In my last post I wrote about the series of events which led to us attending our first Oktoberfest; serendipity; if you like! Here, I want to offer some tips and advice for “first timers”; small things which we picked up on which would make future visits that little bit more enjoyable, and as stress free as possible.
This is going to be quite a lengthy article, so for those with short attention spans, or just better things to do with their time, I have divided it into two. Here is Part One.
Let’s kick off with Oktoberfest itself. The story of how the event came into being is well-documented, and can easily be found both online, and in various books. Moses Wolff’s excellent “Meet me in Munich”, which I referred to in the previous article, is a must for anyone seriously contemplating a visit to Oktoberfest.
This particularly applies to those contemplating a visit either with a small group of friends or, as we did, as a family. There are various travel companies who organise trips for larger groups, and these will normally offer the complete package of flights, accommodation and meals. If, like me, you prefer to do your own thing, then the process is quite straight forward, particularly with a little planning and the sort of advice I am about to reveal.
First, the event is free. Obviously you will have to buy your beer and food, but unlike most British beer festivals, there is no admission charge. The costs involved in providing the “temporary” infra-structure”, paying the staff and the all the other ancillary charges involved in putting on this mammoth festival, are recouped by the price of the beer (and to a lesser extent the food).
This year a litre, or Maβ of beer cost €10.80. This equates, at current exchange rates, to just over £5.40 a pint. Expensive you might think, but you are getting a specially-brewed Festbier which is around 6% ABV, waitress service – all those good-looking Frauleins in their traditional Dirndls, bringing armfuls of beer to your table are definitely worth the additional cost, plus the atmosphere, camaraderie and general ambience of the whole event.
Second, there is a lot more to the event than the drinking of copious amounts of beer. We enjoyed just walking around, looking at the stalls selling snacks and souvenirs, the various side-shows, shooting galleries plus other fairground attractions.
We personally steered away from the latter, as none of us enjoy being spun round at high speed, turned upside down or dropped from a great height, but if this sort of thing floats your boat, then do give the rides a try – preferably before you’ve had a skinful of beer and a roast pork knuckle!
Don’t turn up expecting a CAMRA-style beer festival, with dozens, if not hundreds of different beers on sale. The only brewers allowed to serve their beers at Oktoberfest are those within the city limits. This effectively means just six brewers are represented, and these are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten.
Even here there are tie ups as Hacker-Pschorr are part of the same group as Paulaner, and the same applies to Löwenbräu and Spaten. Augustiner are still family owned, whilst Hofbräu are owned by the state of Bavaria. Other brewers have tried to get round these limitations by opening breweries within Munich, but the city council moved the goal posts by stating only those established before 1970 could supply beer to Oktoberfest.
There is also none of the samplings in half, or even third of a pint glasses, which are common place at UK beer festivals. At Oktoberfest it is litres only – as my wife found out! On the plus side there is no deposit on the glasses, so no queuing for glasses and no waiting for a refund at the end.
Some more practical tips now. Security has been ramped up in recent years; for obvious reasons. We were aware that rucksacks are not allowed, so we left ours back at the hotel. Large bags are also banned, but there is some obvious confusion as to what constitutes a “large bag”. Eileen certainly didn’t think her Cath Kidston handbag fell into this category, but one of the security people checking all visitors at the entrance (there are several entrances, dotted right round the site), had other ideas. This necessitated a trip to one of the baggage depositories, a €4 charge for leaving the bag and a very disgruntled wife.
"How am I supposed to carry my purse, passport, cigarette lighter etc?" Was her earnest plea. I placated her, once we were inside by purchasing a small bag, capable of accommodating all the accoutrements and other paraphernalia the female of the species normally carries around with her! The result, a happy Mrs PBT’s and a happy me!
Part Two, follows shortly.
Part Two, follows shortly.