Good for: 18+
Not good for: disabled
Lonely Planet review for Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest costs around €8, payable with special tokens sold by the tents) More than 6.2 million people guzzled 6.7 million litres of beer during Oktoberfest 2007. Blame it all on the 'Mass'; that towering mug holding a full litre of golden nectar that sets you back about eight euros - and right back on your heels. Oktoberfest is indeed the world's largest drink-a-thon where normally prim and sober citizens from every country in the world lurch around like drunken rats.
'Tradition' may be everything at the Oktoberfest, but 'convention' gets thrown right out the window.
It's all eerily disciplined, even quiet, until - at the stroke of noon - the Munich mayor opens the first keg with a mallet, great pomp and ceremony. As the beer flows forth, the crowd cheers and the mayor exclaims: 'Ozapft ist's!' (It's tapped!). Let the 'games' begin!
Other 'traditions' are less pleasant. Scores of revellers have raised their abilities at projectile vomiting to an art form and creatively, if disgustingly, decorate the streets around the Wiesn. And though portable potties are ubiquitous, the time-honoured performance of 'wildes Bieseln' (wild pissing) is still the preferred form of relief (at least among men).
Then there are the mating rituals. Dark patches of shadow just off the midway become cluttered with writhing bodies while in the tents you'll encounter pairs of blottoed faces doing their level best to mutually suck themselves out of existence. The faint of heart should cling to well-lighted areas.
After a few days of this Dionysian assault on the senses - and our livers - verbal skills, memory and other mental functions quickly become impaired.
The world's biggest party had its origins in a simple horse race. In 1810 Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig - later King Ludwig I - married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and following the wedding a horse race was held at the city gates. The six-day celebration was such a rip-roaring success that it became an annual event, was extended and moved forward to start in September so that visitors would enjoy warmer weather. Faced with all those fine suds, the horse race became little more than a sideshow and was finally dropped in 1938.
As for the parades they start at 10:45 on the first day of Oktoberfest; the Brewer's Parade travels through the city centre from Sonnenstrasse to the fairgrounds via Schwanthalerstrasse. By noon it's all over. The next day, the even more colourful Costume Procession is led by a young girl on horseback dressed as the Münchner Kindl, the child monk from the city's coat of arms. She's followed by an endless stream of marching folklore clubs, oompah bands, riflemen clubs and other groups from Bavarian villages and beyond in a two-hour procession starting at 10:00 at the Max II Monument.
Oktoberfest boasts a few nostalgic favourites. On the midway, amid the hi-tech roar, are the magic shows at Schicht'l Tent where beheadings are a speciality. Generations have gasped at this bloody sleight of hand, which is no mean feat. Even master illusionist David Copperfield has paid his respects by losing his head. There is also Germany's last remaining flea circus - a fixture since the 19th century - where trained pests provide the oomph for miniature chariots that outweigh them a thousandfold.
Married women tie their dirndl apron on the right, others on the left. Women who've been harassed can seek assistance from the Aktion Sichere Wiesn (5022 2366; www.sicherewiesn.de) right on the Oktoberfest grounds.
Chances of scoring a room in town if arriving in town during Oktoberfest are next to nil, and even the crummiest ones command sky-high prices. You might have better luck in Augsburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bad Tölz or another nearby town. Tenters could try Wiesn Camp (www.munich-oktoberfest.com in German).