Oktoberfest 2011 – Beers, Boys and Dirndls
Following a generous invite by Contiki to come to Munich and celebrate the last days of this year’s Oktoberfest, I decided to ditch work for a weekend and head down there for some really serious hedonism. I had never been to Oktoberfest before, so it was time to pop my cherry and find out what it’s all about. I had a feeling it would be pretty fun, but in all actuality it turned out to be one of the highights of my year.
Oktoberfest has been around since 1810 when it was first held in celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Thérèse. Apparently they had so much fun that year, that they decided to hold it again next year. Before anyone knew it, a now legendary tradition was born. An average of 6 million visitors attend what amongst Bavarians is simply called Wiesn with a record number of almost 7 million visitors this year, mostly due to amazing weather.
I was told that last year there was some very heavy rainfall and most of the festivities happened inside the tents. A shame, as the Oktoberfest area is a real fun fair with lots of attractions and carroussels to ride.
Fun is the key word when we’re talking about Oktoberfest. It really already starts the moment you begin looking for what you’re going to wear. Guys wear checkered shirts and Lederhosen..
.. while girls wear the infamous Dirndl, traditionally consisting of a bodice, a skirt, a short blouse and an apron. It originates from 19th century Austrian servant dresses and still today can be seen on waitresses or other service industry females in Bavarian or Austrian restaurants or hotels. Nowadays they come in lovely bright colors and tend to be rather popular with the boys, as they often offer quite a view on a girl’s cleavage.
I arrived in Munich a day early for the sole reason of having time to buy a dirndl for myself as I didn’t own one before.
Having tried on at least 6 different options, I eventually decided to go with one that’s black with a pink apron and pink ribbon. There were lots of other gorgeous ones (I really hoped I’d fine a red one that fits), but when you do your shopping on the last day, you take what you can get. Good news was, the dirndls were already on sale when I went to get mine.
On Sunday, with my dirndl on and my camera packed, I stood ready for pick up through Nick from Contiki. There were about 20 of us, mostly Contiki team members from across Europe, but also from the STA offices in Munich as well as some other folks that Contiki works with.
Like on any day that mostly consists of drinking, we decided it would be best to start by having a big Bavarian lunch, so we could digest the alcohol better. What I found out only there, the beer given out during Oktoberfest is one that is especially brewed for those 17 days a year and holds a higher alcohol percentage (6 to 7%) than regular beers. Preparing for that, I treated myself to one of my favorite traditionally German meals – knuckle of pork with potatoe dumplings and cole slaw.
After lunch, we walked over to Hippodrom, where we had a reserved table for 3 hours. Getting a table here is complicated and pricey. Some people say you need serious connections to get a reservation here, especially during the weekend. Plus it’s not a cheap enterprise – 30€ per person include nothing but entrance and these snacks on the table.
The snacks consist of a pretzel, sliced reddish, bacon and Obazda, a delicious bavarian onion-cheese mix.
Lots more important than the food, of course, is the beer. If you belong to the people who don’t like beer, it’s still worth giving the Oktoberfest beer a chance, as it’s surprisingly mild and drinkable. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this brew had me converted. Besides, it’s all too much fun to carry your 1-liter jug with both hands and cheers to everything and everyone ever 2 minutes or so.
Once you’ve got your table and your beer, it’s time you got exploring. Only boring people stay glued to their seats the whole time, so walk around, meet people, compare dirndls, admire hair-do’s, take a few photos, buy a souvenir.
If you have no reserved table, don’t despair, it’s no biggie. In fact you will have just as much fun in one of the tents that you can enter without a reservation. We later went to the very large Hofbräuhaus tent and partied with 7000 others. This option is said to be especially popular with Americans and Australians, too. From our experience though, I can say it was mixed perfectly, not one nationality seemed to outdo the other by much.
Making friends here is easy. Often it’s enough just to stand there and people will start talking to you. The spirits are high and the alcohol is flowing, so naturally inhibitions are lowered by countless percent.
While it’s fun to talk to people easily, the downside to this is that, as the evening evolves, there is a fair bit of unwanted hair/shoulder/ass-grabbing happening, which is not for the shy or faint-hearted. Best is to laugh it off and not let it ruin your evening. There are usually bouncers around making sure everyone behaves.
Feeling lonely? I can assure you that it’s not too hard getting acquainted with the opposite sex here. The guy the in the above picture met the girl in purple only minutes before this shot happened and knelt down to ask her to marry him within the first 15 minutes of their conversation. I’m not sure they carried on as a happy couple, but both had a good time that evening.
Most of the tents will have live band play that performs crowd pleasers such as Queen’s We are the champios, Robbie Williams’s Angels, Gloria Gaynor’s I will surive or AC/DC’s TNT. Put on your dancing shoes and prepare to sing your heart out at every tune.
Your number one rule at Oktoberfest is simply to let go and have a good time. Don’t overthink it, just roll with it and you’ll have an amazing time.
I loved the vibe and people’s happiness, so I could not help but get my camera out and shoot a few video images of the party. It’s all a bit shakey and blurry (because naturally I did have the odd beer myself) but I think it still manages to show the overall athmosphere of Oktoberfest. Enjoy!