LOCATION: Munich, Germany
SEASON: Late September through the ﬁrst weekend of October (yes, Oktoberfest starts in September).
IDEAL CONDITIONS: Sunny and slightly crisp. The beer drinking is mostly indoors though.
LODGING RECOMMENDATIONS: Hotel Nymphenburg for budget. Wombat City Hostel for a hostel. The Tent for quirky—sleep in a giant, dorm- style tent, with campﬁre evenings and thick wool blankets—like summer camp for travelers.
INGESTIBLES: Beer, sausages of all sorts, sauerkraut, pretzels, roast pork/duck/chicken, roast wild boar and game, ﬁsh on a stick, pastries.
In 1810, the citizens of Munich celebrated the wedding of a prince and a princess. I like to think of them sitting back in their horses and carriages (or maybe stumbling home drunkenly on foot, who knows), saying “Schiesse, that was awesome. Let’s do it again.” So they did. Two hundred years later, Oktoberfest—or die Wiesn (“dee vees’n”)—is the biggest festival in the world.
Sausages. Pretzels. Roast meat. Lots of hats. Midway rides. Heart- shaped gingerbread with sweet messages. Brass oom-pah-pah bands. Giant glass steins of the six brands of Munich beer. Welcome to the Wiesn. The Fest has fourteen beer tents—long wooden structures with different tones, clientele, food, decor, and beer variety. They go from about a hundred seats to over ten thousand, inside and out. But be warned: smaller tents and popular times can fill up fast. Reserve seats in advance online.
The Hofbräu-Festzelt does have plenty of English-speaking tour- ists. But it ranges. Make your way directly to “the pit” (standing- room-only section) to start partying really hard. Everyone’s ready to make some international best buddies. But keep a close watch on your tighty-whities. Those scraps of fabric on the chubby, mus- tachioed angel hanging above the pit? Yep. Those are people’s un- derwear, sometimes forcibly removed by other drunken revellers. Tradition has it that there’s no underwear in the pit—if anyone asks, tell them you aren’t wearing any.
In any tent, you’ll hear a lot of traditional brass band music, plenty of toast calls (Prost!), and a few bizarre English-language songs that apparently now count as Bavarian folk songs. Beer is sold by the maß (“mass”): one whole liter of wheat beer in a glass stein. In some of the more drunken areas, such as Hofbräu’s pit, you’ll sometimes see people getting a bit overexcited with their toasts and smashing other people’s steins. Sometimes it’s accidental.
The Löwenbräu-Festhalle, Augustiner-Festhalle, and the Hacker- Festzelt are a few more examples of the big tents run by Munich breweries. Don’t miss the giant animatronic lion waving a stein at the Löwenbräu entrance. Wait for it to roar and growl “Löwenbräu!” It’s an experience. Especially if you’ve already had a maß or two.
Augustiner markets itself as friendly for the whole family, and uncorks its beer from wooden casks instead of the usual steel vats. Hacker is much of the same, but also has a rock band playing every evening if you need a break from the oom-pah.
The smaller tents often have quirky themes or foodie specialties. Wildstuben serves up roast wild boar and other game in a hunting lodge–like tent. Try Hochreiters Haxnbraterei for barbecue pork knuckles, or Glöckle Wirt for classy decor—oil paintings, antiques, and more.
Sick of beer? (Why?). Try the wine or cocktail tents. Or do like some Bavarian women and have a Radler (half beer, half lemon soda—they also call it a girlie beer). There’s also Spezi, a German soda that’s Coke mixed with orange soda. Not really recommended by this Canadian if you’re already feeling a bit queasy though.
FUCKED UP FIRSTHAND
Hofbräu felt right. I beelined to “the pit” and met a table of Italians. Nice guys. Nearing the end of the day, I found myself wearing light-up devil horns and squeezed into a corner with Aussies, Americans, a South African, and two local Munich guys. “Motherfucking prost!” said motherfucking George W. Bush, as one of the locals had introduced himself as. That may have been the extent of their English. The motherfucking prosts kept coming, the table kept toasting, and the steins kept draining dry.
At the “very late” hour of 5:00 p.m. (long day drinking), the other travelers began pairing off and disappearing. It left me with the two Munichers, who decided to pursue other people’s steins, smashing them with an aggressive “Motherfucking prost!” Then they smashed the wrong stein and high-tailed it out of there, but not before one of them wildly drank the dripping beer out of his own broken glass.
Guys in little leather shorts and girls with healthy racks squeezed into corseted dresses. Start practicing now: Ein maß, bitte (“eye’n mass, bit-uh”). One day, it’ll get you a beautiful liter of beer.
From 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Partying Around the World by Matador Network and edited by David S. Miller. Copyright © 2013 by Matador Network and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.