Oktoberfest in Munich!
First, let’s start with the basics. Oktoberfest in was founded by Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, and his wife, Therese, as an invitation to the citizenry to help celebrate their wedding on October 12, 1810. Unlike today’s Fest, it lasted only 5 days just outside city gates. It begins the 3rd weekend in September and ends the first weekend in October. It was not a regular event until 1950.
World renowned for the beer festival that ensues, Oktoberfest in this Bavarian city is remarkably less known for the parades that open the festivities. If you plan well in advance, it is likely these spectacles will stand out in your memories more than the beer halls.
Everybody Loves a Parade
Since 1887, the opening day Saturday parade has begun with the Munich city mascot, the Münchner Kindl, followed by the Mayor in a horse cart. Most towns around have a brewery and each is represented with its own distinct beer wagon. In America, we typically only see the Budweiser wagon and Clydesdales. In Bavaria, about a 1000 people take part either walking alongside or riding in the 50 or so decorated beer wagons/carts that make up the route. As expected, St Pauli Girl, Lowenbrau (literal meaning is Lion’s Brew, hence the lion icon), and other major brands are present but the wagons come from near and far to impress and awe the crowd.
Bonus: at least one wagon has been seen with ladies offering the giant beer mugs full of beer to bystanders who can come up to the wagon for a taste before it moves on. Gotta love Bavaria.
Looking for real charm? Sunday of opening weekend invites not only Bavarian groups, but those from the entire country and Europe are encouraged to participate and display costumes in their own parade. Delighting the crowds are the Kapellas (if ‘a capella’ means without the band, this is the band) which are mostly intergenerational, flag bearers, dance routines, and alpenhorns. Keep the camera ready.
For either parade, tickets may be purchased for viewing stands but standing along the route is free.
The beer halls are hundreds of feet in length and tables are parallel end to end to aid the servers. It’s a party! Different languages are all around as you sit and take it in. Some may seem a little young to be in the beer hall, but the legal drinking age in Germany is sixteen. Beer is found in vending machines in Germany so you can understand why it ranks 3rd in the world in per capita consumption of bottled beer.
Don’t expect oompah pah tunes from the traditionally dressed orchestra though. Music ranges from popular to retro and anything that pumps up a crowd. Macarena always gets some table dances going. ON the tables. Major brews sponsor their own halls but hey, we’re not there just for the beer. It’s the moment.
Bucket List Item Parade Schedule
The 2019 Oktoberfest begins with the bier wagon parade on Saturday, September 21 at 10:45, and the Sunday costume/Kapella parade begins at 10:00 on September 22nd.
Dates, general times, and FAQ about Oktoberfest can be found here.
German Beer Styles
Are you familiar with the different beer styles that are more readily available in Germany? A few names you’ll want to be familiar with include Maibock, Helles, Märzen, Hefeweizen, Kölsch, and two newer beers to the “craft” beer scene are Berliner Weisse and Gose.
If you want to explore more about the styles, reading this article about German beer styles can definitely help.
Wo früher meine Leber war, ist heute eine Minibar!
Wanting to learn a few phrases in German to try out while attending Oktoberfest? This website has a few fun phrases and toasts you can enjoy. If you are wondering what “Wo früher meine Leber war, ist heute eine Minibar!” means, it translates to “There is now a minibar where my liver once was.”
If you want to keep it simple, go with Prost! Or, Cheers!