Oktoberfest bathrooms (and tips for next year)

With so much beer consumed at Munich‘s Oktoberfest, it’s only logical that urination becomes a world-class activity. The bathrooms at the festival run the gamut from: good, fine, okay, crowded, packed and insane (see below) to convivial, non-existent, trees, bushes, lampposts and grass. Don’t be shocked to find many people — usually men — at the Theresienwiese (festival grounds) discharging in public. Oktoberfest is still a wonderful, memorable experience, but we human beings, well… we do have to go, so try not to be surprised.

Although I was sitting with other “specially invited guests” at of the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery on the last night of Oktoberfest, I finally had to head for a much-needed bathroom break. I’d heard about a mysterious “VIP-Pee,” but learned it was reserved for women only. So when the inevitable time came, I boxed my way down a crowded staircase, then out the door and headed for the nearest bathroom.

%Gallery-7107%After turning the corner around the exterior beer garden I encountered a dense, swelling crowd of maleness — guys of all ages and nationalities pushing to enter a small white shack labeled, “WC.” Speaking quasi-German now, “I Hav-en-to-pissen,” I joined a group of about 150 pushing hard to enter the one doorway. I was squished from the each side and back as purposeful masculine energy heaved the group forward. Against this tide, guys were attempting to exit through the one door, looking for a seam and slithering out of the onrushing squirming horde. It reminded me of a fullback attempting a tough draw through a stout defense. Most, but not all, of the guys found the situation funny, and I heard lots of German, English, Danish, Italian, Spanish, French and other languages. Some laughed while others swore with words I could not comprehend. Finally getting in, I went and turned around to get out of this insane WC. Finding some big blockers, I pushed hard against the group and popped out like a kidney stone into the fresh air. Whew, this scene was worse than when I saw Johnny Rotten at the Roseland Ballroom.

By contrast the bathroom inside the Hacker-Pschorr tent was a model of German efficiency as you stood up next to — and facing — fellow urinators standing on the other side of a partition. It was a time for light conversation, a time for reflection and a time to pee. Plus it had an actual exit door – how civilized.

Some insights for next year’s Oktoberfest which runs September 17 – October 3, 2011.

* Visit the beer tents early in the event and early in the day. You stand a much greater chance of walking in and finding a seat than in the evening. Then, you can return to your hotel early, or have dinner elsewhere. Normal, non-crazy times around lunchtime or before 4:00 PM are ideal.

* For evening fun, definitely make reservations for visiting Brewery tents. There is no fee for entrance, and again, walk-ins are welcome, but there are times when every single inch at the Oktoberfest tents are full and you’ll be left outside looking in. My favorite tents were the big Paulaner tent, the Augustina Brewery tent (the oldest brewery in Munich, dating from 1328) and my favorite, the beautiful tent from Hacker-Pschorr. Everyone has their own favorite. Ask around and do some research.

* Remember, tent reservations are free but highly sought after around the world. Use this link for reservation information. The owners of the tents aren’t exactly the breweries themselves, but it matters not for visitors. Sign up as early as possible.

* Try and order a glass of water (wasser) along with each beer. I should have had more water, especially the last night.

* Don’t forget to eat enough. It will help with beer consumption issues.

Until 2011 – Prost!

* Oktoberfest by the numbers
* Arriving at Munich’s Oktoberfest
* Munich, Germany’s 200th Anniversary of Oktoberfest
* Beer logistics at Munich’s Oktoberfest
* Oktoberfest: Lots of food and more than 8 million gallons of beer

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).

[Images: Flickr | Ethan Prater; mahmut; Herr_bert]