Oktoberfest, which locals call Wiesn, is the world's largest beer festival, held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. More than six million people from around the world attend the event each year. It runs for 16-18 days, beginning in September, and ending the first weekend in October. This year was the 185th anniversary.
During this three-ish week festival, Germans and tourists alike dress in their finest tracht (lederhosen for men and dirndl for women) and spend their days/nights (and all their money) drinking beer, eating pretzels and dancing on tables.
Some advice for the ladies...1) Whatever you do, don't wear a cheap, all-in-one 'Bavarian Girl' costume. The dirndl should be made up of three pieces - blouse, dress and apron. The outfit is expensive. If you don't want to invest in owning one, there are places in Munich to rent them. 2) Where you tie the bow of your apron is of the utmost importance. Tie it on your left side if you’re single and looking to mingle. It should be tied on the right if you’re in a relationship or married. Put the bow in the back if you're widowed or a waitress and in the front/middle if you’re a virgin or 'it's complicated'.
It does not cost anything to stroll through Theresienwiese fairgrounds. There are rides, stalls and people watching that could hold your attention for hours. But if you want the full experience (and you do!), go into the tents. There are 14 main ones, each seating between 3,000 and 11,000 people, and each rocking their own vibe.
It'd been nine years since that last time I attended Oktoberfest. In 2009, I sat in the Hofbräu Festzelt tent, most popular amongst Anglo-saxon English-speakers. Reservations had not been secured and we were lucky that the people at the table where we plopped down never turned up. With a capacity of nearly 10,000, this was the biggest beer-tent at Oktoberfest.
This time around, 39 friends and I had tickets to the Käfers Wiesn-Schänke tent, owned by one of Munich's most famous restaurateurs, Michael Käfer. This relatively small, rustic tent was fantastic and served incredible food. The roasted duck was something not to be missed. I can understand why this tent has become the go-to for foodies as well as local and international celebrities. Bill and Hilary Clinton had been in attendance the previous night. It can be tough to get into this tent unless you have connections or a famous last name though.
Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. There are six breweries that fit this criteria who produce beer for Oktoberfest. A Maß (or a Mass) is one liter of beer and would set you back about €11 this year. Käfers served Paulaner beer, which I must admit was pretty good (even for a non-beer drinker). Prost!