The 2014 Oktoberfest has come to an end, and the stats are in!
As reported by Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), this year 6.3 million guests attended and consumed 6.5 million liters of beer, 48 calves and 112 oxen. They smuggled 112,000 mugs out of the tents. There were 2,205 police interventions at the Oktoberfest, but the police seem happy to report that they intervened proactively, which prevented many criminal offenses this year. The Bavarian Red Cross stitched up 700 wounds and treated 600 patients for alcohol poisoning. BR reports that guests traveled to Oktoberfest from all over the world, mostly from Australia, USA and Italy, but also in large numbers from Egypt, Chile, India and South Africa.
Munich residents are breathing a sigh of relief today that the millions of guests have gone home again. It’s hard to play host to that many people for two whole weeks. (It’s also hard to board the subway and have to stand with your nose 5 cm away from someone’s armpit.)
Because we’ve just moved and have been living out of boxes during this time, the last thing we needed was more commotion in our lives. Nevertheless, we were invited to join some friends at Oktoberfest, and we were happy to trade the chaos at home for a different kind of chaos at the Wiesn for one afternoon!
The cloudy weather and threat of rain did not keep the crowd away on the Thursday we attended! What did enhance the Gemütlichkeit of our visit, though, was the atmosphere at the Oide Wiesn. This is a special historical area of the Oktoberfest, where you pay an entrance fee to get in (3 € for adults, free for kids) to experience Oktoberfest as it was a century or two ago.
The history of Oktoberfest originates with the 1810 wedding festivities for Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. The main event back then was a horse race. In the decade or so that followed, it became a yearly tradition, and over the course of the 19th century, the beer tents and music platforms came, along with the fair rides. Mostly in the last half of the 20th century, it became “the world’s largest folk festival” that it is today.
Despite the great Munich tradition of the Oktoberfest, as the festival has developed over the years, the mass consumption of alcohol has become troubling and annoying for families and the sober! The typical complaint I hear from locals is that the tourists come to Munich during these two weeks just to binge drink, they detract from the atmosphere of the Oktoberfest, and they make the city uncomfortably full in the meantime.
The Oide Wiesn offers an alternative lower-key, traditional Oktoberfest experience. There you see traditionally-clad horses reminiscent of the early horse races, vintage rides from the 1910s-50s that have since been restored, and festival tents with traditional music and cuisine. A very few folks were stumbling and swerving through the Oide Wiesn at 2:00 PM when we were there; some were just dizzy children and parents walking off of a spinning ride, though.
The Oide Wiesn was a good way to experience the Oktoberfest. I left feeling a little nostalgic, very full from the yummy food and drink, and ready to get home out of the crowd to our little apartment. One day at the Oktoberfest was enough to tide me over until 2015!