Another year, another Oktoberfest. This century-old town fair is the epitome of Bavarian lifestyle. As a true Münchner Kindl (a Munich child) this is an event you do not dare miss. And as an out-of-towner, this is an event worth traveling to Munich for. Here’s a quick guide on the things you should know and the stuff you shouldn’t pass up on.
Why is it called Oktoberfest when it actually mostly takes place in September? The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.
By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over "die Wiesn" or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.
Different styles of dirndls
A true blue Bavarian girl wears the Dirndl to any special event may it be a wedding or a formal birthday party. Nowadays with traditions taking a backseat with the youngsters, the Dirndl is mostly seen at the Oktoberfest only. And what once was a ankle-length long skirt with apron is subdued colors like black, moss green, brown or red, is now often seen as miniskirts in flashy pink or turquoise. Guys wear Lederhosn (leather pants). Those are traditionally custom-made, hand-embroidered and last for a lifetime (weight permits). Not much has changed in this department except maybe that sneakers are the preferred shoe wear. Also more and more women are seen wearing Lederhosn, which caused quite some uproar amongst traditionalists.
But despite the many people frowning upon the new trends, one thing is for sure: the recent years have brought a new sense of nationalism with young girls and guys looking forward to dress up for Oktoberfest, despite the outfits not being quite as what they are supposed to be. It is cool to dress up and people spotted without Dirndl or Lederhosen are often labeled as tourists.
Haxnbraterei and its famous pork knuckle
You don’t go to Oktoberfest expecting gourmet-worthy food. But like at every fair, you can find some good grub here too. Chocofruits are definitely one of my favorites and I never leave the grounds without having a stick of milk chocolate-dipped strawberries and bananas (3€). Another sweet treat are roasted nuts. Vendors have now come up with all sorts of varieties ranging from choco-chili macademia nuts to cognac flavored hazelnuts. I usually stick with the classic delicious, tasty, crunchy and sugar-roasted almonds (5€).
On the savory side, D. has become a fan of the Haxnsemmel, which is basically pork knuckle meat in a bun of bread – the local version of a hamburger. The crispy skin of the knuckle and the tasty meat inside a crispy bread bun make this the ultimate after-hour food (7€ at Haxnbraterei). Other typical foods you can find at Oktoberfest are roast chicken, sauerkraut, brez’n (German word for prezl) and sausages. If you want to bring home a little taste of Oktoberfest, grab one of the many designs of gingerbread hearts. You can even have your message customized on it (5-20€)
Oktoberfest at night
4. Rollercoasters and rides
Although the vast majority of people associate Oktoberfest with beer drinking, it is only half of the story. Growing up, beer wasn’t on my mind. I wanted to go to Oktoberfest for the rides. Half the grounds of Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest takes place every year (hence the local name Wies’n), is occupied by fair attractions such as rollercoasters, bumper cars, haunted houses and ferry’s wheel. On Tuesday, all attractions offer special discount for the so-called Family Day.
More to follow...