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Six million people rush to Munich for Oktoberfest each year to guzzle beer out of giant mugs. This cultural experience known for delicious brew can easily bring confusion or headaches (or both) for tourists attending the event for the first time.
I’ve spent the past two weeks in Munich watching the city prepare for, and then celebrate, Oktoberfest. Although the festival continues through October 4, 2009, I’ve already taken some notes for getting the most out of the festival next year. Simply follow these five tips:
1. Come in September
The most common misconception is that Oktoberfest runs in October. While that makes sense to the rest of the world, the festival is meant to “bring in” October, so it runs the last two weeks of September. To be exact, Oktoberfest begins the second-to-last Saturday of September and lasts for two weeks. This year, 2009, it runs through October 4.
2. Bring only what you want to spend
Between beers hovering around €10 and not-so-cheap grub, it is scarily easy to drop €50 in one day. Make a daily budget and stash the rest of your cash somewhere far, far away: you’ll thank yourself later. Of course, ATMs are always available for emergencies.
3. Pace yourself
A stein is one liter… period. That’s about three cans of beer, each with almost six percent alcohol, by volume. Remember this: it’s all about knowing your limits. Eat a giant soft pretzel (“Bretzel”), drink a half-liter water (“Wasser”). Whatever happens, just remember to pace yourself to survive a demanding day full of beer-drinking.
4. Bring your camera for cheap souvenirs
Legally acquire souvenirs. After all, stealing a stein can cost you thousands of euros, and stealing a kiss can cost you a fat slap on the face! Common Oktoberfest souvenirs are costly t-shirts and cheaply made trinkets. Photos are the best way for cheap memories—the festival brings endless photo-ops and camera theft isn’t a common occurrence.
5. Know how to score a tent seat
Never use the main entrance during busy times. Some people wait in line for hours, not knowing that the side and back entrances are crowd-free. Larger groups should split up on busy nights and rendezvous when things get a bit more spacious. When zoning in on seats, make sure the table you find is not reserved.
Bonus tip: Hit the loo early on
Lines for the toilet can be ridiculous, especially on weekends. Head to the W.C. as soon as you feel the need: chances are you’ll have to wait in line. Toilets are in tents, on the terraces, and in between tent zones.