Oktoberfest Observations

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Munich is in the midst of its annual 16 days of Oktoberfest. It's massive (serving literally millions of people each year in 16 tents, each filled with about 8,000 people). Each of the leading local breweries has its own tent. It's well organized (they've been at it annually for 200 years). And I was impressed by how easy it was for a traveler to enjoy. Here are five photos illustrating a few observations from my visit:

Oktoberfest would be an ideal target for terrorists, so security is tight. Each tent has its own security and a new fence has been placed around the perimeter. There is a heavy police and security presence at each entrance, and no large bags are allowed in. In spite of all this, however, it felt relaxed and fun.

With 16 temporary tents set up to accommodate over 100,000 beer drinkers at the same time, and with literally millions of liters of beer drunk, there are lots of urinals set up in the men's rooms. And, in the saucy spirit of this festival, posters of randy girls sporting traditional dirndls are hung above, looking on and commenting on what they see.

The weather was pretty bad during our visit. But for the festival-goers, the rain didn't dampen the fun -- it just drove more of them into the giant tents.

Bavarians love their big liter-sized glass beer mugs (and so do I), but you can imagine the security concerns these days with these potential weapons. In the USA, you can't use glass bottles in stadiums, but in Bavaria, the people insist on keeping their glass steins. I made a local friend at our table and he told me the Bavarian solution: design the handles so they break off easily if the mugs are used to hit someone and consider any attack with a big glass mug attempted murder. Consequentially, everyone gets their big glass mugs -- and no one uses them as weapons.

If you head down to an early breakfast at your hotel during Oktoberfest, you'll find yourself in an empty room. (It seems everyone was out pretty late.) And, while a nice fresh pretzel can be appealing for breakfast in Bavaria, I noticed that after eating huge pretzels the night before at the fair, they're the last thing I crave in the morning.

(Find more of my dispatches from the road on my travel blog and Facebook.)

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