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Oktoberfest by the numbers
"Everyone would be happy to have an Oktoberfest," said Vicky Weller, from Munich. "Everybody: the restaurants, the beer halls, the shops and the city make money." Indeed this is one big ATM for Munich but hey, they put on a fine festival.
The official figures are in and an estimated 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest from around the world. Italians seemed to be the largest non-German group of attendees, but I personally met plenty of Americans, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Hungarians, Swedes, Swiss, Japanese and Russian people all enjoying the spirit of togetherness – and beer.
In total, the guests at Oktoberfest drank around 7,000,000 liters of beer; however non-alcoholic beers and other drinks were served in greater numbers than in the past. A few tents even sponsored outside Lemonade gardens which attracted families and others seeking an alternative to beer. Also: there was even a small wine tent this year.
Gallery: Oktoberfest 2010
In addition to the beer, visitors consumed 117 oxen and 59 calves at the 2010 Oktoberfest, and the historic Herzkasperl Tent alone served 60,000 delicious halves of Hendl, or roasted chicken. This was by far the most popular culinary item at Oktoberfest with a cost of approximately $12.00 per serving.
According to official statistics, more people came dressed in traditional German garb than in the recent past. One reason for this is that in the post WWII era and until quite recently, German nationalism was frowned upon. (The 2006 World Cup may have been a watershed moment turning the tide.) Today, Germans are rediscovering their patriotic spirit and perhaps this is one reason why dirndls and lederhosen are gaining in popularity.
It really was amazing how little violence happens during Oktoberfest with so many people and so much beer consumed. Though crazy and crowded, it's a safe and peaceful environment. Attendees are allowed to sleep – or pass out in parks all over the fairgrounds and beyond. Of course many people do get drunk and forget things. The Wiesn Lost & Found Office recorded about 4500 objects found including: 90 cameras, 770 ID cards, 420 wallets, 330 purses and 320 pairs of glasses. They also found a rabbit, a pug, a tennis racket (who brings a tennis racket to a beer festival?), a leather whip, a set of dentures, four pairs of women's shoes and a tuba. (Damn... where's my tuba?)
All in all, this is one of the greatest festivals on the planet and has to be experienced first hand, at least once. Yet many I interviewed return year after year to enjoy the festivities with friends, both new and old. As one local told me, to get the most out of Oktoberfest, "Be pushy, be German." Good advice especially navigating the dense crowds.
Though this was the 200th Anniversary of the original year that the celebration began, this was actually the 177th Oktoberfest. There were numerous wars and other major disturbances in Germany, you might remember, when Oktoberfest was canceled. So there's plenty of time to hit the real 200th of arguably the largest participatory celebration on earth.
Getting there: Many airlines fly directly to Munich including Delta Airlines and Lufthansa. Munich is also within hours of many cities throughout Europe, easily accessed by rail.
Where to Stay: Munich offers visitors about 56,000 hotel rooms of varying types. The Sheraton Westpark is a good, popular hotel within a short walk or easy subway ride from the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.
Where to Eat: In Munich, visitors will find German as well as all varieties of contemporary cuisine. The Spatenhaus an der Oper, downtown offers fine traditional German cuisine. I loved the traditional Weiner Schnitzel. For a very special experience try the Restaurant Konigshof for elegant European dining.
Getting Around: The U Bahn (subway) in Munich is definitely the way to get around town if a destination is too far to walk. There are plenty of cabs around, but the underground is fast and easy to navigate. Plus they don't seem to ever take tickets so you can get by without one, unless you get caught.
Gallery: Girls of Oktoberfest
* Arriving at Munich's Oktoberfest
* Munich, Germany's 200th Anniversary of Oktoberfest
* Beer logistics at Munich's Oktoberfest
* Oktoberfest: Lots of food and more than 8 million gallons of beer
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Bob Ecker is a Napa, California based travel writer/photographer providing worldwide magazines and newspapers with compelling travel, hospitality, wine, culinary, skiing, film and innovative feature content. He is constantly on the go, traveling the world, unearthing new stories and uncorking emerging regions. He is current Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) member and former President of the Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW).