story by Helyna Bledsoe Thompson & John Thompson
In October of 2008, I attended my first Oktoberfest in Munich. It was a memorable experience but I learned from the mistakes of not planning ahead and flying by the seat of my pants. That year I remember leaving the KMC area at 430 AM in order to arrive early enough (before 10AM) to assure entry into a tent, waiting in very long lines, and finding it nearly impossible to book a room on short notice anywhere near the festival grounds (I ended up sleeping in the car). Here are our experiences so you can plan ahead for your next Oktoberfest trip!
Typically, a person must book reserved seats for their selected Oktoberfest tent and make overnight accommodations up to a full year in advance. I decided to attend Oktoberfest 2012 in June 2012 so I was not within the required window of booking the trip. This time, my wife would be attending and I was flying directly to Munich from the US – so sleeping in a car wasn’t an option.
After looking through all of the options on the web and finding no inexpensive route to attend the festival on such short notice, we decided to take the easy way out: we bought a package deal through a local hotel in Munich.
For a set price, we received a hotel room, horse drawn carriage ride to Oktoberfest grounds (including courtesy beer mugs called “Krugs” in German), entry tickets to the Hippodrome tent, reserved seats on the upper level, a three-course Bavarian dinner, and a bottle of Moet Champagne for the reserved table of eight. We also received a hotel “Welcome Package” which included a Bavarian cheese & meat plate and a drink in the bar of the hotel. A luxury breakfast the next morning was also included.
Our flight originated late Thursday afternoon from Houston. We had a layover in Washington, D.C., then a transatlantic leg to Munich, landing the next afternoon at about 1:00 P.M. We arrived to the hotel about 3:00 P.M. and caught the horse carriage to Oktoberfest at 6:00 P.M. Since our suitcases didn’t make it, we bought some real Bavarian clothes.
The horse drawn carriage ride sounds kind of corny but it ended up being very memorable. This is where we initially met the other 16 people attending the festival with us. To our surprise everyone was dressed up in the traditional Oktoberfest garb (lederhosen and drindl’s). Imagine a horse drawn carriage with a cloth top over the buckboard and a 16 person picnic table set up in the middle with krugs (beer mugs) to be filled with a never ending supply of beer and pretzels. All of the cars in the street were waving and honking at us.
After about a 30 minute ride we were dropped off at the entrance of the Oktoberfest grounds. It was around 6:30, so the festival was in full swing. We were given about 30 minutes to explore the grounds before we were to enter the reserved tent. The best way to describe the festival is that it’s like a county fair in the US. There are games, rides, food (most of it not healthy) and lots of people-watching. The entire perimeter of the grounds is surrounded by different tents, many named after famous Munich beer halls (like the Hofbrau Haus). Each tent can hold anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 people.
It was finally time to go into the Hippodrome. The tent is very lively and is one of the nicest at the festival. The colors in the tent are vibrant with banners of red, green, and gold lining the interior. We were taken to our reserved seats which were on the second level of the tent and eye level across from the band. The music was the traditional oompah music, interrupted by cheers between every song. Although everyone was drinking lots of German beer, nothing seemed to get too out of hand and everyone had a wonderful time drinking and dancing.
It would have been less expensive to participate in all the Oktoberfest festivities if we had more time to plan. However, the package we had was perfect for our once-in-a-lifetime trip together. We would recommend it to anyone who wants to splurge a little and do Oktoberfest in style. We had wonderful accommodations, transportation to the festival, excellent meals, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. For those thinking of attending next year’s Oktoberfest, start planning and booking your hotel rooms now. Or, alternatively, start saving your money so you can enjoy a carefree package provided by one of Munich’s fine hotels.
Our trip was through the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Munich.