Travel Story 


Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Story and photography by Mike Crane

This is it: Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is the real deal. It is said to be the largest party in the world. A mind-boggling 5.9 million people partied it up during the 16 days of last year’s festival.

You have to picture fair grounds approximately 100 acres in size, occupied by 14 hangar-sized beer tents. The largest can seat 9,300 people and in total there are 98,000 indoor seats. It takes about 12,000 staff to support Oktoberfest. According to the Munich website, the consumption of the basic Oktoberfest staples weighed in at over 6.1 million litres of beer, 33,000 bottles of wine, just under 500,000 roast chickens, 400,000 pork sausages and over 47,000 kilograms of fish. All in all, Oktoberfest annually brings in just under 1 billion euros (around $1.6 billion Cdn) to the city of Munich.

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding. The modern Oktoberfest, strangely enough, is mostly held in September. This year it will be held Sept. 17 th -Oct. 3 rd . The September start allows partygoers warmer evenings before the fall weather sets in.

We arrived in Munich for the final weekend of last year’s Oktoberfest, with no hotel reservations. After a few calls beginning with "Sprechen zie englisch?" to nearby towns we gave up and just dumped our stuff in a locker. The plan would be to stay in Munich until the evening and then catch a night train to Frankfurt, sleep en route and wake up in Frankfurt in time to catch the first train back to Munich. With train passes in hand and convinced that this was the ideal last minute solution for getting some much-needed sleep, we were ready to partake.

Relieved of our backpacks, we headed over to the Theresienwiese fairgrounds where Oktoberfest, or simply "Wiesn" as the Bavarians call it, is held. Arriving at the Theresienwiese grounds was quite a scene: there were thousands upon thousands of people, consuming excessive amounts of sausage, chicken, fish and of course the famous beer, which comes in 1 litre steins. Others lined up and waited with the hopes of slipping into an already full beer tent. Overlaying all this overindulgence was the buzz of various rides and games run by carnies doing live commentaries to German techno.

A few hours passed quickly wandering around and taking in all the sites and sounds. Amongst the beer and sausages there is also a wide variety of other delicacies to be had. From dumplings to strudels and soups to doughnuts; an empty, cast-iron stomach is required to get it all in.

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