Prost! Beers at Oktoberfest

View from the "Star Flyer" at Oktoberfest

A week before arriving in Munich, we were on a train to Budapest with four guys traveling together from Ireland. We got to talking about our next destinations, and we found out that, like us, they were making their way towards Munich. They told us that they couldn’t wait to get there, because Oktoberfest was going to be so much fun. We cocked our heads at each other. Oktoberfest? But wasn’t it still September? Yep, they said, Oktoberfest starts in September. In fact, it was starting only two nights before we were set to arrive. Wow! The legendary festival of beer had set itself squarely in our path. What great news! We’d had no idea that our visit to Munich would coincide with Oktoberfest. Happy days!

After the initial wave of excitement, however, we realized that we hadn’t yet booked any accomodation in Munich. This was going to be a problem. The guys in the train with us told us they’d booked their campsite months earlier. Some more people we met in Salzburg told us they’d booked their hostel nine months ago. In a bit of a panic, we went online and checked into the situation. It was grim. The best prices going were for dorm beds in hostels far outside of the city centre, and the cheapest price listed was 50 euros per bed! Ouch. There was no way we were paying that price, so we came up with a plan. Since we were only going to be in Munich for one night and one day, we decided that we’d dump our bags in storage at the train station, find some beer, and wander around the city all night with the other drunken revellers. While it may sound like an exciting plan, we weren’t all that keen on it ourselves. We’d been in more overnight trains than hostels over the last week or so, and we had an 11 hour overnight train to Paris to look forward to, in seats (no sleeper cars available). Ugh.

Just before we shouldered our bags in Salzburg to catch the train to Munich, we decided to try one more time, and from a different angle. We tried, and just for fun, offered to pay $75 USD for a hotel room in central Munich. We laughed to ourselves as the request was being processed, because our offered price was so much lower than the going rate for even dorm beds. But then, shockingly, the response came up: accepted! It turns out that we got a room at the Courtyard Marriott in central Munich, only two blocks from the train station, and only four blocks from the Oktoberfest grounds! We couldn’t believe our luck. With big smiles we boarded the train. When we arrived in Munich, we checked in, put the beers we’d bought on ice (they had ice!), and enjoyed what was probably the most luxurious accomodation we’d had in months.

It turns out that our original plan of partying all night long would have been a bad one anyways, because the beer tents at Oktoberfest close around 10:30 pm, and we didn’t arrive until almost 9:30 pm. We thought this odd, but we realized the logic the next day, when we made our way over to the tents around noon!

One of the "tents"

The first myth I should dispel about Oktoberfest is the misnomer used for their beer-serving structures: they are not tents. The word “tent” conjures up images of flimsy canvas pulled over temporary frames, usually held in place by a hundred ropes and accommodating at most a few hundred people. The “tents” at Oktoberfest are buildings. True, they are temporary structures, but the one we visited first had steel i-beam construction, glass windows, a mezzanine level, and sat just shy of 9,500 people! Apparently they begin construction 10 weeks before the festival begins. It was huge!

Now THAT's a beer!

The rule at Oktoberfest is that you can’t order a beer unless you are sitting down, so we grabbed a seat at the end of a table and ordered a couple of beers. They were huge too! Each beer is served in a 1-litre glass that takes two hands to lift (unless you’re one of the super-human servers working at Oktoberfest. I saw one lady carrying 8 litres of beer, four in each hand, without spilling a drop). To make the atmosphere festive, each “tent” has a band (as Meghan described them, an “Oompa-loompa” band) that plays merry music and drinking songs as people in lederhosen and dirndl outfits cheer and swig and dance. It might actually be too much fun.

Nice horsey, big horsey!

After sampling our first litres, we ventured back outside, saw some absolutely huge Clydesdale horses, ate some huge German sausages, and found another huge tent to drink more huge beers in. We sat with a family from South Africa and chatted as we sipped and gulped our brews. 2 litres gone. 3 litres gone!

Beers with our South African friends

It was at this point that I realised two things. First, Meg had all but stopped sipping from our now shared beer glass, and was swaying unsteadily but happily back and forth in her seat. Second, I realised that standing up was going to be a little tricky. We decided it was time for a nap, so we linked arms and wandered over to a nice patch of grass where people were relaxing in the sun. We reclined on the grass, closed our eyes, opened our eyes, and realised that the sun had set. Was it a nap, or did we just pass out on the lawn in the middle of Munich? I’ll let you decide.

Beer makes us happy

We spent another hour or so exploring the fairgrounds before we had to head to the trainstation to leave for Paris. I’m so happy we got to experience Oktoberfest, and to make things even better, we found out that this year was the 200th year of the festival! How cool is that? I don’t know how I’m ever going to adapt to drinking measly little pints again.


    That last pic is amazingly great. Look at you two… Two happy little wander-ers. Cheers! Xoxox

    I’ll have to remember that priceline trick.

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