Blaise Tapp enjoys a weekend of beer, sausages, pink rickshaws and high jinks at the Munich Beer Festival
It is fair to say that a visit to the Munich Beer Festival is probably something that appears on the Bucket List of most red-blooded males below the age of 50.
This is just as well because having now achieved a long held ambition of sampling the delights of the Oktoberfest I am amazed that it is not the last thing that many revellers do.
To say that Munich in late September/early October ain’t for the faint hearted is the daddy of all understatements – it is an orgy of yellow beer, myriad pork products and relentless grown-up fun.
If Walt Disney – arguably the greatest dreamer of the 20th Century – had set his creative talents to work on building a theme park solely for adults, the result would have resembled Munich in the autumn.
There are similarities between the vast Oktoberfest and the Magic Kingdom – the intense excitement that you feel on the approach to both is the same but, of course, the view is different.
Whereas, at one you have the stunning Disney castle and life-size versions of everybody’s favourite childhood characters on hand to greet visitors, in Bavaria’s biggest city the skyline is crowded with fairground attractions and the approach littered with worse-for-wear folk wearing ridiculous headgear.
The sight of, what I am sure are normally very sensible adults when sat behind a desk at work, staggering aimlessly while trying to find the route back to their hotel does instill more than a little nervousness into the first time, initially sober visitor.
All sorts of race through your mind: ‘I am going to keep up with the pace?’ (the answer is almost always no, I have since discovered), ‘Am I going to make a prat of myself?’ (without a doubt, yes) and ‘Will I have a good time?’ (If you have a pulse, yes).
While I was warned about just how busy the showground would be, you can never be fully prepared for the sheer vastness of the festival.
The crowds stand shoulder-to-shoulder and you cannot help but all move as one, with the only fitting equivalent being the sea of people you see after a big top flight football match, although everyone is on the same side here.
The side of high jinks.
Like all tourist traps there are plenty of things to do and see at the festival (besides drinking), but they all come at a cost. Somehow though the party spirit means that you are not necessarily counting every cent, which is just how the purveyors of giant pretzels and comedy headwear want it.
Clearly the main attraction is the beer and for the evening drinkers (there are two main sessions each day) the fun begins at 6pm, when on the stroke of the hour the traditional band strikes up, just one of the many examples of German efficiency in full effect.
The Oktoberfest numbers are astonishing – at least six million people attend the festival over 16 days each year and at any one time some of the biggest of the 14 major beer tents are temporary home to some 10,000 drinkers. In our tent, the Schottenhamel, there were 6,000 people neatly packed into the vast arena, making for a thoroughly unique atmosphere.
There are many things about the festival to marvel at: the beautiful women in traditional dress, the friendly feel and the crowds, but the thing that impressed me most was the strength of the serving staff, in particular our waitress.
A nubile beauty she wasn’t, she bore more than a passing resemblance to Big Heather, the optimistic EastEnders’ character who met a typically grisly end, but I have never seen such power in a set of forearms.
There were 10 in our party and each order required just one visit to our table – she carried the lot, five in each fist, no mean feat when you consider you aren’t dealing in pints here but steins, which holds one litre.
In order to get your strength up, the food served up to diners is typically hearty German fare, consisting of chicken or pork knuckle.
Subtly elegant it ain’t, but it is tasty stuff and it fills a much needed hole.
After five hours of drinking, singing and dancing on benches and tables (which can lead to you being turfed out by mean looking security staff) the night comes to an abrupt halt at 11pm.
The departing crowds move much less fluidly than they did earlier in the day and I am not entirely sure if everyone makes it home.
It has since emerged that during our stay an Italian visitor managed to lose his car during the festival, having forgotten where he left it.
It took a newspaper advert and several visits from Milan for him to be reunited with his vehicle weeks later.
I was fortunate enough to hitch a lift home on a pink rickshaw, which delivered me safely back to our hotel, the Maritim, which is ideally situated in the heart of the city.
If the truth be told I did not see a great deal of my hotel room, but when I did rest, I could not have been more comfortable. The breakfast was the best I tasted during my stay in Germany, although I am going to take some convincing that chicken soup is the best way to start the day.
After more than two decades of over indulgence I thought that I could cope with anything a morning after could throw at me – but that was until I visited Munich.
It was just as well that we travelled home with Lufthansa, the self check-in at the local airport could not have been simpler, while the airline’s lounge was the ideal place to recover, with the help of yet another meaty meal.
The flight back to Manchester was as brief as it was relaxing and it was not long before I was back home, dying on my sofa.
Munich is most certainly a place to which I will return – and not just because the Oktoberfest is the best fun I have had with my clothes on, but because it is a city which deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as London, Paris or New York.
Manchester-Munich from £99 return
Fares include all taxes and charges, free luggage allowance, free check-in and creative on board catering plus the opportunity to collect miles with Europe’s largest airline loyalty programme, Miles & More.
Manchester-Munich vv: 3 x daily Mon-Sat; 2 x daily Sun
Maritim Hotel München (Munich)
Phone: +49 (0) 89 55235-0
Fax: +49 (0) 89 55235-900
Reservation phone: +49 (0) 89 55235-860
Runs from Saturday September 20 to Sunday October 5