Oktoberfest: Inside the Tent
When someone tells you about Oktoberfest, it seems incredible. When you actually go to Oktoberfest, it’s mind-blowingly awesome. With food, dancing, music, and rides, it’s essentially an adult Disneyland. Plus, lots and lots of beer. The comradery at the event is incredible: people from all over the globe crowding together in colorful tents to make friends and have a good time. Within my first few hours at Oktoberfest, I sang with Münchner (Munich locals), toasted a family from the Bavarian countryside, and played games with a British bachelor party. We all sat together in one of the tents, sang along with the band, and got to know each other over a few steins, and then parted ways as new friends. The people are friendly, the music is loud, and the beer is delicious. What more could you ask for?
Put yourself in their Lederhosen
If you’ve never been to Munich’s Oktoberfest, this article will give you a sense of what it’s like inside the crazy, colorful tents of the festival. If you have been, feel free to read this anyway and reminisce on the good ole days when all you had to worry about was finishing your beer while it was still cold, and wondering if you should’ve purchased your dirndl in a larger size to account for all the pretzels you ate.
All About That Brass: Oom-pah bands
The energetic crowds of Oktoberfest pulse to the lively tempo of the Oom-pah bands, which can be found playing their cheery tunes in nearly all the tents. Quick history lesson: the name Oom-pah comes from the rhythmic sound deep brass instruments make on downbeats and off-beats (think tuba). Oom-pah is not one set genre of music, but rather a style that includes Polkas, Waltzes, etc. These bands keep the energy of Oktoberfest alive, and help set the mood for the festival. At noon, the band marches into the tents up onto their circular stage in the middle of the tent. As soon as the band arrives, everyone is on their feet ready to dance, sing (no matter how poorly), and celebrate for the rest of the day.
Songs you can expect to hear (and dance to, and sing to, and toast to):
- Sierra Madre
- Das Esellied (Iha, Iha, Iha, Oh)
- Hey Baby!
- Country Roads
- Olé, olé, olé
Ein Prosit (translation: a toast)
When the bands start playing this song (AKA about every 20 minutes) you are pretty much required to stand up on the tables and hoist your stein of beer in the air. If you aren’t already holding a stein, you’re doing something wrong, and you should grab one immediately. You’re at a beer festival, after all. This song is all about keeping the good times (and the cold beer) flowing. Gemülichkeit is an important part of the song, and of the Oktoberfest experience. The song begins, “Ein Prosit, ein prosit, Der Gemülichkeit” which translates to “a toast, a toast, to cheer and good times.” Gemülichkeit is as hard to describe as it is to pronounce – it essentially means the cozy and cheerful comradery/feel of Oktoberfest. Basically a long German word for the warm fuzzies. We’ll raise a stein to that!
Let’s Talk Tents
The grounds of Oktoberfest are home to over 30 tents of varying sizes, but the big tents are the main places to be. Oktoberfest 2017 had 14 big tents, each with its own unique style and atmosphere. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most well-know/popular tents:
This is where the party starts. At 12PM sharp on opening day, the mayor of Munich taps the very first keg of the festival in this tent, officially getting the celebration started. O’zapft is!
Lions, pretzels, and beer – oh my! This popular tent is best known for the giant lion statue sitting out front. No, you’re not hearing things, it actually roars. If warm hospitality and large jungle animals are your thing, this tent is for you.
Nothin’ but blue skies in this tent. The inside of this tent is painted light blue and is covered in clouds and stars, making it feel like you are truly in “Bavarian Heaven.”
Biggest, baddest, beer-iest. This tent is the festival counterpart to the famous Hofbraeuhause located in Munich.
You’ve got a friend in me…and in everyone else here. This is considered the friendliest tent at the festival, and a popular spot for the young people of Munich. I’m sure the copious delicious beer has nothing to do with everyone’s good moods.
Winzerer Fähndl & Käfer's Wies’n-Schänke
These two tents aren’t VIP-only, but they are where a lot of very important people like to hang out: especially Munich celebrities. Don’t be surprised if you spot some celebs enjoying the festivities in one of these tents.
Talk the talk
If you’re going to drink like Bavarian and eat like a Bavarian, you better learn how to talk like a Bavarian. At least a little bit. Here are a few key German phrases for you to try out at Oktoberfest that’ll make you seem like an old pro.
Hallo - Hello
Bitte – Please
Danke – Thank you
Ja – Yes
Nein – No
Wiesn – How many locals refer to the fairgrounds, officially called Theresienwiese
Prost! – Cheers!
O’zapft is! – It’s tapped! (referring to the ceremonial tapping of the first keg)
Noch ein Bier, bitte – Another beer, please!
Of the handful of us in the office that have gone to Oktoberfest, there is one common sentiment: we all intend to return every year. I know for certain that my first time at Munich’s Oktoberfest was not my last—Prost!