I have wanted to go to Oktoberfest for the last couple of years, and something has come up each year that has prevented me from attending. I have even been in Europe while it was happening the last two years and couldn’t hit it up. Until now that is. After arriving in from Spain, my girlfriend and I set off immediately for the Theresienwiese stop on the U-Bahn to the festival grounds. The official festivities didn’t kick off until the next day, but we wanted to have a look around and see what that was.
Upon entering the park, we noticed that everything was closed, even with the thousands aimlessly roaming around staring at the area that the following day will be transformed into the worlds largest pub crawl. I really wanted to get myself an Oktoberfest shirt and maybe some Oktoberfest mugs, but the woman at the souvenir stand informed us that it was illegal to sell anything until the next day at 12 noon, after the opening ceremonies. She said that I should try the shops near the Haufbanhof train station; but that they were usually of lesser quality and a little more expensive (I thought that this might be a selling technique but learned later that she was right).
Now, I always imagined Oktoberfest to be a large scale party with people coming and going from one of the many different beer halls and that was all. But after noticing my surroundings, I realized that that was only part of it. There was a huge carnival that also accompanied the mayhem. A giant Ferris wheel was set off in the background with nothing but rides, roller coasters and game tents in between. It was totally not what I expected, but a nice addition.
The first thing that we had to do was go over to the Hofbrauhaus beer hall. Hofbrauhaus is the name that most people equate with Munich and Oktoberfest, so it seemed like the logical step. Each beer tent was relatively empty, with the exception of the random onlookers trying to get a behind the scenes peek at the going ons of Oktoberfest. They were also not allowed to sell any beer until the next when the Mayor was going to tap the first keg at 12. Each of these beer tents is something like a football (American) field long with hundreds of picnic tables jammed in there and a couple dozen more scattered about outside. The ceilings in each place are decorated in a unique style that full represents that atmosphere that that specific beer hall has to offer. Some ceilings are covered in clouds and blue skies while others focus more on lighting and ambiance and like the crowd dictate what the atmosphere should be. It was a really cool sight to see. The most disturbing sight was the corner of the Hofbrauhaus with all of its clean glasses stacked floor to ceiling waiting to be filled with liter upon liter of beer as drunken crowds clink them and even try to liberate them. It actually hurt the liver to just see that.
Realizing that we had really experienced all that Oktoberfest had to offer on the day before the actual party, we headed out of the park for a drink and some exploration of Munich. I mean, there has to be more to Munich than just Oktoberfest, right?