This article appeared
in the Monthly Busabout Newsletter and was edited by me
Now, your 21st Birthday might have been a good bash. Time at a beach resort with your closest friends has no doubt spawned a few good tales (and possibly some offspring as well) and Aunty Flo's 80th birthday with all of her friends in attendance was no doubt a hum dinger but when it comes to parties, Munich is King.
Literally, in fact. For
it was the marriage of King Ludwig 1st to Therese of
Saxon-Hildburghausen in 1810 that brought about Octoberfest. Ludwig,
then a crown prince, invited the people of Munich to help him celebrate
his marriage, on the fields outside Munich's city gates. After 5 days
of celebrations, a horse race was held on the green, and it was this
event that was repeated in following years, on the land which now bears
the name Theresienwiese, (Therese's Green) in honour of the bride.
Unfortunately, the horse
race is no longer part of the festivities, but you certainly won't be
short of entertainment. Octoberfest, more commonly known as Beerfest,
opens on Saturday 22nd Sept with the grand entry of landlords and
breweries This parade includes the bands that will be entertaining the
crowds in the beer halls, and waitresses dressed in traditional
Bavarian costume (read: cleavagus maximus). This is followed later in
the evening by an International Folklore festival, featuring over 600
performers in regional dress. The next day sees a 7 km, 7000 person,
2hour parade, again featuring participants in period dress, and
riflemen (a nod to the military procession at the wedding). But the
main attraction here, the star performer, is without doubt the beer.
Each of the 6 main breweries in Munich has at least one 'tent' at the
Beerfest grounds, along with various other temporary structures erected
to keep the estimated SEVEN MILLION visitors fed and watered. Yep, 6.9
million last year, officially making it the world's biggest party
(Don't take my word for it, look in the Guinness Book of Records!).
The population of Munich
is around 1.3 million people. Do the sums.... Impressed yet? Or do you
still think the BBQ that night the lads won the grand final was a
superior shindig? Take a look at these stats from last year then....
>Convinced yet? The cumulative capacity of the tents is around 100,000 people when all are full. The largest holds 7,000 comfortably, but frequently will fit in more! The golden stuff is served in a stein or each of which holds 1.4 litres. This gives your vessel a weight of around 1.5 kgs. A work out while you socialise, who says beer is bad for you?
As in most European
countries, there is considerable froth, or head, on the beer. Expect to
receive about a litre of beer, for around 6 Euro. If you are from the
Southern Hemisphere, you've no doubt heard all sorts of tales about
underwear being ripped off their owner (whilst pants still in place)
and the notorious 'Hundred Club.' For the uninitiated, the Hundred Club
is somewhat of a tradition. It involves the consumption of 100 shots of
beer (film canisters are a good substitute vessel) in 100 minutes.
Sound easy? Did I mention no toilet breaks? Or moving from your seat,
and the need to consume every single minute? Breach of these rules, in
the harsher, and more disgusting versions, results in an assortment of
punishments too unpleasant to put in print.
But Octoberfest is about a lot more than just beer. It is a celebration of Bavarian culture, and includes a giant carnival, which was a bigger attraction than the beer initially. You do however, have to wonder at the logic of putting a 'Hurricane' rollercoaster 50 metres away from tens of thousands of drinkers. Again, no need to elaborate on the results of this combination.
Music is also central to festivities, and the bands that perform in each tent normally mix traditional German songs with more well-known contemporary music. Oom-Pah bands are a definite highlight, playing a brassy, grin-inducing variety of tunes, most famously 'Ein Prosit'. Even Australians can sing along to this one, the chorus consisting chiefly of the crowd chanting 'oi oi oi'. On the 29th of September there is a free open air concert at 11am at the foot of the Bavaria statue, a rather sturdy looking lass facing the fair grounds. Over 400 musicians for your aural pleasure.
If you're thinking 11am
might be a tad early, it might be worth noting that the Beerhalls are
open from 10.30am - 11.30pm, with last drinks served at 10.30pm.
Sundays and holidays they start even earlier, first drinks 9am!!!
Many of the much smaller wine cafes stay open for an hour or so later.
