Every year from mid-September to early October more than 6 million people flock to Munich to attend the world’s largest beer festival - the Oktoberfest. Held since 1810, the 16-day event attracts local Bavarians and tourists from all over the world. In summer 2015, I had the opportunity to experience Germany’s most famous Volksfest, which offers fairground rides and delicious food as well as traditional Bavarian beer.
On arriving in Munich, what first struck me was the scale of the event. Having filled S-Bahn carriages, thousands of people dressed in Dirndl and Lederhosen were swarming through the streets towards the Wiesn (local name for the Oktoberfest). The size of the site, covering 162 hectares, was highly impressive. Countless tents are scattered across the area, allowing you to take a seat, drink litres of beer (Germans don’t do pints) and engage in drunken revelry.
Although I could constantly hear German speakers, I didn’t feel like an outsider. This wasn’t only because I can speak the language, but also because there were many visitors from all over the world. Tourists are certainly welcome in the tents, where I was pleasantly surprised to see Germans laughing at Brits dancing on the tables and chanting along to cheesy hits like DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby’.
However, the Oktoberfest isn’t just about getting merry. Across the site there are stalls selling a variety of traditional Bavarian food. I was lucky enough to try warm pretzels served with Obatzda, a tasty cheese-butter spread, the recipe for which I was kindly given by my German friend’s mother. Local cuisine is also served in the tents, although at a higher price. But after a few beers, who would say no to mouthwatering dishes such as Schweinebraten (roast pork), Knödel (dumplings) or Käsespätzle (cheese noodles)?
Another important part of the beer festival is the fairground rides. Once again spread throughout the grounds, they provide entertainment for adults and children alike, ranging from dodgems to theme park sized rollercoasters. My German friend and I had a go on a dizzying ride where the floor dropped and we ended up sticking to the wall - I’d never experienced anything like it.
Overall I would certainly recommend paying a visit. While such an event might turn into an unpleasant binge drinking fest elsewhere, the Germans manage every year to pull off hosting a welcoming and relatively safe festival that has inspired similar celebrations throughout the world.