It’s the largest folk festival on earth. For 2-1/2 weeks, hundreds of thousands of people descend on the Theresienwiese fairgrounds in central Munich each day to celebrate in a uniquely Bavarian way — by crowding into massive tents, downing hearty Bavarian food, singing, toasting, and drinking oceans of local beer.
As we approached the fairgrounds I was stunned by the sight of people streaming in from every direction. We were glad we’d spent the morning shopping for lederhosen and the proper accoutrements, since the vast majority of people were donning traditional Bavarian dress. You really could feel excitement in the air as the crowds gravitated toward the action.
Anyone can enter the fairgrounds at no cost. While tens of thousands of people have tables reserved in one of the many enormous tents, others will wander the grounds, buy food and beer from the outside vendors, ride the rides, and celebrate outside.
Getting the right table at the right tent is a big deal. Each of the tents is sponsored by a Munich brewery. Fortunately, Sven’s brother Ralph lives in Munich and knows the right people, so we had a table in the Augustiner tent, one that is prized by locals. Our tent, reconstructed each year from huge wooden beams and canvas, seated 6,000 people.
This is a party where people really have fun. Over the course of an Oktoberfest, the patrons go through 7.7 million liters of beer. As the evening progresses, the music and the singing get crazier. Someone here and there goes way overboard. I wouldn’t want to do this every day (or maybe even every year), but it was a genuine blast!