First the basics.
Oktoberfest has been going on since 1810 to honour the then marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghhausen (whew). It was originally a week long and ended in with a horse race. They added a few days as the years went by and moved it to an earlier time simply for better weather.
Today over 6 million people come to Munich, spending about a billion euros, drinking over 6 million litres of beer, eating about 700,000 chickens and 600,000 pork knuckles (sounds gross but they are actually quite fabulous). They also produce about 700 tonnes of waste.
On the opening day of Oktoberfest, the Lord Mayor of Munich taps the first keg at 12 noon sharp
. We decided to show up around 9:30 to be sure we got a seat (you can't order anything if you don't have a seat). We walked into madness. There were people everywhere mostly dressed in the traditional outfits including the famous lederhosen (sp?). The tent we chose was at capacity. The servers said it was full but we could try our luck if we wanted. We walked a few aisles until we saw a table that had a couple spaces left. Who can say no to Megan's smiling face? We think we got the last two spaces in a tent that seats over 6000 with a further 4000 outside (one of we think 15 similar tents). And it was only 9:30! At 11:50 the place erupted as the band marched in and got organized. At 12 noon on the nose, thousands of litres of beer flew out to the tables and about 10,000 people had a big old Bavarian beer in front of them within 20 minutes (plus the odd bratwurst, half-chicken, or pork knuckle). As the beer went down the whole place loosened up more and more as the singing and dancing on the tables became more frequent. About every three songs, the band would play the same short song... "Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, something, something, something..." and the people went nuts (see video if it works). One guy at our table even translated the words to most of the traditional songs for us on our tablecloth. Very nice. At 2pm, we were informed that our table had been reserved by others and we had to leave. We just hovered and once again Megan managed to convince them that there was room for us at the table still. As a thank-you, Meg bought them a pretzel the size of a small child. We lasted until about 5pm before I ran out of steam so to speak. I convinced Megan that it would be best if we went back to the room for a bit. I was asleep by 5:30 and Meg went out exploring the sites.
The next day we returned to the Oktoberfest grounds more to check it all out and people watch. The place is so huge, it took us over an hour to walk from one end to the other and back (stopping for a pork knuckle sandwich of course). The people were in fine form again singing, dancing, eating and without question consuming a few more litres. The festival goers do tend to take it a bit too far sometimes. By 1pm we saw countless people being wheeled off on stretchers or passed out under trees from what we could guess was one too many bratwurst. Definitely an experience we will not forget any time soon.
Our last day in Munich we headed for lunch in the English Garden and soaked up some sun before heading back to the action for some more people watching and a beer to wash down the experience.
Tomorrow we are off to Portugal!
Whoa. Now where did we put those spare livers? What a crazy experience.