Oktoberfest Munich 2011: How to Do it Right
Larry Olmsted
http://blogs.forbes.com/larryolmsted...to-do-it-right

Last September was the 200th birthday of Oktoberfest, quite literally the biggest party in the world. It is never too early – in fact it is already late – to start planning for this fall. While the 201st anniversary probably will not see the record setting crowds that overran Munich latest year and for the first time in recent history brought a sense of chaos to the normally clockwork event, Oktoberfest has been generally trending upwards and is more popular than ever.

I’ve been a few times, including last year’s mega-fest, and will be returning this year. In addition, I have a couple of friends from the New York the financial sector who have now gone annually for twelve straight years, often entertaining clients, and have developed special strategies for how to beat the crowds and do the event right (Skip to the bottom to read about the Ultimate VIP Oktoberfest luxury trip).

This is important when you are talking about a 16-day festival that routinely attracts over 6 million visitors, more than visit the Grand Canyon in a full year – and more than the populations of Chicago and Houston, our third and fourth biggest cities – combined. By most estimates last year’s bicentennial drew at least 2 million more, an additional Phoenix. In a typical year, nearly half a million roast chickens are consumed, along with a quarter million sausages, 45,000 pig’s knuckles and more than one hundred whole oxen, spit roasted on a giant rotisserie.

Then there is the beer, some 71,000 hectoliters worth, and for those not sharp on their hectoliters, that is about 1.9 million gallons, or around 8 million of those giant liter steins they serve, each of which is close to three typical beers. In round Budweiser numbers, think of it as 4 million six-packs. Is it really any surprise that every year the lost and found warehouses thousands of items, including hundreds of wallets, passports, eyeglasses and cellphones, along with more bizarre misplaced objects such as dive goggles, ski boots, a Superman costume, a ladder, and even a dog?

First a little history.

When it comes to nuptial partying and no-holds-barred weddings, no one tops Bavaria’s Prince Ludwig. Ludwig technically married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810 but the soiree lasted for five days of Munich-wide celebrations, including a horse race. The party was immensely popular with locals, and they decided to repeat it the following year, sans ceremony. From such humble beginnings Oktoberfest has morphed into a 16-day spectacular of parades, rides, entertainment, food, culture, attractions and lots and lots of beer. After two centuries of practice, Munich has perfected the world’s biggest festival.

Make no mistake about it, Oktoberfest in Munich is a bucket list, once in a lifetime, activity of epic proportions. For some of us fans, it is worth several visits in a lifetime. It is one of the world’s greatest events, but it is very important to do it in fine style to really enjoy it. Last year, hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions, showed up without having planned in advance and were unable to get their hands on even a single beer. Here is how Oktoberfest works.

The event always begins on Saturday with a citywide parade and symbolic transport of kegs from downtown to the festival park, where the Mayor taps the first one and proclaims Oktoberfest open. Opening weekend is probably the best time to visit in terms of spectacle, and considerably less crowded than the final weekend, though it is even less hectic during the week. More State Fair on steroids than drunkfest, the festival is aimed at all tastes and ages, not just beer drinkers. The grounds occupy 100-acres and most offerings are outdoors, including rides, games, displays, and more wurst and food stands than you could count. Family-oriented attractions range from a traditional flea circus and carnival games to live performances and an ornate musical carousel. There is no admission fee, and many families enjoy the festival without ever entering one of the famous beer tents. Only 14 of more than 600 vendors are beer tents, but they are huge, and forget anything you think you know about “tents.” It’s like calling China’s Great Wall “stonework.” These are cavernous wood-framed halls that take months to erect, complete with high capacity commercial kitchens, performance stages for the oompah bands, balconies, seating and standing room for many thousands, and enough bathrooms to cope. To put their size in perspective, a historic antique tent set up for last year’s bicentennial to recall old times held 3500. Today’s largest holds over 10,000 drinkers, and tents are in effect stadiums that can be dismantled until next year. Besides beer supplied by a sole brewery, one of the six allowed to sell here (only breweries physically in Munich by law) each has a specialty food, ranging from roast duck to sausages to impressive whole oxen on spits, and each caters to a different demographic. Proving that there is really something for every taste, Oktoberfest even features one wine tent. Finding a table in any beer tent is the first priority for most visitors, finding one in the right tent is second.

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