So, another bucket list tick - Oktoberfest in Munich.
It's weird. In a world where alcohol is demonised here is a festival where it is mandatory to drink to excess. No half measures, you want a beer it has to be a litre. And let's make it strong (6%abv) just to make sure that livers are appropriately punished.
The grounds open at 10am in a weekday and at 10:30 the HofBrau tent is already filling rapidly. It's the largest tent seating 10,000 (and the only tent to have a few standing tables - otherwise no seat, no drink at Oktoberfest) and is popular with the younger, tourist element. It's busy, very noisy, already people are standing on the benches stamping and clapping (but not on the tables, unless they want to get ejected). A young girl suddenly stands tall, freshly filled stein in hand and to steady clapping starts to chug. 30 seconds later, to rapturous applause, the empty stein is lowered from her lips. That's one litre of 6% abv beer down in one and it's only 10:30 in the morning! Wonder how she survives the day.
Too raucous for Liz and I so we wander around a little before settling on the Augustiner tent for our first beer of the day. It's still early so there are free spaces without having to squeeze in too tightly.
At 6.3%abv Augustiner is marginally the strongest beer at Wiesn (the locals name for Oktoberfest) but more interestingly is the only beer that is actually tapped from real wooden barrels. It's good too
As we get close to finishing our steins a waitress shows a group to our table. Young and local I think, but not hospitable in the last. Unlike Salzburg we were ignored and not included in toasts. Not even when the band struck up "Ein Prosit" for the umpteenth time.
Time to move on. A quick look in all 14 of the main tents and they are filling rapidly. HofBrau is just as raucous as previous. We wander into the Löwenbrau tent and spot a place on an unreserved table. Yes, say the other occupants at the table, the seats are free. Within seconds a waitress is upon us and drinks are ordered. Unlike Rupertikirtag the waitress he takes the order, fetches the drinks and then collects the money. And they are pretty impressive too, carrying armfuls of steins at a time!
Our neighbours are just leaving anyway, one of their group committed the cardinal sin of standing on the table and had recently been expelled so they had to go find him. Still the table soon fills up, one side we have another 4 uncommunicative young locals but we are then joined by two delightful young ladies from just North of Stuttgart. Stuttgart's own Oktoberfest started today but these two decided Weisn is the place to be so on a whim bought a day ticket on the train. This tent is lively, quite rowdy on times, the occasionally chugger stands up and downs his litre to appropriate applause. Silly hats abound. It's pretty weird watching someone who's head is covered with a roast chicken with its motorized legs waving around - gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "battery hen"!
Still the music isn't bad, although the highlight was when the band gave way to 6 trumpeters on a balcony who played "Amazing Grace". Yes, I've done it, I've jumped up onto my bench at Weisn and applauded.
But after the second litre kicks in, even after food to help soak some of it up, the realisation comes that another litre and we're going to be quite drunk, two more and the word "pissed" will be needed. It's fun but it's excessive so we decide to wander around and then slowly creep away.
A few other pictures
Each tent was decorated with its own unique theme - here's Augustiner
Weisn is huge. Apparently 6 million people visit each year - that's more than the entire population of Denmark (and far more than Ireland!). The tents can seat around 120,000 and are full by early afternoon on weekdays and well before noon on the weekends - everyday for 3 weeks. Beer is expensive just under €11 a litre and food is also not cheap, which is why Weisn is reckoned to be a billion dollar business.
Of course it's not all beer tents, Tuesdays are particularly children's days. There's a huge funfair with some pretty scarey rides that we could see above the tents but I suspect we'd have encountered much more sedate family-friendly fare had we wandered away from the main tents. Food stalls abounded, as well as the pretzels and sausages there were grilled fish on a stick and huge ham hocks. And of course heart shaped gingerbreads with icing slogans of endearment.
Tracht (traditional costume) was everywhere. The trick, of course, was to spot the genuine Bavarian wearing their expensive lederhosen or cotton dirndls as opposed to the tourists in their cheap leather and polyester. Some of the genuine stuff looked very impressive. Tweed jackets, elaborate waistcoats, side fastening leather shoes and hats with fantastic plumes (one tent had such plumes for sale, at the bargain price of €200). Some of the material in the women's skirts was beautiful and Liz has a mission tomorrow to try and find a shop selling such fabric. Mind you the cheap tourist stuff looked quite good too and probably 3/4 of all attendees wore some sort of Bavarian costume, whether they were natives to the area or not.
We were spoiled. Rupertikirtag in Salzburg was much smaller but much more authentic, probably well less than 10% tourists. It was friendly, the fair smaller but priding itself in rides from the 60's and before, the craft stalls with real local crafts, and everything at less extreme prices.
Weisn is big, brash, boisterous. Lots of tourists using it as an excuse to dress up and then over-indulge in extremis. I'm glad we've come to Weisn, is only to be able to say: "Been there, done that"