Welcome to Oktoberfest 2012

Last Saturday Munich kicked off the 179. Oktoberfest, as every year… or not? 

Apparently in 2012 the Wiesn -the term refers to the Oktoberfest and it is short for Theresienwiese: the area where it takes place- is smaller than in 2011 due to the organization of the “Zentral Landwirtschaftsfest”  (lit: festival of agriculture) next to the Oktoberfest site.

Besides there are a few new rules this year: no glass bottles are allowed in the premises; the music sounds lower than usual and the gas stations are not allowed to sell alcohol after 8pm or on Sundays. This last one started before the Oktoberfest, will stay when it is over and as I see it, is another measure in line with last year´s ban of drinking alcohol in the city´s public transport. 

I will stop here giving general info about the Oktoberfest 2012 and instead will refer you to the numerous information sources online, including the Wiesn official site. Check them to learn about the history of the festival; the tents; how to book a table or accommodation; the price of a mass, etc. 

Instead I will tell you about:
one of my favorite parts of the Oktoberfest: the “Trachtenumzug”; 
the table booking and accommodation prices and;
surviving the Oktoberfest.

The Trachtenumzug means literally: “parade of traditional costumes” and it is a colorful and entertaining parade full of Bavarian history that takes place the second day of the Oktoberfest (on Sunday from 9.45am) and marches around (more or less) the old city center until it reaches the Wiesn site. Different local associations and clubs in Bayern march with their music bands; all members dressed up in their traditional costumes and some even parade with a carriage and a VIP on it that waves proudly at the crowd. These associations mostly go back to the medieval times and each represents a small town or city in the region.

The photos are nothing special, I found very difficult to secure a spot on the front row to capture the parade. 

The prices. Last year I went to the Oktoberfest on a Monday morning with an ex-colleague from Frankfurt and friends. We found free seats for lunch (around noon) and it cost us around 30€/person with food and shared desserts included. This year, we booked seats for the very first Saturday and we paid 35€/person. This seems reasonable to me, to you? 

Please, do not believe anything that does not sound reasonable. I read at the September issue of the Munich magazine Prinz that apparently there are people who are asked to pay 5000€ for a table booking at the Oktoberfest. I am not an expert in this matter but after visiting some of the tent sites to check on prices, I believe booking prices should go from 35€ to 90€/person. If you are offered something above this, I suggest you definitely question it...

Regarding accommodation, I read that some hotel room prices go up by 200% during the Oktoberfest (ok, I get this, every city in the world put up the room prices while a big event/trade fair takes place). This is the reason why sites like couch-surfing or initiatives like the mobile village at the Reitstadion Riem are becoming more popular for the Wiesn visitors. This temporary mini village is made of 98 mini lofts and cost approx. 129€/night. 

Of course one can also do like in the so-called “Italian weekend” of the Oktoberfest and rent/bring one´s own caravan (mobile home) to Munich and then replace the accommodation costs for petrol and private or street parking fees. If this last one is an option for you, please be aware that street parking in Munich is usually (even without the Oktoberfest) an impossible mission; besides street parking fees are alarmingly high and parking control officers do not miss one… I would never sleep in a stranger´s couch nor in a caravan, but this is me... I love hotels but for that to work, planning in advance is key. Book in advance and you will get the best hotels and the best deals. 

Surviving the Oktoberfest.  The Oktoberfest is fun and so good for the books of the city and local businesses … But the truth is that living in Munich, life must go on no matter what: you still need to get up early to go to work; you still need to do the weekly grocery shopping and you still want to enjoy life in this safe, clean and cozy city that is usually ranked as a top place to live because of its quality of life.

How do you live in Munich without living the Oktoberfest?

Aside the fun and the books, if you live in the city center, the Wiesn means that:  

the streets are not as clean and safe as you are used to; 
the supermarkets and shops´ shelves are emptier than usual;
there are longer queues everywhere, including in the U/S-Bahn stations; 
your bike is no longer safe without a lock while you pop in that store;
and if you decide to go for a walk in the park on the weekend, you will hardly enjoy some quite time with the kids/family/boyfriend because the green areas (unless it is raining) are full with tourists drinking or sleeping on their hangover. 

I am not cranky, I am just describing what I see and experience myself in Munich and through my friends´ eyes.  I have a good friend, born near Munich that every year books a two-week holiday outside Munich coinciding with the Oktoberfest... 

Do not run away like my friend, stay and enjoy the festival, but if you do, remember to be careful and above all patient. 

What are your experiences/thoughst/questions on the Oktoberfest? I would love to know about them :-)

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