Just over 200 years ago, when it began, it had nothing to do with the festival you see today. Way back when, Prince Ludwig II was marrying Princess Therese. Cause enough for a celebration but it was done with horse races, not drinking beer and devouring pretzels. However, the celebration was such a huge hit, it was decided to make it a yearly occurrence.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and now the horses still play a big part, but the food and beverages have taken the spotlight. There are only 5 breweries that are allowed to brew the brew for Oktoberfest and they do so to the tune of about 6.5 million liters to help quench the thirst of some 7 million visitors. They also follow strict guidelines set down by the 1497 Purity Law. Beer is pure, only when it is brewed from malt, yeast, hops and water. No additives are allowed. This is one of the oldest mandates of its kind. (I heard rumours that attendance was down this year…not sure how accurate that comment was given the crowds we saw today.)
An upsurge in the wearing of Bavarian costumes by the patrons (now approaching 95%…Really?? Maybe more like…55%, still impressive however) has done much to improve the general feel of the festival. That, and acoustics, have become as much an Oktoberfest trademark as beer, sausage and pretzels. Many band members will put in as many as 150 hours over the 2 weeks of performances. And every tent has a band.
Chicken is (perhaps surprising to us) the protein of choice with over a half million of the birds being prepared in a multitude of ways. Those, along with 55 thousand pork knuckles, 116 million sausages and 104 oxen, are just a part of what makes waistlines bigger.
Oh…yeah…about the oxen. At the Spatenbrau Ochsenbraterei they roast whole ox. This morning when we first went in, they were roasting Josef. He was number 70 and weighed in at 11.5 Zentner. A Zentner is about 50 kilograms. So he was about 575 kilos (a little over 1,250 lbs for those that still care). Later, Peter (who was number 73 at the time) joined us at our table.
He was very, very tasty. 🙂
Lets not forget the beer! A good bartender can pour up to a thousand litres per hour…a really good hostess can carry up to 14 of those famous 1 litre mugs! (And I hear the world record is 17!!) Don’t arm-wrestle these women!! And… DO NOT call them Fraulien!!
Don’t get in the path of any of the wait staff. They have no time to be real polite (quite understandable given the sheer volume of people). They are nice, to be sure, but more focused on being effective.
There seems to be a lot of ‘don’ts’ up above. Well here is one more. Don’t eat before you go. 🙂
It’s really difficult to grasp the number of people that are here. It’s thick with people, to be sure. But it feels somehow less than you would think (until you get into the tents). Taking the U-Bahn (effectively their LRT) to the festival, is fabulous. As crowded as it becomes the nearer it gets (after frequent stops), at the end you get off. Walk a few steps to 2 up escalators (1 other going down plus stairs – roles reverse at the end of the day) and you are immediately in the fair grounds. No walking through pedways. And no waiting at the top because there are no entrance fees. So…no turnstiles to hold back your progress. What a concept! With 400 – 450 thousand people every day for 16 days, maybe they figured out they don’t NEED to charge admission. Maybe because there is no admission, there are more people. Hmmmmm….
The larger tents (I use the word loosely as they are highly-engineered structures) hold upwards of 10 – 11 thousand people. Smaller ones only 5 – 700 (yeah…real small). To become host of a tent, you have to have perseverance. Some hosts have been there for over 30 years. And it took them 18 years before that just to be accepted. To co-ordinate the sheer quantity and quality of the food and beverages that is a daily occurrence, is nothing short of amazing.
Experiencing Oktoberfest is akin to trying to understand the Grand Canyon. Pictures abound, but until you’ve been there, you just don’t truly grasp the enormity. Yes there is the midway (and it, too, is size large indeed), but truth be told, it is much the same as any other. Built for kids and parents. And it does a wonderful job. The real attractions, however, are the beer tents. Their goal is to ensure their patrons have lots to drink, lots to eat, and provide a festive atmosphere.
They absolutely succeed.
Hearing about this massive party in Germany certainly suggests something noteworthy. YouTube presents insights into crowds, tent sizes, food, and beverages. The internet is replete with examples posted by tens of thousands of revelers. But you know from your own first hand experiences elsewhere, real imprints are only made by real involvement.
Oktoberfest is by no means an exception. If you haven’t done so already, consider this to be a bucket-list item.
Words and pictures will try to transmit a sense of amazement. Both will convey but a small fragment of the exuberance, animation and geniality that is taking place. Being surrounded by it makes it all but mandatory to take in as much as possible.