This week we are looking beyond our Colorado borders at Germany, with a series on Oktoberfest penned by our buddy Rob. In writing these posts, Rob is sharing his experience from many trips to Oktoberfest and providing you with what he wished he knew when he first set out to Munich. The Beer Drinking American’s Comprehensive Guide To Oktoberfest is being published in three parts. Yesterday we shared Part 1: The Festival, The Beer The Tents. Today we take a deeper look into what to expect from your Bavarian beer fest getaway.
The Beer Drinking American’s
Comprehensive Guide To Oktoberfest: Part 2
If you know anything about Oktoberfest, it’s probably that you can expect to enjoy several steins of great beer. But if that’s all you know about this annual Bavarian celebration, then you still have much to learn. Today we explore the sounds, the fashion and the flavors of Oktoberfest!
For first time Oktoberfest visitors from the U.S., music may come as the most surprising aspect of the fest. Almost all the tents will include some American or British rock ‘n’ roll, in English. You could argue that John Denver’s “Country Roads” is the unofficial Oktoberfest Song. Over the course of a day it’s likely that you will hear the crowds sing it a capella when the band is taking a break. Keep in mind that to curb the “crazy party atmosphere and violence” that tents have experienced in the past, they typically play Folk and Brass Band Music during the daytime hours; rock ‘n’ roll usually takes over around 6 p.m.
English Oktoberfest Classics
In addition to AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, and classics such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “YMCA,” “Sweet Caroline,” etc. Below are a few English favorites you’re likely to hear.
“Hey Baby!” from Hofbrau Festzelt:
“Living Next Door to Alice” from Fischer Vroni Haus:
“Angels” by Robbie Williams from Schützen-Festzelt:
German Oktoberfest Favorites
Of course many German songs are Oktoberfest staples as well. Any American going to their first festival will want to get acquainted with the Fliegerlied and it’s accompanying dance at the bare minimum. Originally a children’s song, Fliegerlied (So ein schöner Tag) has been co-opted by drunken adults that have turned it into an infecting line-dance sing along. You don’t want to be left flieg’n when you should be schwimm’n yest you be outed as a noob, so make sure you know the dance moves. It seems ridiculous on it’s face, but in the right environment and with the right blood alcohol content, it’s really a ridiculous amount of fun.
If you want to achieve an advanced degree in Oktoberfest song and dance, here are a couple more German songs you will hear during the fest. Link through to YouTube by clicking the song name, and you get ready to sing and dance along.
“Cowboy und Indianer” is a fun sing-along about Cowboys and Indians with an accompanying dance. (lyrics):
“Hände zum Himmel“ features a sing- and clap-along that always gets the crowd dancing. Shown below in a mashup with Cowboy und Indianer from Schützen-Festzelt (lyrics):
“Joana, du geile Sau” is worth learning if only for the fact you get to scream “You dirty skank!” with 10,000 other people, like in the video below from Hacker-Schorr (lyrics):
Finally, “Viva Bavaria“ is a rip-off of Viva Colonia that the locals love to sing. (lyrics):
Though it’s by no means a requirement to wear the traditional Bavarian costumes of Liederhosen, Drindl, Bollerhut and Kittel (collectively referred to as trachten) it’s a hell of a lot of fun to wear to them to the fest. In my experience good quality trachten is very hard to find in the states. Besides, why would you buy it here when you can get it from the source? With a solid pair of hosen you’re set for life when it comes to a quick Halloween costume, or crushing it at your local Oktoberfest celebrations. Plus the soft leather is very breathable and surprising comfortable.
So you just rolled into Munich and want to get set up with some trachten…. where do you begin? As with any type of clothing there are varying levels of quality and craftsmanship. Some of the Bavarian parades that come through the tents are led by old guys in full-length hosen, vests, and hats, all with intricate designs tracing their ancestry and locale. But hey, if you just want to get suited up quickly and spend the rest of your time drinking beer, here are the basics:
Trachten Essentials for Men
- Lederhosen (AKA hosen) – Lederhosen literally translates to “leather pants” and is the only must-have in a trachten set. You can go with short, set above the knee, or the three-quarter length that extends below the knee. It doesn’t really matter, just go with what you like best.
- Suspenders – Depending on the style you choose suspenders are not necessary, but I recommend them for function alone. There is no particular style that you need to be authentic, just go with what you like.
- Shirt – Usually your hosen will come with a long-sleeved, checkered, button-up shirt in the color of your choosing. Make sure your shirt has buttons on the sleeves, which you will need to roll your sleeves up when the tents get warm.
