Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oktoberfest Munich Tips (No Reservations Needed!)

Oktoberfest Munich: Paulaner Tent
Its 7am. The crisp September morning air contrasts with the stifling crowd that is starting to build. For breakfast, I’ve had a half liter of beer, picked up along the way while walking towards these hallowed grounds. It was only appropriate since I was standing with throngs of revelers, waiting patiently for the Schottenhamel Spatenbrau beer tent to open. Yes, it is Oktoberfest season in Munich, it is a Saturday, and my friends and I have no reservations.

Making it to Oktoberfest in Munich has been on my travel list, and fortunately for me, 2011 shaped up to be the year that I would fulfill this wish. Last fall, I had the opportunity to study abroad in the western Swiss town of St Gallen, which happens to be a quick 3-hour train ride from Munich.

By 8am, a large crowd has formed around the entry we were at. My friends and I were about 15 meters from the “gate”, where a line of bouncers had formed, holding a rope along the entire entryway. By 8:20am, the crowd was getting restless. We were pressed against each other, and to the people around us.
Crowds waiting to enter the Schottenhamel tent
A little after 8:30am, the bouncers started letting people in one at a time. If you were standing along the rope, the bouncers would point at you. When given that signal, you were allowed to dip under the rope, and enter the tent. Try jumping across before you are given the signal, and you will be sternly yelled at, and pushed back.

I was among the first of my friends to be let in, and I immediately ran inside looking for a table. Even though I was among the first couple of hundred people to be let in, all of the open tables had already been taken. I had no choice but to secure a table that was reserved from 4pm onwards.
Interior view of the Schottenhamel tent
The rest I guess is history…or should I say debauchery! If you are considering visiting Munich during Oktoberfest, I highly recommend visiting the fair grounds, and experiencing this historical tradition first hand. Even without reservations, you can still have a great time. Here are some tips for first timers.

Tips for attending Oktoberfest Without a Reservation:

  • Arrive early! Know which tent you want to be in, and head straight to that tent and get in line. (On a weekend, you probably want to be in line by 7:30am or earlier!!)
  • Some of the larger tents have multiple entry points (usually along the side and back of the tent). It might be worthwhile to walk around your tent of choice to find the entrance with the shortest line.
  • Have a plan to find each other once inside the tent. The first person through the guards should rush in to secure a table. Don’t waste time waiting for your friends behind you.
  • Go for the open tables first (tables without a paper taped to the top). Usually, they are located in the middle of the tent right around the stage.
  • If all open tables are full, go to the nearest “reserved” table and secure it. You can tell a table is reserved by a piece of paper taped to the top with the reservation on it.
  • Read the reservation. Often, the table is reserved from 12PM or 4PM onwards. Either of those options still gives you free reign to use the table for 3 or 7 hours before you need to vacate it!!!
  • Be friendly to and tip your waitress. By the 2nd round, our waitress volunteered to ask her manager to let us have our (reserved from 4pm onwards) table for the entire day. If this is not offered, it never hurts to ask!!!
  • Once you have a table, make friends with the people on the tables adjacent to yours. If there is room on your table, allow others who don’t have a table to share it with you. What goes around…comes around.
  • Raise a glass and enjoy!!! Ein Prosit…ein Prosit…Der Gemütlichkeit!
First Round!
Its not even 9am yet!!!


Post a Comment