Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words, especially when it comes to a journey. In this issue, Tobias Melzer explores Oktoberfest for E&M

For many people, Munich can only mean one thing: Oktoberfest. The history of this colossal beer festival spans more than two centuries. It has come a long way from its origins as a celebration of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, and is now not only integral to the city’s economy, but also considered one of the highlights of the European party calendar. During the last two weeks of September, millions flock to the Bavarian capital to drink beer a litre at a time, to stand and dance on the tables, flirting with strangers, to laugh, to fall over, to laugh again.

This photo-essay invites readers on a journey to heart of the Theresienwiese, where Oktoberfest takes place each year – past strong-armed barmaids, capable of carrying gallons of beer in one go, precarious-looking fairground rides and stalls selling garish gingerbread hearts. We find a city in a state of exception, a city where companies allow their employees to come to work already dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndl, where revellers will start queuing at eight o’clock in the morning to secure a place in the beer tent of their choice and locals rent out rooms for extortionately high prices.

Window shopping
Although of course some girls might prefer to try a pair of hot-pant Lederhosen instead…
A spectacle of seasonal work
From barmaids to cleaners, doormen to candy floss vendors, Oktoberfest provides work for thousands of people from all around Europe. Here we find construction workers making some last-minute adjustments to one of the beer tents.
When nature calls
Deliveries of all shapes and sizes arrive at the Theresienwiese each day.
Questionable authenticity:
It might not be quite what the locals wear, but if you’re short of cash and still after your own Dirndl or Lederhosen, you’re sure to be able to pick a bargain at this shop just around the corner from the Theresienwiese.
Jolly red waistcoats
Musicians too may find their skills required, especially on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest when a huge parade moves through the streets of Munich, showcasing some of the most idiosyncratic aspects of Bavarian culture.
Only the most tasteful decorations will do
Of the many beer tents at Oktoberfest, only one still serves beer from wooden barrels: the Augustiner Festhalle. This deference to tradition has earned the tent a special place in the hearts of beer lovers, but does not stop some people from occasionally going overboard with plastic greenery.
Fairground attraction
Many visitors come not just for the beer, but also for the fairground rides on offer at Oktoberfest. A particular highlight is the Toboggan, a slide dating back to the early 20th century with an infamous conveyor belt. Although staff are on hand to help revellers up to the top, locals know that great fun is to be had watching the fool-hardy attempt the conveyor belt alone.
A grand day out
Even groups of schoolchildren can be seen braving the crowds at the Theresienwiese under the careful watch of their teachers.
All mod-cons
Living in a caravan for two weeks needn’t mean having to slum it though: here we find a satellite dish peeking out from behind one of the smaller tents.
Caravanning at the Wiesn
For the owners of the beer tents, the most convenient form of accommodation is often just to park up a caravan at the back of the building and remain on-site for the duration.
Things can get a little hectic on the underground.
With such huge numbers of people heading to Oktoberfest, it’s a wonder that Munich’s public transport system doesn’t buckle completely.
“I love you mate!”
It’s always easy to find new friends at Oktoberfest.
Farmhouse chic
As any local will tell you, there’s only one one thing to wear at Oktoberfest – Tracht, or traditional Bavarian dress for the uninitiated. So it’s settled: it had better be Dirndl for the girls and Lederhosen for the boys then.
“I’ll just rest my feet for a minute or two”
It can all get a bit too much for some people after a day at Oktoberfest.
Reflections on the Wiesn
During Oktoberfest, a giant ferris wheel adds a distinctive touch to the Munich skyline.
Travel in style
If you don’t fancy public transport, you could always have a rickshaw take you to the Theresienwiese. Here we find a driver dressed rather dapperly in a pair of plastic Lederhosen.

All photos bz Tobias Melzer

  • retro

    Tobias Melzer is a Munich-based photographer. When not taking photos or writing quizzes, he makes a mean goulash.

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