Our First Oktoberfest

After years of talking about going, Merideth and I finally attended our first Oktoberfest in September 2005. We waited so long to attend out of the dislike of huge crowds, poor planning (on my part) in our German trips and mostly fear; fear of being disappointed by the holy grail of beer events. Prior to going (and even after), we were told about 2 hour queues and 12 euro beers. So, with a bit of apprehension, we left the comforts our our hotel and headed down to the Theresienwiese.

About to walk into Oktoberfest for the first time...

Oktoberfest was great! We went for the first three days of the 2005 festival and had the time of our lives. So following, is our impressions of the event plus, hopefully, some helpful advice.

First of all, the best piece of advice I found when researching Oktoberfest was to go with an open mind. If you go with the idea that you are going to go a specific tent, long lines might disappoint you. But if you go with the idea that whatever happens, happens, you will have a great time.

With this piece of advice in mind, Merideth and I went for the first time opening day in the middle afternoon. The lines were not too bad – the opening weekend crowds were small due to cool weather – but we decided to sit outside at the Ochsenbrateri (Spaten).

I have to admit, I was somewhat nervous when I got to Oktoberfest; I wasn’t quite sure what to do or where to go. So, we basically went into the first place we came to. So, I am feeling a bit nervous and we turn into the Ochsenbrateri and some guy is already being wheeled out on a stretcher… barely 3 hours after the event started!

Our first Oktoberfest friends...

We ended spending 6 hours there and met a lot of great people… some fellow Californians, an Australian couple and a group of Austrian teenagers (16 is the drinking age).

After spending Sunday recovering from Saturday night by making our pilgrimage hike to Andechs, we returned to Oktoberfest Sunday evening with the idea that we were going to take it easy, just going to check it out and see what happens.

The lines were non-existent (but the tents were packed) and we ended up having an extended stay in the Hofbrau Festhalle. The tent was very crowded but some fellow Americans hailed us down and we ended up sitting with them and having another wonderful multi-liter evening.

It pays to wear your Dropkick Murphys shirt at Oktoberfest. The reason the two guys hailed us down was that they were fellow DKM fans.

Half the fun of Oktoberfest is checking out the tents.

We finished up our first Oktoberfest on a Monday afternoon just walking around, recovering from the previous night (some of us more than others) and checking out everything we had missed in the bustle of the evening. The daytime is much mellower [‘mellower’ being a very relative term. Oktoberfest ‘mellow’ is still pretty high on the wild meter] and gives you the opportunity to check out all the tents plus the other daytime activities. Not to be missed are the brewery’s horse-drawn beer wagons!

With a big smile and somewhat heavy heart, we left Munich the next day and headed for Austria. We told ourselves we were going to be back at Oktoberfest… soon…

Click here for all the images of Oktoberfest.

Helpful Tidbits

  • Instead of taking the U-bahn to Theresienwiese, take the S-bahn to Hackerbrucke. It’s a 5 minute walk (follow everyone else) but the station is far less crowded.
  • The Munich subway is on the honor system but pay for your ticket. Not having a ticket is a 40 Euro fine.
  • Just go! It’s free, there is some great food available in the stalls and the people watching is great.
  • Unless you are in a group of 12 or more, don’t worry about reservations because they don’t accept them.
  • Especially during the day, if you see a reserved table with some empty seats, just ask the people if you can sit there. A lot of the time, the answer will be yes.
  • Be friendly. It’s hard sometimes for us Americans but you meet some great people.
  • The crowds are really dependent on the time of the week you go. If you go to a popular bar anywhere on a Friday or Saturday night, you expect it to be crowded. Well, it’s the same with Oktoberfest. That is why I recommend going on an off night, such as a Sunday.
  • The liters go down surprisingly fast so pace yourself. Oktoberfest is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • The greatest idea in the history of mankind… Combining drinking huge amounts of beer with spinning, whirling carnival rides.