Alright, here it is, the one you’ve all (possibly) been waiting for – OKTOBERFEST!
When Kelly asked me back in March if I was keen to join her at Oktoberfest, despite the fact that I had only recently decided to move to London and had no idea what I would be doing in late September, it took me approximately 0.02 of a second to say YES! I had vague ideas that Oktoberfest would be sort of like the Rugby Sevens tournament in Wellington, but with less rugby and more Germans.
Well all that was correct – but it was oh so much more! Singing, dirndls, bretzels, dancing on benches (and tables), pork knuckle, fairground rides and, of course, steins – Oktoberfest was quite possibly one of the best weekends of my life! Here’s what I learnt…
1. Dress the part
I am a massive costume-party fan. My birthday parties are always themed, Halloween is my perfect ‘holiday’, and any excuse will see me getting out the dress-ups. Oktoberfest was therefore ideal for me. Whether you’re into costumes or not, making the effort is key here. No-one wants to be the guy who shows up in a football jersey when every other dude is rocking leather lederhosen! And for the ladies, the dirndl is just about the perfect outfit – flattering as, with lots of colours and accessories. Win!
We stayed at a great Air BnB apartment with the fabulous Julia as our host, and she supplied our dirndls, including finding the perfect apron and miraculous last-minute alterations! If you prefer to buy your own, they’re everywhere in town, ranging from your budget costume version starting around €15 to the full authentic ensemble, which could cost upwards of €100. I’ll definitely be investing next year!
When it came to footwear, comfort was key… it’s hard to dance on tables when you’re in stilettos, and it can be a long day, so my £4 Primark numbers did the job perfectly.
2. Turn up early on weekends
If you’re with a group and want to get a table at one of the beer halls on the weekend, it’s best to get there early. Like, it’s still dark, where’s my coffee and bretzel, early. We attempted to arrive by 6am, although in reality it was probably closer to 7. We’d chosen Löwenbräu because it had a good reputation for party times without getting too feral, so lined up once we made it to the Oktoberfest grounds. There was almost no-one there at the beginning, but soon the tour groups and large parties arrived, and in the end it became quite the squish. It was all worth it though when we piled inside at 9am and nabbed tables for our whole group.
I’m not a habitual beer drinker, preferring a cheeky pinot gris or cider, but Oktoberfest beer isn’t like normal beer. It’s lighter, less carbonated, and delicious! That said, those are laaaarge steins, so it’s important to remember the water, or alternate with the non-alcoholic apple juice. It looks just like beer too!
4. Befriend your Beer Wench
We had a great server, Marie, on day 1. Not only could she stack the steins high, she was fast and efficient. Pro tip: a little extra to show your appreciation never goes astray, particularly if your server is as awesome as Marie! They work all 16 days – I can’t imagine being on my feet, carrying all that beer, and dealing with all the participants, for that long!
5. Don’t forget to sample the local cuisine
There’s nothing I love more than trying the local delicacies, and the food at Oktoberfest was perfect for long days. I wouldn’t really like to count how many bretzel, the local version of large bready salty pretzels, we consumed in two days… they were amazing. Another huge hit was the pork knuckle, which melted in our mouths, accompanied by dumpling and sauerkraut.
6. Check out the rides
I had no idea of the massive size of Oktoberfest – the site itself is 42 hectares! Not only are there 14 large tents and 20 small ones, there’s also stalls lining every pathway and many many fairground rides and stalls – so fun! I went on the Olympic Rings roller coaster, which blew my mind – it was a LOT more exciting than the small one at Rainbow’s End. I also loved the ferris wheel, it was beautiful at night and a great way to get an idea of the size of the festival.
7. Bring your singing voice and your dancing shoes!
At the end of the day, Oktoberfest is a BIG party. I was surprised at how generally well-behaved the crowds were, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. It was also really well-organised, particularly in Löwenbräu, with plenty of staff on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly.
We danced, we sang, we danced some more… and I’ll be back to do it all again next year!
For more Oktoberfest goodness, click here for my tips on how to budget for Oktoberfest!