If you want to carry on into the small hours of the night, Munich is
well equipped to cater to your desires. The area of Schwabing is in
close proximity to the university, and offers a wide range of
restaurants, cafes and bars, from ultra cheap to super trendy. Near the
Ost Bahnhof (an underground station) you'll find Kunstpark, in my
humble (but well researched) opinion, one of the best concentrations of
nightclubs in Europe. Entrance and drinks can be pricey, but most of
these clubs are extremely well decked out, and German dance music has
always been noted for breaking new ground.
as painful as you expect. Driving can be particularly difficult as parking is about as scarce as accommodation. Don't waste your time trying to book a bed; if the establishment takes bookings it was full in January! Many don't take bookings at all (particularly at the cheaper end of the market). A lot of hostels operate on a first there first in basis. Also important to note, many Bavarian youth hostels enforce an under 26 year old only policy.
Many people choose to
stay in nearby cities, such as Salzburg in Austria. Also becoming
popular is St. Johan in Tirol, also in Austria. Only 90 minutes away by
shuttle bus, and you have the luxury of waking up in a comfortable bed
in the middle of stunning Alpine scenery. The lack of crowds and the
option of adventure sports on 'rest days' is slightly more appealing
than an overflowing campground.
During the day, Munich offers attractions such as Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle commissioned by Ludwig II, also known as 'Mad King Ludwig'. After draining state coffers to fund his fantasies, he was found drowned in one of his own lakes. You know the Disney castle? Modelled on this specimen, 2hrs on train from Munich. Dachau concentration camp is only 20km's from the city, and is one of the more moving memorials to the horrors of WWII. In Munich itself, you have the Englischer Garten, a huge park in the heart of the city, complete with jogging, cycle and horse trails, and of course, beer halls. Nude sun bathing is also a popular pass time, although maybe not in October. Then there's the famous Glockenspeil, a clock that puts on a show at 10am, 12 noon and 5pm, located in Munich's main square Marienplatz. From there it's a two minute walk to the Hofbrauhaus, one of the most famous drinking establishments in the world. It was here that Hitler held some of the first rallies of the National Socialist party. Now, it's just a super Beerhall, and one of the major breweries represented at Beerfest.
Munich also hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics, that stadium recently the scene of England's 5-1 thumping of the German soccer team. When a city such as Munich that has so much to offer, holds a party, expect the best. And if you're wondering why beer features so heavily? For hundreds of years the purity of beer has been protected by law, no artificial additives allowed. There are those that claim Bavarian beer doesn't give them a hangover... yeah, right. If you're at a Beerhall at 9am, it probably gets washed away before it sets in!
On average Germans drink 250 litres of beer each, annually. Pause to contemplate this figure. Bavarians, drink 350 litres Each. Every year. Seven kegs. 583 pints. Or doing the hundred club once every 3 days. Despite this, the emphasis is NOT on binge drinking. Rather, it is an integral part of their social life, and the stumbler's outside the beer halls are for more likely to slur 'g'day' than 'guten tag' .
The atmosphere inside the
tents (actually very solid structures, construction of which begins
some months before the event) is unbelievable. The band has everybody
standing on the bench seats and tables by early in the evening, and the
lack of aggression is refreshing. There is a strong security and police
presence, that generally remain unused. Most of the tales that emerge
from Beerfest are the least savoury ones, and generally flow from the
'pig pen', the only tent that serves 'standing' customers. As a rule,
your waitress will take orders, and bring steins to your table. Does
life get better? Somehow though, the buxom blondes from the opening
parade have transformed into larger and older creatures.... I thought
the reverse was supposed to happen?? Maybe there IS something special
about Bavavian beer. There sure is about their parties! Prost!
As in the past Busabout has secured a large allocation of accommodation at Camping Thalkirchen. Our accommodation here is in twin bedded cabins, 2003 price is 14.10 Euro, this includes an ÒOktoberfest LevyÓ of 3.60 Euro as stipulated by the Munich city council (This tax is unavoidable and is levied on all accommodation in Munich during the Oktoberfest period). Regular shuttle busses will, for a small charge, take you in and out of the Oktoberfest grounds.
For those of you who'd like to visit Oktoberfest but would prefer a little luxury rather than the traditional Beerfest 24/7 party, why not consider staying at St Johann in Tirol (featured in last month's newsletter), in the heart of the Austrian Alps. St Johann is a little more than an hour's bus-ride from Munich, and shuttle coaches will transport you to and from the Oktoberfest grounds. On your return you can continue to party in Bunny's Pub! While you're there why not have a go at skydiving, rafting or one of the many other adventure activities offered in the village Ð the perfect cure for those Oktoberfest hangovers! Accommodation in St Johann can be booked using our on-line hostel booking system which you'll find atST. JOHANN BOOKING.