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With so much beer consumed at Munich's Oktoberfest, it's only logical that urination becomes a world-class activity. The bathrooms at the festival run the gamut from: good, fine, okay, crowded, packed and insane (see below) to convivial, non-existent, trees, bushes, lampposts and grass. Don't be shocked to find many people -- usually men -- at the Theresienwiese (festival grounds) discharging in public. Oktoberfest is still a wonderful, memorable experience, but we human beings, well... we do have to go, so try not to be surprised.
Although I was sitting with other "specially invited guests" at of the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery on the last night of Oktoberfest, I finally had to head for a much-needed bathroom break. I'd heard about a mysterious "VIP-Pee," but learned it was reserved for women only. So when the inevitable time came, I boxed my way down a crowded staircase, then out the door and headed for the nearest bathroom.
"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.
Oktoberfest grew like an indelible beast as Munich crowds headed by subway, bus and foot to the Theresienwiese fairgrounds. It was the last night, after all -- and there was still plenty of beer to consume. Thousands converged, happily dressed in everything from traditional colorful dirndls, lederhosen and vests to ordinary t-shirts and leather jackets. It really makes no difference what you wear to Oktoberfest unless, perhaps, you are an old-timer from Bavaria. On this night I headed for the Hacker-Pschorr Braurosi tent -- which I'd heard was a wild one.
Besides fresh Oktoberfest beer, specially brewed for the occasion, Oktoberfest showcases and serves German culinary staples such as excellent Hendl (rotisserie chicken), Wursti (sausage), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (pork knuckle -- better than it sounds) and Knodel (a potato pancake). The ubiquitous Brezn (pretzels) are huge, soft and very salty.
Some Oktoberfest facts:
- There are 12 tents all hosted by Munich area breweries. Each tent is a very lucrative business. It's a sophisticated setup regarding beer delivery, ingress and egress, food, security and music. The bathrooms? Well... they're another story.
- Tents can hold up to 10,000 people at a time and are usually packed, packed, packed -- especially in the evenings. The jostling is incredible. Big German waitresses power through the crowds holding up to ten beers or platters of food. The tents are open for 12 hours each day (usually 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM). In other words, way more than 10,000 people rotate in and out throughout the day. Meanwhile, thousands of others are standing outside the tents, hoping, trying to get in!
- The festival lasts 16 days.
- Doing a little math, that's: 12 tents x 10,000 people x 16 days = 1,920,000 people minimum. In fact, Munich estimates that a record 7.5 million people will attend Oktoberfest in 2010.
- If each of those 7.5 million people drink only 4 liters of beer, then the partiers consume roughly 8 million gallons of beer over the course of the event.
Gallery: Oktoberfest 2010
The logistics of Oktoberfest are impressive, and large festival or event planners might consider studying their methods. The beer logistics alone are amazing. For instance...
- The Paulaner Brewery, the largest in Munich begins making Oktoberfest beer in late July and delivers about 3,000,000 liters during Oktoberfest. That's a lot of beer, consumed one liter a time. And Paulaner is just one brewery out of 12 functioning at the annual event.
- Paulaner brings its beer from the brewery to its Oktoberfest tent in huge tanker trucks able to transport 270 hectoliters at a time from midnight until right before the tents open in the morning.
- The brew is connected directly from the tankers to the beer taps using a sophisticated, patented system.
- Munich-area breweries, hospitality vendors and politicians all vie for tent space, which is highly coveted and incredibly lucrative. A tent owner or brewery can be kicked out of Oktoberfest if there are problems -- and they'll never be allowed to return.
Munich's Oktoberfest is celebrating its 200th Anniversary as throngs keep piling into the Munich's Theresienwiese, or festival grounds. Originally a wedding celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, nearly 7.5 million people will visit the sixteen-day festival this year. Of the crowds, about 50% are locals, from Munich and Bavaria, but the rest come from elsewhere around Germany, Europe, the UK, USA and beyond. "This is something special," said Thomas Klug, a Munich local, sitting with a few friends. "Oh yes, I come every year." Klug will ride his bicycle home after his third liter and plans on being at work at 7:30 the next morning.
I wouldn't bet on it; lots of habitually punctual Germans call in sick during Oktoberfest.
I came to Munich primarily to experience Oktoberfest in this, its 200th anniversary. The historic festival originally began as a celebration of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese, Princess of Saxony back in 1810. Parades, games, music and (of course!) beer flowed at the huge wedding party. In 1818, Oktoberfest became an official beer festival and has been going strong ever since. Today approximately 1.5 million people show up to Oktoberfest each year in the capital of Bavaria.
I started out from the hotel, took the U Bahn' (the efficient subway system) to the Theresienwiese -- named after Princess Therese -- the Oktoberfest area. Walking two blocks, I encountered a rocking' carnival. Brilliant lights, screaming rides for kids and adults, food stalls, games of skill (in one you had to kick a soccer ball past a live goalie and hit a bull's-eye), and everything else you'd expect at first rate amusement park. Thousands enjoyed the fun.
Then I saw the beer gardens...