It is the world’s largest Volksfest (beer festival and travelling funfair) with one million visitors crowding Munich’s sprawling Oktoberfest in the first Saturday of the event alone this year.
Oktoberfest is known for one thing above all else: masses of beer.
It is specially brewed for the occasion and what many people don’t know is that Oktoberfest beer is actually stronger than your average, containing 5.5% to 6% proof.
“It should be as dry as possible, good to drink, and perhaps a little less carbonated so that you can drink it quickly,” Markus Ernst, a student of brewing and beverage technology at Weihenstephan-Troisdorf University of Applied Sciences, told Euronews.
A special kind of brew
The people of Munich take their beer very seriously — Oktoberfestbier can only be given this official title if it was brewed in one of Munich’s breweries.
In addition, only beer brewed with water from Munich can be served at the festival.
One brewery, Giesinger Bräu, decided to drill a well in order that its brew conforms to the Munich standard, so it can set up its own festival tent in a few years’ time.
Beer in a traditional clay jug taken straight from a wooden barrel is available in the Oidn Wiesn — the traditional part of the Oktoberfest.
“The clay jug has the advantage that it keeps beer cooler for longer and protects it from the light, which influences the taste of the beer,” said Ernst.
An Oktoberfest culinary classic is a half chicken, fried and made crispy using butter. Around one million half-chickens are served at the festival every year.
Meat eaters looking for a traditional dish can try Ochsenbraterei — whole beef spines on a skewer.
Alternatively, potato salad is served with a strong red wine sauce, a real Bavarian delicacy and comparatively light.
However, the festival has several offerings for its vegetarian customers. In addition to the classic cheese spaetzle, a type of macaroni and cheese, there are mushroom dishes, spinach-pretzel dumplings and, on the Oidn Wiesn, even a “celery schnitzel” in a roll.
The birthplace of ‘Schadenfreude’
What many international guests don’t know is that Oktoberfest is, above all, a huge fair with many different attractions. Children, adults and even OAPs can have fun on the vintage fairground rides.
Now somewhat of a cult ride at Oktoberfest is Feldl’s Teufelsrad. Whether you want to ride or just watch others take part, everyone must pay to enter the arena.
Similar to a rodeo, this ride is all about staying on a giant spinning disk that is built into the floor, which moves faster and faster as the ride progresses.
One by one, revellers are thrown off the wheel until the last person standing must endure being pelted by thick ropes and a foam ball on a string by the ride’s staff.
It’s easy to see how this was the birthplace of the word “Schadenfreude” — pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune.
A cracking good time
In the Festzelt Tradition tent, you can see so-called Goaßlschnalzer performances several times a day.
This is the traditional art of whip cracking, previously used during livestock driving and horse riding.
The Oidn Wiesn is definitely worth a visit. Known for being more comfortable than other “party” tents, it often easier to find a seat or even geta table reservation.
A tasty souvenir
The Lebkuchen-Wiesnherz, decorated gingerbread hearts, are a bestseller at Oktoberfest.
There are stands selling the treats around the main square and in Munich centre.
Bestsellers include those adorned with classic sayings, such as “I mog di” (Bavarian for I love you) or “Ich liebe Dich” (the same phrase in High German).
According to one seller, hearts with the inscription “Oktoberfest 2019” are the most popular among international visitors.
Besides adults who are somewhat worse for wear, children often can’t wait to take a bite. “(They walk) 50 metres and then they rip open the packet,” the vendor told Euronews.
You can even find a stand that customises hearts with your own message.