetzen-festzelt.de) as it was legendary for its suckling pig. Unlike the previous day, it was a nightmare finding a seat. After half an hour we lucked out when a group of young, traditionally dressed Germans took pity and let us join them at the end of their table. From that point on, the aisles started to fill with people so we really were quite fortunate. We ordered more beer and the tent specialty – roasted piggy. The huge slab of pig and crackling was amazing. Perfect beer food. Our table was entirely local Bavarians and the smaller tent felt very German. I didn’t hear any other languages being spoken anywhere and we felt a bit left out when loads of German beer songs started to get sung. By the end of our epic porcine breakfast/lunch the place was heaving and it was a relief to get out.
We wandered around a bit more but the crowds were getting pretty oppressive. We then found a seat outside a tent and got a couple more litres in. Our table was once again full of chatty local Munich people. They asked if I thought German was a harsh language, which was hard to answer without being rude. I basically stated that at least it wasn’t French and left it at that. Some guys started singing and suddenly everyone else did too. This had a slightly more passionate edge to it than the happy go lucky drinking tunes of the tents and one of our neighbours explained that it was a football thing.
It was then that we realised that it really is essential to be inside a beer hall. Being outside in a beer garden, we could have been anywhere and the atmosphere inside was a hell of a lot more fun.
After a couple more halls we were done. It was too busy. By 7pm, there were now queues forming outside each beer hall and we couldn’t be bothered. One tent, called Fischer Vroni was famous for fish. Outside they were cooking them whole over a long line of coal. We bought one and it was bloody delicious. I highly recommend it. At 16 Euros, it was expensive but it really was worth it. Also each beer costs 10 Euros, so it’s all relative.
So what tips can give?
-Bring lots of money. A bottle of water was 4 Euros, and beer was 10 (actually a bit under that but the waitresses really deserved a tip).
-Pick your day carefully. If it’s a weekend or holiday then get to the tents early. You can book a table for a couple of hours if it’s busy but otherwise it is fun to wander around and share seats. Most tents have a reserved area and a free-for-all area.
-Most evenings get pretty packed. Be prepared to queue. Or beat the system and get drunk early.
-The atmosphere inside the tents is much more fun than outside.
-The food can be pricey but they are American (or Bavarian) sized portions and are good for two people. Unless you are American or Bavarian.
-Eat the fish cooked over coals, it’s seriously nice.
-As I said at the start – bring Berocca.
Erm… that’s all I can think of. Octoberfest is pretty much what you imagine it will be. A massive pissup organised by Germans and enjoyed by all. In a tent.