Think Oktoberfest and the first word that comes to mind for most people is "beer". Followed swiftly by the phrase "and lots of it".
The German beer festival has become an institution, with beer lovers across the globe enthusiastically making the pilgrimage to Munich every year. In 2019 alone, more than 6.9 million people attended the 16-day festival in September/October, downing 7.5million litres of beer while they were there (that's a lot of steins!).
With so many beer tents to choose from - 17 large tents and 21 small ones - it can be overwhelming to know where to kick off the party. On a recent trip to Germany, I was lucky enough to experience a few of them - including a favourite of Aussie tourists, the Löwenbräu.
First things first: if you're going to hit up Oktoberfest, you'll want to look the part. And that of course, means dirndls and lederhosen!
But beware: as a local shop assistant pointed out while I was trying out dirndls, where you tie your apron springs can convey meanings about your relationship status to your fellow Oktoberfest attendees while you remain blissfully unaware.
According to locals, tying your apron on the left suggests you're single, while on the right means you're spoken for. Meanwhile, tying it in the middle is apparently code for being a virgin (yep, we were surprised at this one too) while those tying it at the back indicate they are widows.
And going sans apron altogether? Sacrilegious. At one store we were met with shocked glances by the mere suggestion of skipping an apron.
For the boys, a lederhosen will set you back a pretty penny, but the quality leather is made to last. Not willing to splash out a huge amount of cash? Our Busabout guide advised it's actually more respectful and culturally sensitive to attend in normal clothes rather than wear inferior, "fake" versions of a lederhosen.
Each beer tent has its own distinct personality. Some are more traditional, catering for locals and playing traditional Bavarian tunes all day long. Others are relatively chilled out compared to some of the more rowdy venues - perfect for the older crowd and families.
As part of Busabout Oktoberfest package, we joined a group of about 30 other like-minded travellers and headed to the Löwenbräu for the day, which has more of a party atmosphere and is known to attract a lot of international tourists. In this place, you won't have to traipse far to find a familiar accent, given it tends to be the Aussie tent of choice.
The space inside the tent is expansive. Seriously, they fit a LOT of tables inside the venue. Specially trained bar wenches serve up steins (which are actually referred to as a Maß at Oktoberfest) but will only serve you if you're seated.
Hot tip: get there early in the day if you want to get a seat as it gets more crowded and increasingly harder to find a spot as the day goes on. Going as part of the Busabout group is a good bet as the group is so large that you'll be able to leave the tent and come back with at least a few people sticking behind at any one time to save the space. Steins will cost you around €10 a pop and contain a litre of specially brewed beer.
Sharing tables with strangers as well as ongoing cheery calls to "Proust" (cheers) with one another provides ample opportunity to strike up a conversations with your Oktoberfest neighbours and we were soon making friends from all angles.
Music is a key component of the Oktoberfest atmosphere with traditional music, live bands and classic, easy-to-sing-along-with tunes all adding to the vibe. Standing up and dancing on your seat is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged.
As the night became more lively, and admittedly with a few beers under our belts, it wasn't long before we were belting out The Proclaimer's 500 Miles with fervour, as though The Voice auditions were next on our agenda. (Thankfully, for the good of eardrums everywhere, we will keep those renditions safely inside the walls of the Löwenbräu)
Of course, there's more to Oktoberfest than just beer tents. Not a huge fan of beer or can't stomach the thought of an entire day spent sipping steins? Don't sweat - there's plenty of other fun things inside the festival.
Indulge in Germany's traditional fare like bratwurst and pork knuckle. Roasted chicken is also a firm favourite. And break up your drinking exploits by exploring the grounds. There are typical festival rides galore (hello, ferris wheel and dodgem cars) as well as plenty of food, drink, souvenir stalls to check out.
If Oktoberfest is not enough to sate your appetite for beer festivals, there's always the option to continue along the Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off Network down to Stuttgart, where they hold a local version of the festivities called Volksfest.
To plan your trip to Oktoberfest check out Busabout's website and for more details on the Oktoberfest package, click here.
Video credit: Remy Brand
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