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Getting Getrunken at Uberfest

February 8, 2010 Germany

12 Comments


Chaos ensues at Oktoberfest


A few steins to the wind

We did not plan to be in Munich for Oktoberfest. We arrived two weeks into September on a Saturday, were greeted by Eva’s uncle and promptly informed we were in time for the first day. Yes, thats right, “October”-fest starts in September. Within a few hours we were drunk, swinging liter glasses of beer, dancing and singing on long banquet tables.


Eva’s uncle, a drunk new friend, and Jeremy

Before we left on our round-the-world trip, we had been cautioned about Oktoberfest. It is massive, the crowds stifling and insane. Mobs of drunks flood the streets, destroying everything in their path, leaving a trail of debris and vomit. The city triples its costs and no one can truly enjoy this Frat-boy like devastation.

In truth, these assumptions may be partially right but are also very, very wrong. This is the world’s largest fair, with roughly 6.5 million visitors and 6.9 million liters of beer consumed. This may not seem like a lot, close to a liter a person, until you realize that many of the visitors are children and these stats don’t count the wine or schnapps consumed.


Steins, or Maßkrug, ready to go

We saw lots of people slurred to the point where they curled into a ball on the street. There was a particularly entertaining fellow who, while proclaiming he was just fine, couldn’t figure out how to walk away from the medics. They eventually strapped him down to a gurney with a tent over it, vanishing him from sight like a magic act.


Oktoberfest casualty: “Bierleichen” (German for “beer corpse”)

There are two realities of Oktoberfest. In one, we found German efficiency at its highest during the fair. Security and Medical personal are ever present, quick to deal with any situation and yet somehow never oppressive. Even the metro stop into the fest is heavily manned and geared to move people quickly and safely, no matter what state they are in.


Munich subway at the Theresienwiese Station

Secondly, Oktoberfest is for the Germans, in particular proud Bavarians. The statistics claim only roughly 15% of the visitors are foreign. Just stand within the grounds of the fair and you will have perhaps the most authentic experience you can have of Bavarian Germany. These locals proudly wear their Lederhosen and Dirndl, not always just to the fair.


Bavarian “Summer” Socks


Dirndls for sale


Sexy Oktoberfest? An actual store display.

In case you are not too familiar with Oktoberfest (also called Wiesn) here is a quick summation of the layout. The fair grounds are called Theresienwiese, a massive area that is filled with many of the typical fair basics: funhouses, ferris wheels, roller-coasters, stalls of candy or other goodies as well as carny games like “ring toss” or “hammer bash.”


Fest rides


Fun House

There are even less common shows like motorcycle stunts in wooden spheres, monster truck races and magic shows. We nearly tossed our cookies in one spinning carnival ride so be sure you know what you’re getting in to.


She’s got big bare boobies!


The Bud Clydesdales of Bavarian Beer

We really loved the “fair” food, a sort of focused version of the awesome Bavarian Cuisine. We ate Weisswurst (white sausages) covered with mustard, sandwiches made of Haxn (roasted pork knuckle and crackling), Knodeln (dumplings) with various sauces, none of which are healthy.


Haxn sandwich (58,446 units of pork knuckle are consumed on average at Wiesn)


The ubiquitous pretzel


Sausage sampler (142,253 pairs consumed)


Delicious meatballs


Steckerlfisch (38,650 kg consumed)


Beef Roulade with Spetzle


Weisswurst

There are fish impaled on skewers grilled along long rows of coal and stalls filled with sandwiches made of every variation of pickled fish you can imagine. Diabetes nearly set in after sweets like chocolate covered marshmallows, donuts, strudels and the ever present ginger bread cookies hearts covered with messages in German like “be my treasure.”

But you have to eat the Bavarian food, it helps you to prepare for the Olympic event that is the real star of the show at Oktoberfest: the Beer tents. Each built by their respective brewery, these massive structures can hardly be called tents, and often hold over 6,000 people each. Everyone wants in. It is nearly impossible to get in during the back half of the day and sitting is even more impossible. Tables are booked months in advance. By the numbers, there are only 100,000 seats in the tents for the 6.9 million Oktoberfest visitors! However, drinking leads to disorganization and you can sometimes slip into a tent and maybe even a table (normally, tents are strictly reservation-only after 4pm) like we did.


Storming the tent


Paulaner Tent


Hacker-Festzelt Tent


Augustiner Tent

These banquet halls fill up with Germans becoming more rowdy and boisterous than soccer fans in the UK, the whole gala not unlike some Viking war feast. Yet there are no fights, no cars being overturned and no couches set on fire. These people are happy, sloshing around with liters of excellent German beer, wolfing down rich Bavarian plates to counter the increasing effects of the alcohol and singing along with the live band.


Trumpet for the “Umpah” band


The Paulaner Bandstand


Double fisting it

Though this may be the largest beer-powered event in the world, the variety of beer poured is actually quite limited. Tents exclusively serve their brewery’s personal Märzen or March Beer. This lager-style beer is malty, with a medium to full body. Beers are served by Maß (1 liter) , which at Oktoberfest in 2009 ran us about €8.30 – €8.60 ($11.75).