- Shoes – Your trachten shop will have a selection of traditional shoes to choose from, which are usually leather with laces on the side.
- Socks – Socks come in 2 styles: knee-high Haferl socks, and 2-piece Loferl, which includes an ankle-length sock and a separate piece worn over the calf. Both styles are usually made of neutral color cotton with designs on the edges.
- Accessories – Hats, Scarves, vests, jackets are all acceptable accessories.
Trachten Essentials for Women
For once women’s fashion is less complicated than the men’s: Ladies need a drindl… that’s it. A dirndl is a traditional feminine dress available in various shades, usually consisting of a bodice, puffy-sleeved blouse, full skirt and apron. The most complicated part of your day, outside of finding the U-Bahn Station post-fest, is deciding where to place your bow. A knot tied on your left side means that you are available, while a knot tied on the right side means you are married/unavailable. A knot tied in the front center means that you are a virgin, and a knot tied in the center of your back means that you are widowed. I couldn’t figure out where to place the bow if you are a swinger, so I’m going to just go with wear it as a sash. As for shoes, although it’s fashionable to wear heels I would equate a day at Oktoberfest with a day in Vegas. You’re going to be on your feet a lot, so dress comfortably.
Where to buy your Trachten
Right across from the Main Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) there are a couple of Outlet stores that sell everything you need for the beer fest. You can walk in and come out 20 minutes later in your hosen carrying your regular clothes in a bag. Drop the bag in a locker at the train station and after a one-stop U-Bahn trip you are looking sharp and drinking beer. This is the cheapest option you will find in Munich.
If you are looking for a little more variety and better quality there are a couple of mid-range trachten shops in the main shopping district. A quick walk from the Marienplatz & Karlsplatz stations is Wies’n Tracht & mehr, where you will find a wider variety of drindls and hosen for a reasonable price. It’s a little more expensive than the Outlets, but only by about 20%-25%. You can get a nice set here and with more accessories than the Outlets, which can set yourself apart from the masses fashion wise. They have a couple of locations in town, but this one is easy to find.
If you really want to go all out and get some high quality trachten, check out Trachtenhaus Peteranderl near the Sendlinger Tor stop. They do custom, high-quality trachten. If you’re looking for something special this is a great place to start. You will also see trachten for sale in the high-end department stores. Or just ask around in the ritzy hotels and they will send you in the right direction.
Every time I land in Munich I can’t wait to settle down with a Mas of beer and order some Schweinshaxe (crispy pork knuckle) – or as I like to call it – Meat with Meat Sauce – which is usually served with potato dumplings and gravy. It’s so good I might eat it 3 times in 4 days… but enough about my gastrointestinal issues.
Due to the cold climate in rural Bavaria only potatoes and beets grow well here, so it would not be surprising to eat a week of Bavarian food that consists exclusively of various shades of brown. Luckily modern Munich is a more cosmopolitan city with great restaurants from around the world if you crave more color variety. But honestly why would you when you have your choice of such a large variety of sausages?!
If you are lucky to get into an Oktoberfest tent and find a place to sit, there is plenty of bear-soaking food available for purchase. This is not your typical festival fare, this is restaurant-style cuisine. Typically this includes Bavarian standbys like the aforementioned Pork Knuckle, half chickens, sausages and all your schnitzel’s and spatzl’s. They even include (gasp!) vegetarian options, I guess for those that have eaten nothing but meat covered in meat sauce for days. Depending upon which tent you’re at, you may see some options that include veal, venison, smoked fish as well as deserts. But don’t fret ye American fair pallet yet! Outside of the tents you can acquire all the funnel cake and deep-fried foods your homesick stomach can handle… just before riding the coaster of course.
Almost every restaurant in Munich will have an English menu, so if you don’t speak German and don’t want to roll the culinary dice just ask for one.
Every trip to Munich should also include a stop at the Hofbrauhaus. Unfortunately, during the fest it can get busy and wait times can exceed an hour. Luckily all the other breweries throughout Munich will have a have similar, though less notorious, raucous vibe. Just find the nearest Bräuhaus and cozy up with some new friends.
Come back tomorrow for more Oktoberfest tips
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up The Beer Drinking American’s Comprehensive Guide To Oktoberfest with a look at Munich and some other wonderful spots you can travel to nearby. Come back and check it out!
About the writer
Rob, a full-time resident of Denver, is attending his 4th Oktoberfest this fall. He lives by the Oktoberfest credo of “Fleisch, Bier und Brüste.”
Rob’s other articles in The Beer Drinking American’s Comprehensive Guide To Oktoberfest series:
Part 1: The Festival, The Beer and The Tents
Part 3: The City and The Travel