OKTOBERFEST began on Saturday on Munich’s Theresienwiese, and this year runs for 17 days, until 3 October.
It is expected that over five million people will attend the famous festival in 2011 and a large proportion of them will be Australian.
Australia has such an affiliation with the event that a ‘mini-embassy’ has been set up in Munich especially for Oktoberfest, with Australian consular staff on hand to provide assistance. But the Australian government has warned Aussie travellers that they must exercise caution and behave responsibly.
“We urge all Australians attending Oktoberfest to behave responsibly and respect local laws and customs. Australians have in the past been detained or imprisoned by German authorities for lengthy periods on charges of antisocial behaviour and assault. This type of behaviour has made it difficult for offenders to enter Germany or other Schengen countries on later occasions,” reads a statement from the Australian government website, Smarttraveller.gov.au.
Oktoberfest is the ultimate celebration of and homage to beer. Only beer which is brewed within the city limits of Munich is allowed to be served at the festival and it is estimated that revellers will drink in excess of six million litres of the amber liquid, served in litre sized stein glasses, called a ‘mass’. Each mass costs approximately 10 euros and is served by the famous (and buxom) Bavarian beer waitresses, famed for their low-cut tops and their ability to be able to carry up to 12 overflowing tankards of beer.
Visitors to the festival can choose between drinking inside the many various beer tents, some of which can house up to 10,000 patrons, or outside in the carnival atmosphere.
It’s in the tents where all the real action happens. Revellers will only be served if they have a seat, so competition for spaces in the tents is at a premium. Bands play in most of the tents, entertaining the crowd with traditional Bavarian songs and it’s not uncommon for thousands of drinkers to dance on their tables, prost-ing each other and drinking to good health.
The halls that are most popular with Aussies and Kiwis are the SchÃ¼tzen-Festhalle and Augustiner-Festhalle. The Schottenhamel is regarded as the most important tent, being where the Mayor of Munich officially opened the festival on Saturday by tapping the first keg.
As well as the beer halls, Oktoberfest features carnival rides, elaborate parades and processions featuring brilliantly costumed attendees.
Most people will be dressed in traditional German outfits of dirndls (for the women) and lederhosen (for the men) but a good tip is to buy your outfit before you get to Germany as they can be notoriously expensive there.
The tents, and essentially the festival itself, must be shut by 11pm at night but after a hard day of enjoying the Bavarian delights, most people are ready to roll home to their hotels and hostels, and prepare to do it all again the next day.
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