Day Seven - Munchen/Oktoberfest '07

Munich Travel Blog

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One section of Oktoberfest

We woke up to another bright day, ate brunch, (which seemed a lot like breakfast except it was nearly noon), and we were off to explore Munich, or Mϋnchen as it is spelled here, and Oktoberfest. 

We walked out to the bus stop and waited for the 153 bus that would take us to the U, their straight forward way of labeling the underground.  Catching the bus turned out to be much easier than figuring out the subway.  Derik and I have both traveled enough that it shouldn’t have been as confusing as it was, but the press of people and the screaming of nearly a hundred school children didn’t help with our ability to think.

The beer tents to the right hold thousands of guests.

Finally getting our ticket and getting it stamped, we walked down the long ramp to wait for a train.  Once it came I was amazed at how clean and spacious it was.  Their trains are not all the same, but this one seemed wider and taller than subways I’ve been on in the past.  The walls were metallic grey and it had wood seats along the edge placed in a gentle arch.  The handrails were all in chrome and there were little modern lights over the entrance ways.  Adding to the clean concept, there were no ads anywhere!  Where you would normally be accosted with ads for the latest movie or pair of sunglasses, there was just clean empty space.

The car we had walked into was just comfortably full of people.  There were no seats for Derik and I, so we stood in the entry way.

One of the Oktoberfest horse teams
  As I observed the people I was surprise to see that several of them were in a variety of different traditional costumes.  I presumed they must be on their way to work at Oktoberfest or something like that.  After making a switch in U lines, we followed the masses of humanity that were headed down the street, correctly figuring that would lead us to the festival.

Oktoberfest - what can you really say?  Billed as the world’s biggest public festival, it all started in 1810 with a horserace to celebrate the marriage of Ludwig and Thérѐse von Saxe-Hildbburghausen.  Following that an annual fall festival was held, apparently to commemorate their marriage and has grown ever since.

One of the beer wagons of Oktoberfest '07.
  As it turned out, all the people I had observed on the subway were just attending Oktoberfest with multiple thousands of their closest friends, all in costume.  We learned that it has caught on, especially among younger people, to get dressed up in traditional costume for Oktoberfest.  But it certainly isn't done by the young alone.  People of all ages were in costume, seemingly outnumbering those who weren’t.  Needless to say, Derik and I stood out as tourists.

It would be difficult to find the right words to describe the festivities.  A HUGE part of it is nothing more than carnival midway.  People were crammed down the wide lanes waiting to get onto the plethora of rides and amusements.  If you wander through this section as we did, you move when the crowd moves.  Just walking from one side of a thoroughfare to the other can take a bit of time, as there are so many people.

The front of one of the beer "tents."

Adding to the difficulty in mobility as well as the flavor of ambience are these large wagons from the different beer manufacturers being hauled around by teams of horses laden with regalia.  The crowds stop and admire and that brings all movement to a stop - but again, they look quite impressive.  But the main draw of the fest, are the large beer tents Derik and I eventually meandered towards.

While they call them "tents" that doesn't seem a logical term.  They're HUGE and solid structres.  However, my understanding is they put them up just for these two weeks and then the rest of the year it's a vacant lot.  So, in that sense, I suppose "tents" wil have to do.

The same tent from, just to give perspective of how huge they are.
  We wandered through several of them experiencing the different vibes of each.  This one has music playing or that one has large rooms of kegs with people pouring fast and furious.  While they had food options available, beer was indeed the main menu item of the day.  Everybody was working their way through a 1 litre masse and some might be munching on a pretzel as thick as your wrist and about the size of a dinner plate.  What amazed me was that for that much beer and that many people to be in one location, the situation seemed well in control.  There were security around, (although not out-right prohibited, they frown on you taking pictures but I did sneak the few that are here) but by and large, people were well behaved and having a great time socializing.

We talked with some young people who were in costume, as I wanted to try and learn if they just got dressed up for Oktoberfest, which would seem a huge waste to me, or if there were other dates through the year that they got dressed up for as well.

This giant crest was in one end of one of the tents
  They said, no - it’s really just this two week period in October.  And then quickly acknowledged it’s a rather shameful waste of Euros to buy clothes that you only wear once a year.  But they felt the tradition outweighed the rest and they explained that for those two weeks, everyone is really pulled together.  You have a sense of camaraderie with everyone that isn’t seen the rest of the year.

From what we observed I’d have to say they were right.   Everyone did seem to be very palsy-walsy and I’m sure the beer only heightened the sensation for them.  But I think it was more than that.  There was just a feeling of openness that you couldn’t possibly keep in a group that size all the time.

I was left with the impression that Oktoberfest is really much more than a beer fest.

This kid's got rhythm. I'm sure he'll be in the bandstand someday.
  It’s a cultural high for the people of Germany.  It’s not what defines them by any means, and it doesn’t define Munich, but something would be missing if Oktoberfest suddenly disappeared.  As I later told Derik, I was certainly glad we came through Munich during the festival, because we saw a side of German life we never would have seen otherwise.  Seeing everyone in traditional costume alone was great.

By the time we left the vast grounds and got back to Arvie, it was nearing 10pm and we were quite exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep.

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One section of Oktoberfest
One section of Oktoberfest
The beer tents to the right hold t…
The beer tents to the right hold …
One of the Oktoberfest horse teams
One of the Oktoberfest horse teams
One of the beer wagons of Oktoberf…
One of the beer wagons of Oktober…
The front of one of the beer tent…
The front of one of the beer "ten…
The same tent from, just to give p…
The same tent from, just to give …
This giant crest was in one end of…
This giant crest was in one end o…
This kids got rhythm.  Im sure h…
This kid's got rhythm. I'm sure …
The bandstand led the festivites.
The bandstand led the festivites.
Altogether now.
Altogether now.
Goodbye Oktoberfest.
Goodbye Oktoberfest.
photo by: AleksandraEa