Keeping a good grip

Wiki explains Märzen as a “beer which may be brewed only between the days of Saint Michael (Michaelmas, 29 September) and Saint George (23 April). The reason for this requirement was the increased danger of fire during the warm and dry summer months.” The beer then sits in a cellar through the summer and then makes it appearance at Oktoberfest. In order to last so long in the cellars, either the original gravity and alcohol were increased or the hopping was strengthened.


2 Maß of Augustiner, our favorite Märzen

Despite it’s strength, most Märzen are absurdly easy to consume. Never before have we been able to polish off and entire liter in half an hour and be ready for another. Thank god the entire even shuts down around 11pm, or else we’d become beer casualties ourselves! Even the kids were getting in on the brews.


Paulaner before puberty


Cheers!

Outside the tents, the choices multiply. The most popular brews consumed outside the tents on the fairgrounds are Weissbier and Dunkel Weissbier.


Paulaner Dunkel Weissbier

We squeezed ourselves in and they opened their arms up to give us big bear hugs. In all the world, no one was as welcoming and warm as Bavarians in a brewery tent at Oktoberfest. Thanks to this alcohol-fueled insanity, we met many people from all over the world. Some of our favorite faces from the Fest:

Hours blur by, watching the burly servers, all men and women of good size, deliver a dozen glasses of liter beers at a time (we in contrast, could barely lift 4 glasses at a time) and singing along with 6,000 others to “Time Warp” and, evidently the local favorite, every song by AC/DC.


It takes training and special beer handling skills to serve at Oktoberfest

This may be true insanity but it is also more fun than you can imagine. The city may become crowded, housing nearly impossible to acquire, and an already expensive city gets even worse, but if you can overcome the hurtles, we found that the people and the party were worth every moment. And if you need a break, but still want to enjoy everything the fest has to offer, the usually nearly-impossible to get into brewer’s restaurants in town and beer gardens in the park are much easier with everyone crammed into the tents.

Comments

  1. Candice says:
    February 8, 2010

    Oh my god! if I didn’t know better, I’d assume this blog entry was written for me. My favorite is the terribly distraught girl in picture #5.

    Reply

  2. Ant says:
    February 9, 2010

    Brilliant post — I never realised Oktoberfest was actually a fair, you taught me something there. It’s one of Europe’s trademark events, and having travelled in Germany I reckon we might start to see the country rise in popularity with travellers this decade. That’s my tip — what do you reckon?

    Reply

    • Team Rees says:
      February 9, 2010

      I wouldn’t be surprised. Germany is so easy to travel in, with many diverse regions. I particularly like the fact that tourism doesn’t feel like it’s super-high on the agenda, so our experience of the country was whatever we made it out to be. I think lots of people are keen to visit Germany and drive on the autobahn, but I think they’re only learning about Germany’s gorgeous wine-growing region and the fun, progressive mentality of Berlin. We stayed at some very clean, very well-thought out hostels and loved the efficient and extensive infrastructure network.

      Reply

  3. Gourmantic says:
    February 10, 2010

    I feel like I’ve gained 10 kilos just by looking at the photos! I like the atmosphere conveyed by the photos of the festivities under the tents.

    Did that white sausage in the sampler have much taste? It looks a little too ‘healthy’!

    Reply

  4. jen laceda says:
    February 10, 2010

    Looks like a lot of fun with a lot of beer and meat!

    Reply

  5. Scott says:
    February 11, 2010

    I miss Oktoberfest after reading your accounts! I filled myself with many weisswurst with pretzels, and the wild boar sandwiches are out of this world. The food there is as good as the alcohol and the party. We were invited randomly by a Belgium company for dinner and had the most amazing roast goose, dumplings & gravy, sweet red cabbage and cheese. I think it’s over a great dinner like this that you start to appreciate the hospitality and mentality of people who visit. It’s also where the schnapps and beer sweeten the pot!

    Reply

  6. Meggan says:
    February 15, 2010

    Awesome job guys! I love this post. I feel like Beau and I were there with you two. Are we going to have a hangover tomorrow after reading this post? I hope you guys are enjoying Vietnam. Remember, walk slowly and the stream of scooters will part for you in HCMC.

    Reply

  7. Izabela Komorowska says:
    March 2, 2010

    Cześć Ewa i Jeremy. To ja Iza Komorowska z Sumina. Przepraszam że po polsku ale Po angielsku jakoś mi nie wychodzilo.. Wasze zdjecia są wspaniałe ja od jakichs 4 miesiący też zaczełam sie interesować fotografowaniem. Pisze bo mam nadzieje że sie odezwiesz… Na wszelki wypadek to mój e-mail: iza4234@wp.pl

    PS Pozdrowienia od całej rodzinki. Czekam na odpowiedż. Iza…

    Reply

  8. LetsFly says:
    April 4, 2010

    Brings back some fond memories of my student years when we used to go over to Germany and enjoy a lot of the beer. Mostly we look like this on them http://www.flickr.com/photos/evarees/4332257911/ :D.

    Reply

  9. Magic Travel Tanya says:
    June 4, 2012

    All this talk of sausages, spuds and sauerkraut… yum!
    I haven’t made it to munich for an oktoberfest yet, but I have been to the city. Beautiful place, and to be honest, all the beer halls were packed just like that in January!

    Reply

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