Oktoberfest is no different from a lot of things in life: either you love the biggest folk festival in the world, or you don’t. It has been happening at the Theresienwiese in Munich since 1810, and every year it attracts a whopping 6 million visitors from all over the world. Among the countless people expected this year, in addition to Bavarians and other Germans, there will be 200,000 visitors from Italy and the U.S., 150,000 Britons and Australians, as well as beer lovers from New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Austria, France and Switzerland. Many will be wearing traditional Bavarian costumes.
Affectionately termed the “Meadows” by the locals, it’s where people of all ages, students and families, rural farmers and city slickers, academics and factory workers will meet. As tradition goes, people from all walks of life eat, drink and celebrate together.
The numbers are staggering: every year 7.4 million liters of beer are swilled, and 510,000 roast chickens, 59,000 pigs’ trotters and various other delicacies are consumed inside and outside of the beer tents. The live music is the stuff of legends, creating an incredibly vibrant atmosphere in the 14 beer tents where waiters and waitresses work the aisles with smiles, carrying seemingly impossibly heavy loads of food and drink.
It comes as no surprise when, every year in mid-September, the “Meadows” turn into a parallel universe, existing in a haze of beer, sausages and candy floss, totally separated from the day-to-day life of the city.
If the truth be told, our star tour guide from Munich, Werner, was not born and bred in Bavaria. But all the same, Oktoberfest is a fixture in his social calendar—sort of like Christmas and New Year’s combined.
After stints in Cologne, Sydney and London, he now calls Munich, the “Monaco of Bavaria,” his new home. He loves architecture and is a representative of the Vitra design collection, but every year he loves to put on the lederhosen, Janker cardigan and the brogues, then sink a couple of Oktoberfest beers with his friends.
For the first stop on our mini tour of Munich, Werner treats us to a hearty white sausage breakfast, and that’s when we learn that his heart belongs to interior design.He loves furniture more than anything. The apprenticed carpenter purchased his first piece of designer furniture at the tender age of 17, a Tizio lamp by Richard Sapper. We chat casually about Dries van Noten suits, about Sydney, his all-time favorite city, and we keep coming back to the subject of architecture and interiors.
Every year, Werner loves to put up Oktoberfest visitors from all over the world in his beautifully decorated flat, full of Eames originals and other small pieces of memorabilia, located in the Wagner quarter. And he’s not shy about sharing his local knowledge on how to put together the perfect visit to Munich. Because during the Oktoberfest season, the Bavarian capital has so much more to offer than brass bands and “Brotzeitbrettl” (a traditional dish with bread, cheese and cold cuts).
“It’s not unheard of that trying to get into one of the best tents at Oktoberfest, the Wine Tent (assuming you’ve already had enough beer, that is) is doomed to fail; it’s so packed that it is ‘closed due to overcrowding.’” Plus, the “Meadows” closes down at 10:30 every night. If you’ve had enough of the lederhosen and brogues scene and are looking for the perfect bar to finish off a great day, the place to go is “Die Registratur” in Müllerstraße. Stylish interior, pleasant people and great drinks. “One of my favorites is the Regi Fashioned: a classy whisky-based drink made with Auchentoshan Single Malt, Frangelico, dark chocolate and sugar, and they stir it for so long that you get dizzy just watching.”“The breakfast place I like to go to a lot, or even on my way to the ‘Meadows’, is the ‘Aroma Kaffeebar’ in the Glockenbach quarter. Jürgen, the owner, has lived in California for many years. That’s the reason why—besides the tasty sandwiches and great cakes—the place is full of cool bits and pieces and some pretty off-the-wall knick-knacks as well: Glow-in-the-dark keychains, glitter lollipops, local Munich gin, beard oil for hipsters, incense, coffee beans roasted in Berlin.”
“I really appreciate good drinks. If I’m looking for something really special, I’ll go to a Späti (a small late night shop, selling drinks and small food items) called ‘Szenedrinks’ on Gärtnerplatz. The place is run by Helmut and Franz, and something tells me they are huge Cher fans. Every time I go there, they are showing an old Cher concert from the ‘80s on TV. They have a great selection of drinks, around 100 different kinds of gin and craft beers as well. That’s where I discovered the best gin made in Germany. ‘Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin’ was awarded the 2015 World Spirits Gold Medal.”
“Munich is full of old Bavarian traditions. If you go up to the Isartor town gate, you get very large servings of tradition. The ‘Turmstüberl’ is an antique market, restaurant and cafe rolled into one. Hearty local dishes, kitsch and art create a pretty strange mix. I love all the crazy details that this small room has been decorated with. There’s a warning sign on the door: ‘Women’s club. Beware, the landlady may bite. Enter at your own risk!’”
“There are some places I just can’t get enough of. If you’ve spent the weekend knocking back beers at Oktoberfest and you need to clear your head, a trip to the Olympiapark is just what the doctor ordered. Right in the middle of a picturesque park landscape, the 290-meter-tall Olympic Tower soars into the sky. I love its futuristic ‘70s architecture. I used to come here when I was still a kid and I just loved the view from the top. From the restaurant you can see the entire city. It’s one of a kind!”