This article appeared in the Monthly Busabout Newsletter and was edited by me
ViewMUNICH CITY GUIDE for other informtion on Munich

OKTOBERFEST IN MUNICH-THE BIGGEST BASH OF THEM ALL


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.
GRAND OPENING

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!).
STATISTICS

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....

  • 6,500,000 litres of full strength beer at the Beerfest grounds alone.
  • 27,000 litres of wine.
  • 19,000 bottles of bubbly.
  • 250,000 cups of tea and coffee. (hey, somebody's gotta drive)
  • 680,000 chickens consumed.
  • 470,000 pork sausages. (german speciality.)
  • Over 1500 variations on sausage. Blood sausage, brain sausage...) if it moves, the Germans will kill it, grind it up, and find a way to make a sausage out of it)
  • 94 oxen.
  • 62,000 pork knuckles.
  • 1,400 toilets. (free, as of 2000)
  • 12,000 employees.
  • 103 acres.

OTHER FACTS

>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.
CULTURAL EVENTS

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.
TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AND LODGINGS

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.
OTHER THINGS OF INTEREST

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!
ACCOMADATIONS

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.