A Day at the Wiesn: Oktoberfest in Photos
September 19, 2015
Despite its name, Oktoberfest officially starts today in Munich, Germany. Although I won't make it over there this year, I thought it would be a great time to share some photos from the festivities when Nathanael and I attended in 2012. I hope you'll enjoy this tour around the fairgrounds and I'll do my best to get back there soon and photograph the event again!
This colossal bronze statue of Bavaria presides over the Wiesn (as the Theresienwiese is locally known), and represents the strength of the state. Towering 18.52m high, you can even climb an interior staircase to look out over the fairgrounds and city of Munich from within her helmet.
There's lots to keep everyone busy at the fairgrounds, even before you get inside one of the beer tents. And as difficult as it may be to believe, Oktoberfest is not only about drinking beer (although that is admittedly a significant part of the celebrations). This festival has its origins as a traditional party which began on October 12, 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese. And while you will find many people drinking beer, not all of them become bierleichen (beer corpses) - passed out on the grass outside the tents. There is delicious food to try at stands located throughout the wiesn as well as inside the beer tents, and there are numerous carnival rides for people of all ages to enjoy.
Inside the tents, you will it decorated for the occasion, and there will most certainly be traditional music being played by Bavarian band. The bandstands are usually quite high, so look around and you should be able to find them. Every half an hour or so, they will play 'Ein Prosit', which is a traditional toast. The words are "Ein prosit, ein prosit, der Gemütlichkeit. Ein prosit, ein prosit, der Gemütlichkeit. Eins! Zwei! Drei! G'suffa!" which roughly translated means "A toast, a toast, to coziness. A toast, a toast, to coziness. One, Two, Three, Drink!" and then everyone clinks maß (the 1L beer mugs) and drinks to the toast. Sometimes someone will try to drain their maß in one go, and occasionally they manage to do it, but I haven't seen anyone actually finish it at once. Honestly, it seems like a waste - German beer is so good, why not savour and enjoy it?!
In addition to the waitresses serving beer and food inside the tents, there are various vendors walking around. We saw them offering everything from pickles to roses to those heart-shaped gingerbread cookies called Lebkuchenherzen. If you go for a cookie...be aware that they are pre-packaged and by the time you get them the icing is very hard and the cookie is very dry. But they make for nice photos, and are certainly easy to pack home if you'd like to maybe put one on your Christmas tree three months later as an Oktoberfest themed ornament.
The beer halls are packed with long trestle tables and benches. The idea is that unless there is a reservation, you can join any table and should, because that is how you will meet new people! One of our favourite Oktoberfest experiences was chatting the afternoon away with Germans we met from all over the country.
Many people arrange business meetings or corporate morale building events (ie. reserve a table for lunch with enough people). You will see people wearing trachten (traditional Bavarian clothing like lederhosen and dirndls), modern clothing, and a variety of costumes. It is certainly not a boring experience!
If you are thinking of attending Oktoberfest during an evening, you should know that it will be super busy and the grounds will not look their nicest. I wanted to take photos of the grounds at night, because I thought it would be pretty with all the lights, but when we got there, around 8pm or so, there was so much litter everywhere that I decided to forget that idea. So I put my camera away and we tried to get into a beer tent...finally we did, but it was so packed that people were literally standing shoulder to shoulder. I'm not normally claustrophobic, but I certainly felt that way in the beer tent at night. This isn't to discourage you from going, but just know what to expect. By all means, go to the Oktoberfest and enjoy the rides, the food, and the beer, but you'll likely find more Gemütlichkeit if you go during the daytime.
Have you been to Oktoberfest? Share your experience in the comments!