September 17, 2010 / 1:40 PM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Munich during Oktoberfest

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to spare in Munich during Oktoberfest, the world’s largest fair?

<p>Bavarian men in traditional attire watch a horse race to celebrate 200 years of Oktoberfest, one day before the opening in Munich September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Dalder</p>

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to Oktoberfest, where more than 6 million liters of beer are expected to flow this year.

Oktoberfest was first celebrated 200 years ago when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese and invited Munich’s citizens to join the party.

This year from Sept 18 to Oct 4, actually falls largely in September these days, as October gets too cold.

Friday

5 p.m. - Take a first stroll across the “Wiesn,” Oktoberfest’s venue, to soak up the atmosphere: the aroma of cotton candy, roasted almonds and the scent of barley and hops of the main protagonist, the beer.

A turn on the Ferris wheel will give you a first view of the fair. For the more adventurous, try one of the stomach-turning rollercoasters now, rather than after sampling the beer.

The Toboggan, offering the sight of punters trying to stay upright on an uphill conveyor belt, is this reporter’s all-time favorite. Its entertainment value makes up for its lack of gut-turning potential.

7 p.m. - Take it easy tonight if you plan to return for another session tomorrow.

If you’re keen to rub shoulders with celebrities, head to the Hippodrom tent where Bayern Munich footballers, former tennis star Boris Becker and German actors are often sighted.

Young locals favor the Schuetzen-Festzelt tent, famous for its suckling pig in maltbeer. Even younger locals head to the Schottenhamel where Oktoberfest’s first keg is tapped.

You’ll find more traditional charm in the Hacker tent -- decked out in white and blue, colors representing Bavaria’s skies -- at the Braeurosl or Augustiner tents. The latter is the only brewery that still uses wooden kegs for storage. Its beer is also served in the Fischer Vroni tent.

For a less pricey version and possibly more authentic Munich meal, try one of the city’s many beer gardens.

The Augustiner near the Central Station is a favorite after-work meeting spot. The Chinese Tower in the English Garden is a classic, but farther away from the main festivities. Hirschgarten is more suited for families.

If the weather is not being kind to you, you could head to the area around Marienplatz to check out the city hall and the Cathedral and find a restaurant in the pedestrian zone. The Bratwurst Gloeckl offers good traditional food.

Saturday

11 a.m. - If you want to get into a beer tent but have made no reservation, be prepared to turn up before noon. Tents open at 9 a.m. on the weekends and while there is seating for some 100,000 people in total, they shut once they are full.

If you’re at Oktoberfest during the opening on September 18, head there extra early on Saturday morning to witness the ritual tapping of the first beer keg in the Schottenhamel tent.

Mayor Christian Ude has a good track record of needing just two taps before shouting out “O‘zapft is” - “it’s tapped.”

The tapping is such a big event in Munich’s social calendar that the refusal of the wife of one former Bavarian government chief to wear the traditional dirndl there caused media uproar.

Over the past decade, Bavarian garb has become fashionable again. Try wearing lederhosen (if you’re a guy) or a dirndl (for girls) if you’re up for the authentic feel. You can often lay your hands on the kit in second hand shops.

If you are not inside a tent, watch the Parade of the Landlords and Breweries as they arrive in their horse carriage just before the opening or check out the “Boellerschiessen,” the gun salute to mark the start of the fair.

If you are inside a tent, well done, you’ve made it. Enjoy the oompah of the brass bands. Find a table, order drinks and food -- you have to be seated -- and have fun. Prost!

Be aware though that the beer not only comes in a 1 liter ‘mass’ glass but at around 6 percent is also stronger than the brew you might be used to. Pace yourself or risk becoming a Bierleiche (literally translated: a beer corpse).

The liter will cost between 8.30 euros and 8.90 euros ($10.86-$11.65) this year, roughly 50 cents more than last year.

This year will be the first year with a smoking ban. Some tents will have small balconies for smokers to get out, some will spray their tents to get rid of the smells normally drowned in cigarette smoke. But most landlords seem to adopt the wait-and-see approach, so brace yourself for a bit of a surprise if you insist on lighting up.

11 p.m. - All but a few tents have served their last round now and will close shortly. A few places, like the Schuetzen-Festzelt, have a ritual last song of the night. So if you’re into Rainhard Fendrich -- an Austrian pop star who goes down well with the Bavarian crowd too -- head to the Schuetzen for a recital of his love song “Weus’d a Herz host wia a Bergwerk” (“Because you have a heart like a mine.” Yes, it works better in German).

You can either go on to Weinzelt (the wine tent) or the Kaefer tent, both of which still serve alcohol after midnight.

Alternatively, there are after-parties all over the city. Follow the locals. Surely, by now you will have befriended some. If you haven‘t, it may be because you didn’t check out Oktoberfest’s very own Bavarian dictionary at: www.oktoberfest.de/en/lexikon/.

Sunday

9 a.m. (or whenever you can make it out of bed) - To cure your hangover, try a walk around the English Gardens, one of the world’s largest urban parks. There are plenty of museums and galleries but no shopping as stores are closed on Sundays.

If you’re in Munich on the first Oktoberfest weekend, check out the Costume and Riflemen’s Parade, a must-see if you want to know what traditional garb used to look like in the old days.

And if you still haven’t had enough, return to the Wiesn to check out more beer, rollercoasters and amusement rides.

Look after your belongings, however. In 2009, the lost and found’s list of curiosities included: one wire-haired dachshund, one superman costume, one pair of skiing boots, one music stand and four wedding rings.

Reporting by Annika Breidthardt, editing by Paul Casciato

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