Much like the name doesn’t suggest, Oktoberfest is an annual event occurring in mid-September and ending on the first weekend of October in Munich, Germany. It is the world’s largest Volksfest. For those of you who don’t understand German culture so much, a Volksfest is a beer festival accompanied by a traveling funfair. The event attracts more than 6 million people every year from all over the world and has been in operation since 1810.

Perhaps the biggest attraction of the festival is the beer itself. The local breweries will produce a special beer, labelled Oktoberfestbier which is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which will be sold exclusively during the progress of the event. The beer sold at the event must have been brewed within the Munich city borders, and conform to the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law which states exactly which ingredients can be used. There are six brewers permitted to sell their product at the festival grounds; Augustiner, Spaten, Löwenbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbräu-München. Oktoberfestbier is a type of Märzen that is typically lighter in colour. It is served in the iconic Maß glasses, also known as a Stein, which hold a litre and can be filled within 1.5 seconds by experienced staff.

In 2015, the festival officially sold 7.3 million litres of beer, which in perspective is almost enough to fill three olympic sized swimming pools. Needless to say, it is a huge part of the Bavarian culture and a central element of the festival.

It is also a celebration of Bavarian culture. The locals are quick to showcase their Dirndl and Lederhosen which are the traditional Bavarian clothes, usually in the colours of blue and white to represent the Bavarian flag. There are a number of traditional food stands around the festival serving traditional Bavarian dishes such as Knödel, Bratwurst, Brezel and Weißwurst. There are also traditional practices such as the tapping of the first keg of beer at exactly mid-day after the opening parade in the Schottenhammel tent. Once this is complete, 12 gunshots are fired on the stairway of the Ruhmeshalle and the festival is declared open. Bets are even placed to see how many strokes it takes the mayor to tap the barrel before the beer flows; the lowest recorded number is 2 and the highest is 19.

The festival began as a wedding celebration for the marriage of Kronprinz Ludwig who would later become King Ludwig I and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on the 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the celebrations at the grounds in front of the city gates which were named Theresienwiese which is where the festival is still held today. The festivities were repeated again the following year, and have since developed and bloomed into what we know as Oktoberfest today.

Oktoberfest is a family friendly event, and since 2005 there have been noise restrictions until 6.00pm to accomodate for elderly attendees and families. The sound is limited to 85 decibels and quiet traditional brass music is heard around the festival grounds. After 6.00, the party begins, and the Schlager (german drinking songs) and pop and electronic music is played so that attendees and drink and dance with each other. Restricting this to after 6.00 has helped to lift a weight from security and to keep festival and drinking related violence to a minimum, and to help to include people from all ages in the festivities.

There is a reason why the rest of the world models its beer festivals on Oktoberfest, and so it is worth the pilgrimage for any beer enthusiast who wants to immerse themselves into german culture and to have a party. In 2018, the festival will commence on the 22nd September and finish on the 7th October in the Theresienwiese grounds in Munich, and there is a large infrastructure for tourists wishing to visit and to stay in Munich during this time including transport to and from the festival and hotel packages. Knowledge of the German language is not essential for visitors as most Germans can speak excellent English, however it helps to know the word Prost! which means Cheers! to mix in with the locals.

Nuremberg Tourist Guide

Nuremberg Tourist Guide

Often overlooked by tourists in a rush to see Berlin or Munich, Nuremberg is a beautiful city located just south of the centre of Germany with a lot of history and charm. While much of the old town was destroyed during the war, it has been rebuilt brick for brick to resemble the town that existed before and to retain the history of the region. If you are spending some time in Germany, it is worth spending a couple of days in Nuremberg, and here are a few things you can occupy your time with.

Visit the Altstadt - The old town of Nuremberg is contained by some impressive city walls that more or less circle the whole of the historic part of the city. Within this space, there are plenty of cobbled streets to explore, old wooden beamed houses, and of course the castle at the top of the hill. Other highlights here are the house of Albrecht Dürer, the famous artist, which has been turned into a museum, views of the river Pegnitz weaving through the historical buildings, the beautiful market square (Hauptmarkt) which contains the gothic Frauenkirche and Schöner Brunnen statue, and the iconic and picturesque Henkerhaus and Weißgerbergasse which are worth a visit just to take those jealousy invoking Instagram photos.

Fill your pie hole - traditional Franconian cuisine is delicious and an excellent insight into the culture of the region. All around the Altstadt, you will find little market stalls and shops that are selling Drei im Weckla which is three Nürnberger Bratwurst inside a bread roll, which makes an excellent snack during your old town sightseeing. The most important dish to the region is arguably the Schweineschäufele - a slow roasted pig’s shoulder which is usually served with Knödel and falls off the bone when you poke it with your fork. Of course, Nuremberg wouldn’t be German if it didn’t have a beer scene, and the regional beer is very special. Perhaps the best place to sample some of the beer of the local breweries is by taking a trip to Wanderer - a small pub which can be seen spilling onto the streets outside the Albrecht Dürer house on a sunny day. Here, they have a whole plethora of local beers which they will sell to you to consume, most likely on the street amongst all of the locals and students who come to soak up the sun amongst the historic city buildings.

Visit Großer Dutzendteich and Dokuzentrum - the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (there’s a fun way to practice your German pronunciation) is a massive unfinished piece of third reich architecture in the south east of the city. This has been turned into a museum which details the happenings of the second world war and the involvement that the city of Nuremberg had in both fuelling and ending the war. The grounds around here are where the city tends to host festivals such as the bi-annual Volksfest (beer and funfair) and also the Rock Im Park music festival. There are also some relaxing walking paths through the parks and around the lakes which will take you past more third reich architecture and, of course, plenty of beer gardens and places to relax.

Reflect on the past at Zeppelinfeld - This is the piece of ground where Hitler held some of his rallies, and so therefore an important historical sight to reflect upon the mistakes of the past. While some of the architecture was symbolically destroyed here at the end of the war, the main structure still remains and is explorable by foot for those wishing to visit.

Visit the Fränkische Schweiz and Lauf - just a short bus, train or even cycle trip away, you can find yourself immersed in the Fränkische forest. One of the more known and iconic villages is Lauf, which contains a lot of old beautiful buildings and winding cobbled streets. The area contains lots of hiking, climbing, lakes for recreational activities and natural spaces for those wishing to escape the city and to find something a little closer to nature. There is also a beer hike that bounces between five different breweries over roughly ten kilometres (Fuenf-Seidla-Steig) which will provide a good cross section of local beer and culture.