Every year, it starts at the end of summer. When you find some sticky leftovers – Popsicles or carelessy thrown away “Kracherl” (lemonade bottles) – from the sweaty August days in the street corners around Munich central station. Munich still feels a little slow in that early September sun. But don’t be fooled. The ‘virus’ is already working its way into the city.
It arrives with a profound, somewhat fevery disquietness above rooftops and at taxi stands. With sweets-selling huts. With blue and white buntings and special offers in the store windows. And then, all of a sudden, just in time for the weekend, the emergency case: With marching bands, brewery horses and a wall of human-repellent fences around the inner city. With a swarm of hungover tourists in search of a shelter for the night. You will know it by the trail of British drunks: It’s ‘Wiesn’ in Munich, it’s Oktoberfest.
I have spent four years living in a backyard apartment not far away from Theresienwiese. Right in the eye of the storm. And another four years in other places in the city; in the north and south-east of Munich. And if I’d be allowed to give advise to all you people that have to or want to spend their days in Munich within these next two weeks: Oktoberfest is like a common cold. You can take medicine and sneeze desperately or just give in to this strange state of being – it will always last for a good 14 days and won’t let you ignore it. It’s the background melody for everything that takes place. So you should make the best of it. Just drink the syrup. Or make yourself comfortable with the right soundtrack, that makes the buzzing in your ears sound a bit sweeter.
So here, to help you out, there’s some more good advice. There’s things and places that make your living with the feast easier – or make it even more pleasurous. Places to go. And also even some events to go to. Let’s start with the right places.
Where to go:
There’s people who have the strange ability to celebrate at Oktoberfest. You’re one of them? Even better! If you join the party, take these two fatherly tips: Drink one or two beers before you go. Heavy drinkers will spare their bank accounts. And everyone else is just gonna have an easier time on the often grueling way to the beer tents. And then there’s – besides the Hacker-tent where the party is most hilarious – another place to be: Go and see the “Oide Wiesn” (old Oktoberfest). Here, in the south of Theresienwiese, it’s a bit more down-to-earth, less loud and a bit styled like in the fest’s old days. You like Oktoberfest? Then you might want to know what it was like, back then.
Another, unfortunately hard-to-realise, tip are the rooftops of Schwanthaler Höhe. This still quite old-fashioned Munich-like quarter is located just 500 metres away from Wiesn – and at some 30 metres higher than Oktoberfest level. At the end of September the tin roofs are still warm. And the ferris wheel circles – viewed from up here – at least somewhat quiet through the night – in the midst of a snow dome filled with screams, hushed brass music and the omnipresent smell of roasted almonds. You know someone with a (temporary) room in this area? Go bother them, til they take you to their attic. It’s worth the climb. But don’t drink too much before taking the way up!
If you want to party publicly, but don’t plan to die of thirst at some besieged club-bar or be pressed into a disco corner, you should leave the inner-city. Don’t even try to find a decent little pub or club, it’s pointless. A better place to go is now a quarter only five minutes by underground from the central sation: Obergiesing. Get off U1 or U2 at Wettersteinplatz or Silberhornstraße. Between these two stations stretches a less crowded, quite non-touristic area that houses plenty of pubs – or “Boazn” as Munichs inhabitants call their traditional bars. Along Tegernseer Landstraße and its eastside’s back roads are quite a few of them. South of Grünwalder Stadion – the nostalgic former home of Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich – it gets even some more quiet. But you’ll still find some strangely authentic pubs. It’s still proper Munich over here. And: Over here, it’s still proper Munich.
If you roam the city by foot and don’t feel like going this far out, you should leave Glockenbachviertel and it’s buzz southwards. Around the party street Fraunhoferstraße, it’s just all too busy with drinkers, these days. At Karl-Heinrich-Ulrich-Platz (where the quarter’s name-giving Glockenbach floats) it’s getting just a bit more quiet. And here you’ll find pub gems. The great, inglamorous Rennsalon. And, some 200 metres further southwest Südstadt. Places with a taste in music, that won’t shift shape into a mainstream disco while Oktoberfest lasts – like so many other places to. And maybe, there’s even a spot for you left at the stone steps on the Isar shore north of Wittelsbacher Brücke.
But if you should get tired of all the buzz, you need a more remote place. Munich is – non regarding all well-meant advice – now filled with noise, beer and party people. It’s even all over all the city’s parks. A good but rather easy-to-reach open air oasis lies at the southern city limits: Großhesseloher Brücke. The S-Bahn 7 will take you here in the daytime hours. Later in the night, night-tram N27 will take you back to the city every hour. This place has everything you need for a few last beers with your friends. Below, the Isar river makes it’s way to the city. A gravel bank a little stroll downwards through the woods makes a perfect resting place. Above the trains go over the bridge – and a pedestrian bridge spans the valley. From here, you have a nice view over the city. But don’t forget to bring your beers with you: The kiosk on the western shore closes early.
Feature Photo: digital cat (flickr / Creative Commons)
More photos by Thomas Sausende, Jimmy Baikovicius (flickr / Creative Commons)