Travel Club: Oktoberfest around the world
Cheers! Prost! Salud! Skol! Ready to drink beer all day long?
An occasion in which a lot of alcohol is drunk.
Not a big surprise.
Very large crowds of people.
To suddenly become very big.
A journey to a sacred place.
To do something at a steady speed so you don’t become tired.
A short sleep; a nap.
By Jamie Wright, Content Developer at What’s Up!
The British people’s love of the booze-up is, for better or worse, well-known within Europe, so it is no small wonder that Oktoberfest,the world’s largest celebration of beer, has been imported to the British Isles with such success. There are now Oktoberfest celebrations all over the UK, from Edinburgh to London and Manchester to Portsmouth. So, let’s find out where the world’s biggest beerfest comes from!
The first edition of Oktoberfest in 1810 was a marriage between a Bavarian prince and princess, where festivities and horse races were held. These events then became the tradition that is Oktoberfest. Now the primary draw of the Munich-based festival is its beer tents and halls, where punters consume beer from one-litre ‘steins’ (this is the word which has come to be used in English, but in reality Germans call them Maß). The beer that can be sold at Oktoberfest is strictly regulated: it can only come from one of Munich’s six major breweries which all follow the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot). The celebration is also an opportunity for Bavarians to don their traditional dress: dirndls for women and lederhosen for men. It’s not just about drinking beer though! In addition to beer there is also typical German food such as pretzels, sausages and rotisserie chicken, and the infamous oom-pah bands playing traditional German music (along with some international hits). Oktoberfest now begins at the end of September (in part due to the nicer weather) and lasts 16-17 whole days (that’s a lot of beer!).
Oktoberfest sees hordes of tourists from around the world come every year – there have between 6 and 7 million visitors in total. So it is no wonder that this festival has been exported around the world. Some of the biggest international Oktoberfest celebrations are in places which are or were home to large numbers of German immigrants. Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, Canada has the biggest celebration outside of Munich with around 700,000 visitors every year. Blumenau, Brazil’s ‘Little Germany’ has its own beer festival every year to celebrate its German heritage. Villa General Belgrano, a small town in Argentina known for its Bavarian architecture, sees its population balloon every year as it celebrates its own Oktoberfest. What’s more, many major cities in Europe and North America have their own celebrations, so you don’t have to go far to take part in the fun!
So whether you are attending the original Oktoberfest in Munich, the UK or somewhere closer to home, here are some tips to help you navigate the festival:
Oktoberfest is a very popular event, so you have got to plan ahead. If you are going with a large group it is a good idea to book tables in advance. These table reservations are free often come with a compulsory purchase (e.g. two beers and some food). Make sure you bring plenty of cash with you, as many tents don’t take card. Oktoberfest celebrations in other countries tend to be a bit calmer, but if you are making the pilgrimage to the real thing in Munich expect huge numbers of people. There, you will need to book accommodation well in advance, make sure to make table reservations and choose the days you go carefully (weekends can be extremely packed).
A major part of the fun at Oktoberfest is dressing up in the traditional gear. It’s not compulsory, but it makes the whole experience much more fun, and you will really feel like you fit in. You can buy lederhosen and dirndls online easily, or from a specialist in traditional German clothing.
How to order a beer
Everyone knows how to order a beer, right? Well it might not be as straightforward as you think, as previously mentioned reserving beforehand is recommended. Most beer tents operate on table service, so if you go up to the bar you could be waiting a long time! Beer only comes in the 1L mugs which you pay for in cash (in Munich, ask for einMaß, bitte). And of course, there are the waitresses (and occasionally waiters) who wear traditional clothing and can carry massive armloads of beer mugs (up to 14 litres!) to the tables. Make sure to give them a tip (der Trinkgeld).
Attending Oktoberfest usually means drinking a lot of beer. That’s not surprising really, given it is the beer festival where millions and millions of litres are poured every year. So it is incredibly important that you pace yourself: don’t drink too fast, make sure to stay hydrated and eat plenty of the German gastronomic treats on offer. If you think you are a bit too drunk, take a break. Just don’t end up like one of the ‘beer corpses’ (die Bierleichen), the German term for people who have had a bit too much to drink and end up taking an impromptu snooze.
Above all else the plan here is to have fun, isn’t it? So be sure to eat plenty, drink even more and be merry! There will be singing, music, parades, brass bands and plenty of opportunity to dance. Get to know your neighbours at your table and enjoy this great tradition.