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Everything you need to know about Germany's Oktoberfest

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Everything you need to know about Germany's Oktoberfest
Construction workers set up a beer tent on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

From new attractions to embracing tap water, here's what you need to know about Germany's most famous folk festival, starting on Saturday.

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As Bavarian politicians hunker down for the final stages before state elections on October 8th, there’s another (slightly more joyous) preparation underway: this Saturday, Oktoberfest will kick off again. 

Around six million guests are expected at Europe’s largest folk festival, which stretches from Saturday, September 15th until Tuesday, October 3rd. 

If you are not a regular visitor to the Wiesn, the nickname for the 188-year old festival and also the name of the sprawling fairground where it takes place, you might have a few questions in advance. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany is cutting access to Eltergeld and how important is beer to Germans?

How much does the famously giant beer cost?

A litre of beer costs between €12.60 and €14.90, on average €14.18. That's an average of about 6.1 percent more than last year. 

But all the complaints about the expensive Wiesn beer, the price increase this year is not that big.  It is on par with the general inflation in Germany, which was 6.1 per cent as of August - and below the somewhat higher increase in prices for food and gastronomy. 

In the retail sector, beer prices as soared twice as much as they have at the Oktoberfest. In August, it was 12.2 percent more costly than a year earlier, according to data from the Statistical Office.

In addition, with a beer on the Wiesen you get more alcohol for your money, since it tends to be a bit stronger. In light of the high inflation, tap water will be available free of charge for the first time this year. In contrast, a litre of bottled water will set you back an average of €10.04 in the tents, compared to €9.67 in 2022.

READ ALSO: Oktoberfest in numbers: An inside look at Oktoberfest's multi-billion business

waitress carrying Steine at Oktoberfest

Are these Oktoberfest beers really a litre?(Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

Can you only come to the Wiesn in Dirndl and Lederhosen?

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy getting decked out in traditional Bavarian countryside dresses or yodler-esque leather trousers. Whatever you like is allowed. Scots like to come in kilts, and for ‘Gay Sunday’ on the first Sunday of the festival, drag queens make their way into the Wiesn. US guests in white and blue rhombus costumes have also been spotted, as well as those donning plush chicken hats.

However, many locals as well as foreign guests come in tradition dirndl and lederhosen. Following the post-war period, jeans and T-shirts started to become acceptable attire at the famous festival, but in the mid-1990s, mayor Christian Ude (SPD) and former Wiesn boss Gabriele Weishäupl made traditional costume fashionable again. 

If you want to change quickly on your way to the Wiesn: stalls around the festival site sell cheap versions.

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How do you get a seat in the beer tent?

The safest thing to do: book months in advance in the respective tent. Unfortunately, the reserved places are all largely gone now - but you can tighten your running shoes if you still want a spot, as hosts are not allowed to give away all the seats. Those who are good on foot can rush to the tent of their choice as soon as the festival site opens at 9 am - the fastest get the best seats - and preferably on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday. 

Some people have put their tickets up for sale on online platforms, through which some tables are still available - for several thousand euros. But Oktoberfest tent hosts have largely frowned on the practice, and some are even taking legal action against it. 

Flea circus, guillotine, roller coaster: what attractions are there?

The Olympia looping roller coaster with five rings is legendary, as is the Ferris wheel. But this year you'll also come across the new eye-catching attraction Mr. Gravity: a ride featuring ten gondolas rotating on a disc at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour. 

Of the 180 fairground businesses, about 90 percent date back to the 19th century.

There are several older, more leisurely rides, such as the Toboggan slide, the Devil's Wheel or the Krinoline Krinoline, named after the famous old fashioned hoop skirts.

Another legendary act is the Varieté Schichtl, which performs "the beheading of a living person on an open, brightly lit stage” several times a day, according to the festival website.

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Can you experience the Wiesn from afar?

Guests still have to come in person to experience the Wiesn. But soon they will be able to stroll around the festival grounds virtually. Currently an online game is being developed that will allow Oktoberfest fans to experience the festival avatars wearing VR goggles. 

The Wiesn is a traditional festival, but does not lose touch with the times, said Wiesn boss Clemens Baumgärtner (CSU) about the new game. Still, he encouraged players to make their way to the real festival, pointing out there were not the same risks of catching Covid-19 as in previous pandemic years.

READ ALSO: No reason to fear rise in infections at Munich's Oktoberfest, say experts

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How environmentally friendly is the Wiesn?

The innkeepers have an ambitious goal: the large festival tents are to become climate-neutral within five years, if possible even by 2026. Now the innkeepers are measuring their carbon dioxide consumption to reduce their CO2 footprint. 

For a long time, green electricity has been used at the festival, beer mug flushing water for toilets has been recycled and waste has been reduced. A round table on the topic of sustainability met for the first time in June with representatives of the city and farmers, showmen, market traders and innkeepers.

After a debate on whether the Wiesn would only be possible with organic products or at least an organic quota, the Paulaner festival tent now offers only organic chicken on a trial basis.

There is to be at least one vegan dish in every tent, as well as more vegetarian dishes. Kuffler's wine tent also wants to measure food waste, and apply the findings to next year’s festival.

The main entrance to Oktoberfest in Munich.

The main entrance to Oktoberfest in Munich in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Why does the Oktoberfest take place in September?

Munich celebrated its first Oktoberfest in 1810 in the middle of October to mark the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig - later King Ludwig I - and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The highlight of the five-day celebrations was a horse race on October 17th - by then the Oktoberfest is long over. It now begins a month earlier and ends on the first weekend in October or on October 3rd. 

The festival was already brought forward in the 19th century - supposedly because of the weather, which is often warm and relatively stable in September.

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Where else are there Oktoberfest festivals?

All over the world. According to estimates, there were more than 2,000 imitators before the pandemic, many which are again setting up their beer tents this year. The most important and largest are in Blumenau in Brazil, Cincinnati in the US and Qingdao in China. 

Many German cities are also celebrating Munich-style: including Frankfurt, Hanover, the Rhineland and Leipzig. Berlin even has several celebrations in the style of the real deal.

Stuttgart, however, seems to remain largely Oktoberfest-free - it has its own festival around the same time, the Cannstatter Volksfest. 

READ ALSO: Forget Oktoberfest. Here’s why you should visit Cannstatter Volksfest instead

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