When I was in University, I did an exchange semester in London from Sydney in 2010. As part of my semester holidays, I visited Germany for the first time and thus began my love affair with this gorgeous country. I remember not liking beer, but as a University student when I learnt it was cheaper than buying water in Munich - I was sold! :)
Fast forward 7 years - I went back to Munich (and Shankar for the first time) for the biggest ever beer festival - Oktoberfest.
We arrived in Munich on Thursday night and had Friday to explore the city of Munich. We decided to go on a walking tour to soak in the culture and get a quick history lesson of Munich.
But for those who have read our previous blog posts know that we get bored half way through walking tours and always end up doing our own thing and exploring at our own pace! We checked out the markets and tried yummy hot chocolate! We also bumped into a few Sydney friends (Tolga & Murat) who were there in Munich on Murat's bucks weekend! Such a small world!
The one thing we did learn from our walking tour were the traditions behind Oktoberfest. History says that King Ludwig I was married to Princess Therese and they invited pretty much all of Munich to celebrate their royal event! (Sounds like a typical Indian wedding to me :D ). The event was so successful that it was celebrated every year for the whole of Bavaria which gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest. Today, it is one of Munich's (if not Germany's) biggest International festival spanning across 2 weeks!
One of Shankar's groomsmen - Sabinesh and his wife, one of my bridesmaids - Natalia, moved to Munich last year for work. They are one of our closest friends and it was absolutely amazing seeing the city through a local's perspective. We also stayed with them in their beautiful apartment, right in the heart of the city!
Pro tip: Accommodation in Munich during Oktoberfest is CRAZY expensive. I'm talking minimum over £400 per night per room CRAZY. We were SO lucky to have our friends there and we crashed in with them. But, if you are visiting Oktoberfest in Munich - plan your accommodation well in advance!
We visited Munich on the very first weekend of Oktoberfest - in September! The most common misconception of Oktoberfest is that is held in October, when it actually takes place in September. It usually ends on the first weekend in October, but the big chunk of it takes place during the last two weeks of September. At noon on the first Saturday of the festival, the Mayor of Munich taps the first beer keg which marks the official opening of the festival. It pays to arrive early (say 8:00 - 9:00am?), to get a good spot and get up close and personal to the festivities. We were planning to be there by 9:00am, but I had a bit of a costume drama in the morning!
Typically, men wear the Lederhosen and women the Drindl. These are traditional Bavarian outfits worn all year round but mostly glorified during the Oktoberfest festival.
Since we were only going to be there for the weekend, we decided to save some money (as these outfits are quite expensive) and buy a knock-off version from Amazon. But you get what you pay for - the costumes that we received were really low in quality. My dress was also a "sexy" Oktoberfest Drindl, and it was so short that I couldn't realistically wear it outside the house!
We decided to buy the real outfits before heading to the tents and thus couldn't make it in time to watch the opening! :(
Pro tip: Oktoberfest is celebrated around the world. Once you go to your very first one, it is highly likely you will go again (yes - it is AMAZING) Ofcourse, you can go the Amazon cheap costume one time use route - or just buy a decent one you can use for a few years! Fun fact: The men's lederhosen is never to be washed and is handed down generations!
So, the Oktoberfest festival is basically a massive area with 6 major and other smaller "tents". When I say tents, picture gigantic tents that can hold over 5000-7000 people. The 6 main breweries of Munich make up the 6 big tents - Paulaner, Hofbräuhaus, Augustinerbräu, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr & Löwenbräu. We tried to get into the first three but tables are booked out almost a year in advance (or you come in at 6:00am). There was no way we could get a table in these main tents so we tried our luck at a smaller tent called Nymphenburg Sekt.
We got a table next to this amazing group of people! The lady was Australian, now married and living in Germany. We had so much fun with them! One of them loved Neeraj's outfit and actually swapped costumes with him!!
The whole day in the tent, you dance, sing - and ofcourse drink beer! Lots of it!!
If you aren't a drinker or don't like beer, there's also wines and non alcoholic beverages available. Outside the tents, there are rides and games to keep you entertained. Pro tip: Don't lose your table! You cannot get served if you don't have a table. We took turns to go outside always leaving a few people in charge of our table. Also, some tents don't allow you to come back in after a certain time. Be sure to check before you exit the tent :)
After a few hours of drinking, there were new people around us and we ended up drinking with the General Manager of Dropbox and a HR Manager from Prada!
It was such an amazing experience, being with soooo many people just enjoying and having a good time. Surprisingly, even with so much alcohol consumed, we didn't really witness any fight or nuisance. Everyone was there - just to have a good time! :)
Before we went home, we all hopped on a few rides and got some hot dogs from a street vendor. The atmosphere outside the tents is buzzing and vibrant until late hours of the night.
We came home around mid-night and completely crashed into our beds. The next day, we were too tired to go sightseeing and decided to leisurely explore Munich. We went for a walk along the river and chilled out until we had to head back to London.
We had to leave early on Sunday and didn't want to leave at all! Shankar and I both absolutely loved the experience of our first Oktoberfest! The tents have so much energy and it is almost impossible not to have fun when you are there!! Also, saved the best for the last - I beat Shankar in a beer drinking competition! :D To watch the video, click here #TeamPossum
Have you been to Oktoberfest? What was your experience like? We would love to know! Comment below and let us know :) Lots of love, V & S