10 important facts about Oktoberfest

Beer in one of the marquees at Oktoberfest in Munich - ©iStockphoto.com/NikadaOktoberfest is one of the more well-known festivals in Germany, but many international visitors are not aware of some of the basic facts about it.  Here are some of the most important ones:

1. The festival is held in Munich on the Theresienwiese and is known locally as the ‘Wiesn’.  The nearest U-Bahn station is also called Theresienwiese.

2. It starts on the first Saturday after 15th September, and continues until the first Sunday in October.  If the first Sunday is the 1st or the 2nd, the festival is extended to 3rd October as this is a public holiday.

3. The marquees on the fairground where the beer is served get very full.  To reserve a place in some of them you need to buy vouchers for food and drink in advance.  The minimum is currently €26.80 per visitor.

4. The hotels in Munich are very full at this time.  In fact, many visitors will have booked their rooms a year in advance, meaning that you need to arrange your accommodation as soon as possible to avoid being left without a roof over your head!  Expect to pay premium prices.

5. Smoking is prohibited in the marquees. As the numbers allowed in them are limited, smokers who go outside may find they cannot return to their seats.

6. The beer is served in a glass called a Maß which holds 1 litre and is slightly stronger than is usually served in Munich.  One litre costs between €8.30 and €8.90 (in 2010).

7. Glasses are much sought-after souvenirs, but are the property of the respective landlord.  Security guards at the entrance to each marquee are instructed to watch out for people taking them.  Being caught with one often ends if a charge of theft.  (It is possible to buy one, which is then labelled to show it has been paid for).

8. Soft drinks are almost as expensive as the beer.  A litre of water costs on average €7.30, a litre of Spezi will cost you around €7.90.

9. Food served in the marquees is usually more expensive than that sold at stands on other parts of the fairground.  Half a roasted chicken will set you back about €8, just on its own.  Generally the food served is traditional Bavarian fare.

10. The landlords are allowed to charge their guests for the use of the toilets!

Landeskindertrachtentreffen

Next year Oberursel will play host to the Hessentag – an annual event that takes place in a different town each year in the state of Hesse(n).

I won’t comment on the politics of the Hessentag at this stage, or what this will mean for residents and business owners next summer.  However, the first “side-effect” has already taken place.  It was called the “Landeskindertrachtentreffen”.

Roughly translated that means the “state childrens’ traditional dress festival”.

On stage at the EpinayplatzNow, Oberursel may be well known for several things such as its fountains and cider, but I’ve never really known it to have a traditional way to dress.  That’s the sort of thing that’s usually left to areas like Bavaria.

And yet they still hosted the childrens’ festival this year.  Why?  Because as far as I am informed, the town hosting the Hessentag must host the childrens’ festival the previous year.  So Oberursel did not have much choice.  If you want the Hessentag to come to your town, you have to accept the Landeskindertrachtentreffen as well.

That’s pretty much the way I experienced people talking about it beforehand – like a “duty” that had to be performed.  After all, how many children in Oberursel have “traditional costumes” to wear?

Well, on the day there were a number of appropriately dressed groups in the town, although I was not aware of any from Oberursel.  They came from different parts of the state, and I suspect they do the same thing each year at the chosen location.

In fact, the whole Trachtentreffen was rather low key in my opinion.  On the other hand, in the roads leading off from the square where it was held there were plenty of things for children to do.  They could learn to juggle, walk on stilts, or just play and have fun with the games and activities that had been laid on.

Activities for children in the Holzweg

Activities for children in the Holzweg

The weather was good as well, so in the end of was a pleasant day out, despite the tongue-twister name!

The Rheingau Wine Festival in Oberursel

… or “the one that caused us problems”.

This podcast was first meant to be put online in August, but despite on editing the soundtrack it became apparant that some of the music at the festival could very clearly be identified and so we tried to find out what sort of permissions we would need to use the recording.

Needles to say, it took a while to get an answer and the solution would not only cost us 60EUR per year to keep the MP3 file online, but there were so many conditions attached that in the end we decided to leave it for the time being.

Now the recording has been re-edited so that you can at least hear some of the festival atmosphere, even if some of the interesting parts of the recording have had to be left out.

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