The traditional drinking song of Oktoberfest which is played every 20 minutes all day, every day:
"Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
OANS ZWOA DREI! G'SUFFA!"
English translation of Ein Prosit:
"A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.
ONE TWO THREE! DRINK UP!"
Oktoberfest is known a lot more for its beer than its food, but saying that, there is plenty of traditional Bavarian food available at the fest (for a hefty fee). Each tent not only serves beer, but also have hot food available too. However it is common knowledge that people under the influence of beer tend to forget about eating until it is too late. That is where the pretzel girls come in handy. Every few minutes a girl dressed in a Dirndl (traditional dress) comes walking by with a basket full of pretzels, jolting your memory back into gear, reminding you of your need to eat. To say that I had a couple of pretzels during my drinking sessions at the fest would be an understatement.
Being at Oktoberfest is simply an awesome experience, one that is enhanced by that fact the nearly every single person is dressed for the occasion in the traditional costumes. These are the Dirndl (a colourful dresses with apron) for women and the Lederhosen (leather overalls) for men. It was fantastic to see that everyone puts in the effort and gets dressed up, making the whole experience a giant dress up party. The one time we went for a short drink without costumes (because we came directly from a day at Dachau) we felt excluded, so we were really happy that we had our costumes for the majority of our time spent there. There are thousands and thousands of costumes available in the city (not cheap, some starting at around 100 euros each!) which really encourages people to get into the occasion and join in the fun. If we ever have a dress up party at home, we at least have some costumes to wear again!
Imagine a place that is half fairground, half beer festival. A place where everyone is in dressed in bright colours, and some of the best beer in the world is served table at a time in one litre glasses. Where total strangers become best friends, singing and 'prosting' on long wooden tables. A place where women wear curve enhancing dresses, and men dress in leather. A place where the smell of pretzels and roast chicken are permanently in the air. It is the place of dreams, and this place is Oktoberfest in Munich.
What can I say! It was everything that I had heard it would be and was looking forward to. I have always wanted to go ever since I saw the huge tents full of thousand of people having a great time on a TV documentary. Now we were finally here! The event is held on grounds that have 2 identifiable sections; the main street with the drinking tents (14 large tents that hold 1000s of people each at a time) and the fair ground section with rides and roller coasters. We spent most of our time in the beer tents, our favourite being the Augustiner-Festhalle. It was the first tent we went to on the first day and we were very lucky to get into it only because of Lisa's genius idea...
We had just missed out on getting into the Schottenhamel tent after lining up for hours in the morning and we had nowhere else to go, because by that stage everything else was full and you will only get served beer if you are sitting at a table in a tent. So Lisa came up with the genius idea to follow a group of local girls that ended up walking around the back of the Augustiner tent and into the back entrance after the front was closed. We got in against all odds and were greeted by a lovely fraulein (beer waitresses that can carry over 20 steins at a time!) that somehow found us 2 seats on a table where we made friends with 2 New Zealanders and 2 Chicagoans and 3 slightly strange Germans. We still had to wait 1 1/2 hours before the beer taps started flowing however, because no beer is allowed to be served until the mayor comes and taps the first keg at 12pm. Once the rocket exploded overhead symbolising the opening of the fest and the brass band did a lap of honour inside the tent, the beer began to flow.
Over the next 3 days that we visited we drank an average of 4 litres of beer each, our best being 5 litres each over a whole day, enough to put us in a jolly old mood, join in with everyone singing and dancing on the tables and chairs and make friends with total strangers. We visited 4 tents total; Augustiner, Schottenhamel, Löwenbräu and Hofbräu. It was a fantastic experience overall and would love to go again!
What we learnt today
After a few days at Oktoberfest there is one thing that we all agreed with, there is no possible way that an event of that scale and with that much alcohol could be successfully run in either Australia or the UK. The drinking culture here is completely different. Drinking is not seen simply as a means to get drunk, but enjoyed for other reasons; being social, excuses to eat good food and the great music and atmosphere found in the beer halls. During our time there we saw very little violence, couples arguing or people being sick, and considering the number of people there and the volume of alcohol drunk, that is quite amazing! I don't have the same faith in my fellow country-people to handle their booze in the same way!
Speaking of the beers, there are 2 sizes in Germany; "One" and "Half". One being 1 litre and half being half a litre. It is not uncommon for the local experts to knock down 10 or more litres of beer in one sitting and continuous visitations to the same beer hall every week over 3 years will earn you a permanent place as a VIP with your picture on the wall and your very own special beer stein locked away waiting for you. Miss one week though, and unfortunately you're back to square one in your quest for beer drinking immortality.