Oktoberfest grew like an indelible beast as Munich crowds headed by subway, bus and foot to the Theresienwiese fairgrounds. It was the last night, after all — and there was still plenty of beer to consume. Thousands converged, happily dressed in everything from traditional colorful dirndls, lederhosen and vests to ordinary t-shirts and leather jackets. It really makes no difference what you wear to Oktoberfest unless, perhaps, you are an old-timer from Bavaria. On this night I headed for the Hacker-Pschorr Braurosi tent — which I’d heard was a wild one.
Besides fresh Oktoberfest beer, specially brewed for the occasion, Oktoberfest showcases and serves German culinary staples such as excellent Hendl (rotisserie chicken), Wursti (sausage), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (pork knuckle — better than it sounds) and Knodel (a potato pancake). The ubiquitous Brezn (pretzels) are huge, soft and very salty.
Some Oktoberfest facts:
- There are 12 tents all hosted by Munich area breweries. Each tent is a very lucrative business. It’s a sophisticated setup regarding beer delivery, ingress and egress, food, security and music. The bathrooms? Well… they’re another story.
- Tents can hold up to 10,000 people at a time and are usually packed, packed, packed — especially in the evenings. The jostling is incredible. Big German waitresses power through the crowds holding up to ten beers or platters of food. The tents are open for 12 hours each day (usually 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM). In other words, way more than 10,000 people rotate in and out throughout the day. Meanwhile, thousands of others are standing outside the tents, hoping, trying to get in!
- The festival lasts 16 days.
- Doing a little math, that’s: 12 tents x 10,000 people x 16 days = 1,920,000 people minimum. In fact, Munich estimates that a record 7.5 million people will attend Oktoberfest in 2010.
- If each of those 7.5 million people drink only 4 liters of beer, then the partiers consume roughly 8 million gallons of beer over the course of the event.
The Hacker-Pschorr tent is by far the prettiest at Oktoberfest. The walls are painted with bucolic Bavarian scenes and the roof is painted like a big blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. Well-lit, you might think you’re outside, eating and drinking with 9,999 new friends. I was fortunate to get seated in the balcony so could overlook the controlled chaos. The band now belted out the familiar “Que Sera Sera” followed by rousing rendition of “Those Were the Days.” (The 1968 hit sung by Mary Hopkin was produced by Paul McCartney.) Appetizers soon appeared consisting of radishes (they seem to love radishes), a type of pork fat liverwurst and of course, big salty pretzels. As my first beer arrived, I settled in as waitresses roared by, blasting through the ever thickening crowd carrying full or empty steins of excellent Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest beer.
The din — a happy noise — got louder and louder though I couldn’t tell if I was inside or outside the asylum. Looking back through the windows, thousands of people were massing, trying to get into this tent. Then the song “Mamma Mia” got the crowd lathered in proper ABBA fashion. Some danced in the aisles and many others on the benches. After a short break, the traditional music was replaced by a rock band and soon the chunky opening chords of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” shook the building. It sounded great. “We come here every year,” shouted Gabriella Keck, visiting from Salzburg, Austria. Her five friends were rocking too. Next came AC-DC’s “You, Shook Me All Night Long” and the horde, young and old, local and international went nuts.
Bob Ecker is a Napa, California based travel writer/photographer providing worldwide magazines and newspapers with compelling travel, hospitality, wine, culinary, skiing, film and innovative feature content. He is constantly on the go, traveling the world, unearthing new stories and uncorking emerging regions. He is current Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) member and former President of the Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW).