At Oktoberfest in Munich, "gemütlich", the German concept of warmth and friendliness, is in abundance.
Laying on a grass hill, under the watchful statue of Bavaria, there is a sleepy charm in the early afternoon at Oktoberfest. Autumn leaves are falling amidst a crystal blue sky and a gentle cool breeze.
In October of 1810, the citizens of Munich were invited to Prince Ludwig's wedding celebration in a field outside the city gates, and the annual tradition started. Oktoberfest takes a historic event and makes it larger than life, all without sacrificing authenticity.
THE BEER TENTS
The tents are a physical marvel. A single tent is the size of a football field and would be the only venue in any other city. But at Oktoberfest, there are 14 large tents, and 20 smaller ones. The tents are wooden structures, the floors slightly creaking with charm as you walk about.
Natural light abundantly spills into the tents, illuminating the multi-colored fabric, flags and decorations. The wood planked floors, kitchen, bathrooms, second story balcony and elevated stage are all temporary structures that are packed up after the 16-18 day festival ends.
BEER & FOOD
Only six historic breweries within city limits, that make beer according to the Reinheitsgebot (“German Purity Law”), are given the privilege to serve beer. Waiters and waitresses work at pace carrying 10 Maß bier stein glasses (1 Maß = 1 Liter) and balancing beautiful enormous wood serving trays on their shoulders. Plates of roasted chicken, cheeses, sausages, pretzels and sauerkraut cover the trays.
Typical Bavarian biergarten furniture fills the tents, slender wood tables and benches with bright green foldable metal legs. The bands play a variety of traditional and modern songs, the most common is Ein Prosit (“A toast”), that encourage singing and toasting with all around you.
A BAVARIAN TRADITION
The festival is part of the city’s identity and charm. Wander the city streets and you will see locals dressed in the traditional female dirndl dresses and male lederhosen leather britches. Companies give employees time off and often rent tables.
The festival grounds and tents are free to walk into, and include a children’s play area with amusement rides. The daytime is much quieter until 6pm (only traditional songs and no standing on the benches).
Like the famous biergartens and other traditions, the past, present and a casual woodsy charm all blend together wonderfully in Bavaria.