The world’s largest beer festival, Oktoberfest, sees 6 million people descend on Munich, Germany for 16 days of fun, food and plenty of beer. I was all ready with my lederhosen and trustworthy Nikon point and shoot camera along with copious amounts of film. Join me for lots of colour in a great day out!
The first thing I learned when I moved to Munich was that Oktoberfest is actually not called this, it is called ‘Wiesn’, supposedly because of its location (Theresienwise), named after Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
The second thing I learned is that if you go to ‘Wiesn’, you absolutely MUST have the right gear. That means traditional lederhosen, shirt, waistcoat is optional (but very dapper), special shoes and long socks. There are also a host of other accessories. At first I didn’t take this too seriously until a Spanish work colleague told me “if you don’t go dressed properly you will literally be the only one, and you will look like an idiot”. Whilst the Spaniards are prone to exaggeration, I took him by his word (and he was right by the way!).
A bit of history about Oktoberfest (Wiesn)
Turns out that the start of this crazy beer festival was to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in October 1810 (that is a long time ago!). Apparently the festivities were so popular that they decided to repeat them the following year, and thus Oktoberfest was born.
The celebrations grew year on year, initially focusing more on the fair grounds, with beer halls being introduced in 1896. These halls, similarly to the tents today, were sponsored by local breweries. Apparently the festival was moved back to mid September as the weather is better, and it now finishes on the first Sunday of October. There is more on the history and events here.
Whilst now Oktoberfest is clearly focused on beer and food (and lots of both), don’t forget there are 100 acres of fair grounds, with attractions, live music, various kids games, so it really has a bit of everything. I had not appreciated how organised getting into a tent is, with advance table reservation needed and a tight timeframe to get in without such a reservation.
About the shots
I wasn’t expecting any miracles with my shots as figured they would get progressively worse depending on how much beer I drank, butI actually got quite a few decent shots, albeit I was only in one tent. I did manage a bit of a walk around too, so got some shots of the many different tents (14 I believe), which very unique styles to them. My camera of choice was a pretty indestructible point and shoot Nikon L35AF and I was armed with the wonderful Kodak Pro Image 100 film as well as 1 roll of expired Fuji Sensia 200.
You may think I look like an idiot, but trust me I fit right in!
Fun fact: lederhosen are very, very comfortable to wear (just don’t ask how much they cost!). Oh and my Mother’s reaction to this photo “Who would’ve believed it? My German son!” is probably justified.
You can already see the masses before you even arrive.
Our tent was really cool, with a carrousel right in the middle. I am told it is the poshest tent there is. Kind of makes sense as Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance on stage and sang a song - definitely a highlight!
Below are the waiters bringing out all the food. People make 3 hour reservations of tables and eat chicken, duck or other specialities. Lots of meat and beer is on the menu!
You start to get an idea as to how many people attend. It is open everyday from 9am until 11pm or so for 16 days!
People up on the tables already, and it isn’t even dark! Not a person in sight not wearing lederhosen (men) or dirndls (women).
There are also loads of stalls dotted throughout the grounds, similar to a Christmas market in some ways.
Busy times as it gets darker…
Talk about busy - this is one of the main train stations for Oktoberfest…
The Paulaner sponsored tent, one of the biggest I believe.
Another shot of the carrousel.
Missed a good composition on this shot, but I liked all the hats!
Every now and then there is a Band playing through the fair grounds…
Traditional Bavarian music and dress code!
They switch to the evening tables for dinner and get everything prepared with typical German efficiency.
Beer is served in one litre jugs, or a ‘Maß’ in local terminology.
I really like how well the colours came out in this shot. Really amazing for expired Sensia 200 slide film.
Food and more food…!
The tents are all different, its really cool to see how much effort they put in their design.
The Irish are everywhere it seems!
I wondered if I was in an Asterix & Obelix scene for a moment…
Yup, that pretty much sums up Oktoberfest - a big thumbs up!!
Of course this post was more about enjoying the party atmosphere, beer, food, dancing and singing with some friends. But even better that I had a film camera with me (and one I wouldn’t mind if I dropped a few times!). I had a really great time and can only highly recommend a visit - just make sure you are dressed accordingly!
As for the films: I am still surprised by how well exposed the Sensia 200 slide film was considering it is expired. Also slide film is notoriously difficult to expose well, so pretty impressed my automatic point and shoot Nikon did a good job. The Kodak Pro Image 100 film is really excellent, some lovely colours and skin tones. I had a ton of shots from friends that turned out really great.
I hope you enjoyed learned a bit more about the world’s largest beer festival and you got a sense for its history and tradition. I promised lots of colour and I think I delivered!
See you next time,