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All you need to know about getting to Oktoberfest…

Oktoberfest

Munich’s a great city at any time of the year, but you can’t beat a visit in late September to coincide with its famous Oktoberfest festivities.  The 184th Oktoberfest is due to begin on 16th September 2017 and will last until 3rd October.  Around six million people are expected to attend, and you can get the best rail fare if you book your train ticket around about now.

That’s right: Oktoberfest mostly takes place in September.  Why so?  It has its origins in a five-day party held to celebrate the marriage of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810.  The event was so popular the city decided to make it an annual thing – and extend it.  These days Oktoberfest lasts for over two weeks, beginning in mid-September to take advantage of the still warm evenings and culminating on the first weekend of October. As it lasts a few weeks you get greater flexibility for booking your rail ticket and can search and compare train travel to get you there, with no need for a designated driver!

On this day in History October 12, 1810: The German festival Oktoberfest was first held in Munich to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince König von Bayern Ludwig aka Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. So when you are out there lifting your beer stein to the sky while wearing your lederhosen give a little toast to Ludwig I and Therese because if it wasn’t for their little union, we wouldn’t have Oktoberfest as we know it. #PrincessThereseofSaxeHildburghausen #Oktoberfest #Bavaria #Munich #BavarianHistory #GermanHistory #München #CrownPrinceLudwig #LudwigI #KingLudwigI #OnThisDayinHistory #ThisDayinHistory #HistoryToday #TodayinHistory #History #Historia #Histoire #HistorySisco

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Locally, Oktoberfest is known as the Wiesn.  It takes this name from Theresienwiese, which translates as Therese’s fields.  This is a huge open space adjacent to Munich city centre – once open fields – which is filled with stalls, funfair rides and of course the infamous beer tents.  The only beer that’s allowed to be sold is that which conforms to the Reinheitsgebot or Bavarian Purity Requirements.  In practice, that means beer from six breweries.  Augustiner is the oldest brewery in the city and the only one that still uses wooden barrels.  Hofbräu is perhaps the most famous; year-round, its town centre Hofbräuhaus is Munich’s most-popular tourist attraction.  Completing the line-up are Hacker Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. The nearest metro train station to the action is Munich Marienplatz station.

It’s well worth timing your visit to be there for opening night.  Since 1835, there’s been a parade.  It’s led by the city’s mascot, the Münchner Kindl, followed by the Lord Mayor.  After that, you’ll see the decorated horse-drawn carriages and floats of the breweries themselves as well as music bands and other performers wearing traditional costume. In all, something like 9,500 people stretching in a line 7km long participate in the parade, making it a spectacle you’ll not want to miss. You can buy a ticket for the stands but there are plenty of places along the parade route from Maxmilianstrasse to the Oktoberfestplatz where you can watch it free of charge.

The Oktoberfest Parade through Munich! #oktoberfest #munich #oktoberfestparade #Germany

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Another important ceremonial duty is that of the beer barrel tapping. Performed by the Mayor, this takes place in the Schottenhamel beer tent. On the opening day, he makes his way to this, the largest of all the beer tents with an impressive 10,000 seats.  At 12 noon on the dot, he taps the first keg and once successful, calls out “O’zapft is!”  Locals often bet on how many taps will be needed; the record’s just two.

Once the signal has been given, all the other tents can begin serving beer too.  To get one, you’ll need a seat – no one is permitted to drink standing up. Seats and tables can be reserved directly from the breweries up to ten months in advance (unlike your train tickets, which have different seat booking windows – 6months for Eurostar, or 3months for DB trains!). If you rock up without a reservation, you’ll have to wait to find a space, which can be tricky. Waitresses wearing traditional dirndls travel back and forth across the tents carrying huge steins of beer.

The food’s good too, with traditional favourites like brez’n, the soft pretzels served throughout Munich, and of course sausages of all flavours to go in them. No one should eat on an empty stomach, of course. Buy your souvenirs at the official stands, including beer mugs.  Just don’t try to smuggle one out of the tent: visitors attempted to smuggle an estimated 96,000 mugs out of the tents last year only to be relieved of them by expectant (and considerably more sober) security personnel.

As you’d expect, Munich is heaving during this time of year. You’ll need to book your accommodation in good time to make sure you have somewhere to stay. If you’ve hired a car parking’s also tricky, but public transport in Munich is excellent (take the train!). Theresienwiese is situated within walking distance of the main train station; just follow the crowd from the train station.

 

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