Last year I drove to Munich with a few friends from Prague for one of the last weekends of Oktoberfest. But after returning for a second year and spending an entire weekend drinking liters of beer in the Theresienwiese tents, I realized there was a whole lot I didn’t know after the first time around.
They don’t sell beer outside the tents!
By some miracle last year, three of us managed to get seating at two different tents. So the time we spent outside in the fairgrounds was minimal. And by the time we did emerge, I definitely only had the mental capacity to write a few postcards and eat chocolate-covered strawberries. This year I had some time over the weekend to visit different stalls. And to my surprise, they don’t even sell beer outside the tents. There are a couple of stands with liquor and wine, but they are few and far between. And the people you do see drinking outside are in the outdoor beer gardens that belong to one of the large beer tents. Though it’s easier to get a table there, it can still get filled up. So moral of the story… if you don’t plan ahead and secure a spot at a beer tent, you’re going to be walking around a huge carnival where everyone is really drunk except you.
How opening day is different from other days
Opening day can be really exciting. The first keg is tapped, there are parades, and you get to enjoy the fest before all the tables are sticky with beer. However, without a reservation the first day can actually be worse than a regular weekend day. The beers are tapped at noon and the festival grounds open at 9 am. That means there are three hours of sitting there waiting for beer just to hold a spot in a tent. If you come later, you’d be lucky to be able to squeeze into a table. Without a reservation, the tents are at capacity and closed 15 minutes after beer is served.
Prior to noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, there are parades that snake around the city and make their way into the Oktoberfest grounds. Each brewer proudly marches with the band into each tent right before they ring the bells to let you know that beer is coming. But without a reservation, you have to pick whether you want to see the parades outside or secure a seat. The ceremonial tapping of the keg occurs in the Schottenhamel tent. But that event requires reservations.
Some tents kick you out for chugging beer
This is an inconsistent rule, but it’s best to be careful. On the very first day at the Augustiner-Bräu tent, after waiting two hours before the kegs were tapped and beer was even served, one guy at our table stood up on his seat and started chugging his beer to riotous cheers and applause from everyone around him. Bouncers promptly pulled him off the table and dragged him out of the tent. Some others are a bit more lenient. In the Hacker tent, for example, they give you multiple warnings but still let people do this until they can barely stand. I guess that’s why they call it the Heaven of the Bavarians.
Drinkers snort Bavarian cocaine during the festival
When you’re sitting down, people come around with baskets of food and trinkets for you to buy. This is how you can get a life-saving pretzel or pastry. What I didn’t know last year is that these people also sell vials of “Bavarian cocaine.” It’s powder meant for snorting made of glucose and menthol. It makes the process of snorting real cocaine feel awesome by comparison, because Bavarian cocaine is basically like snorting powdered Vicks VapoRub. But as much as it sucks, it really does give you a jolt of energy that drinking beer slowly saps from you.
They have the best rotisserie chicken you’ll ever eat
Of course, no one can survive only off pretzels, fake coke, and beer. So the tents have a menu of food. And all of it is fantastic – the pork, the schnitzel, the sausages. But nothing compares to the half chickens, which spend all day roasting on a spit. They sell them inside and outside the tents (and if you want to save a couple of bucks, they’re cheaper outside). But they’re delicious everywhere. If you plan to spend several hours in the tents, make it a point to eat. First, because you don’t want to be the guy throwing up on the floor at 7 pm. But also, the food inside the tents is some of the best in Munich. And those delectible chickens are the best way to satisfy your drunk munchies.
Lederhosen are amazing
When I went to Oktoberfest last year, I realized I was in the 10-15% of people who didn’t dress up. So I was determined to dress appropriately this time around. Before Hurricane Irma threatened to kill everyone I love and cancel the trip, I spent a month worrying only about how I was going to get myself a pair of lederhosen. And though I was in the minority of women wearing what is traditionally a man’s outfit, I was definitely way more comfortable than anyone wearing a dirndl. When it’s 40 degrees out, it’s criminal to be wearing a short dress with a lot of cleavage. Since lederhosen are leather, they keep you at the perfect temperature, inside or outside. And they’ll survive any hell you put them through when you’re clinking steins and getting sloshed.
But now it’s time to hang them up ’cause I’m all beered out.