european-travel

15 things you didn't know about Oktoberfest

Sep. 26, 2012 at 12:24 PM ET

Matthias Schrader / AP /
Millions of beer drinkers from around the world will come to the Bavarian capital over the next two weeks for the 179th Oktoberfest, which began Sept. 22 and runs until Oct. 7.

Take this quiz and find out how much you really know about Oktoberfest. If you score 11-15, there's a stein in Munich with your name on it! Get 6-10 correct and you might need to review your German before you head to the party. If you score 5 or less, you'll want to grab your lederhosen (or dirndl), hop a flight to Munich and experience the festival firsthand to improve your score.

1. Which country is the home of Oktoberfest?

  • (A) Ireland.
  • (B) Thailand.
  • (C) Germany.
  • (D) Australia.

Answer: C
If you guessed Germany—you're right! Although there are smaller Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world, the main event takes place in Munich, Germany. More than 6 million people attend the city's celebration, making it the biggest beer festival in the world.

2. How should you say “cheers” at the festival?

  • (A) Salute!
  • (B) Prost!
  • (C) Slainte!
  • (D) Salud!

Answer: B
Raise your stein and say "prost!" before knocking back a lager at Oktoberfest. Another popular phrase is "zum wohl" (tzoom-vohl), meaning "to your health." Wishing good health to your drinking partners is a universal cheer. "Salute" (sah-loo-tay) is the toast of Italy, and say "salud" (sah-lood) when you clink glasses in Spain. "Slainte" (slan-cha) means “health” in Gaelic.

Related story: Raise a glass (or beer mug) to the Oktoberfest tradition

3. A stein will typically cost you about how much?

  • (A) About 1 euro each.
  • (B) About 9 - 10 euros each.
  • (C) About 25 euros each.
  • (D) About 50 euros each.

Answer: B
It’s not cheap to spend the day drinking at Oktoberfest, with one-liter steins costing around 9.35 euros ($11.77). That's an increase of 35 euro cents over 2011.

4. Which of the following is NOT a food usually associated with Oktoberfest?

  • (A) Hendl (grilled chicken).
  • (B) Brezel (huge pretzels).
  • (C) Shweinshaxe (pork knuckles).
  • (D) Tintenfisch (fried calamari).

Answer: D
It goes without saying that you should pair a giant German soft pretzel (or brezel) with your beer whenever possible, but grilled chicken (hendl) and Bavarian pork knuckles (schweinshaxe) are also popular snacks during the festival. If you're feeling especially adventurous, sample an oxen (osche) dish at the Ochsenbraterei Beer Tent. Guten Appitit!

5. Which animals DO NOT participate in the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen's Parade?

  • (A) Cows.
  • (B) Goats.
  • (C) Thoroughbred horses.
  • (D) Llamas.

Answer: D
Thoroughbred horses, cows and goats are featured members of the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen's Parade held on the first Sunday of the festival. One of the cultural highlights of the festival, this parade also features (human) marchers dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes. Riflemen, marching bands and floats representing the different Munich breweries travel through the city. Other participants include dancers decorated with flowers, flag throwers and trumpeters that ride on horseback through the streets of Munich. Other cultural events during the festival include an open-air musical showcase with performances by over 400 musicians. The event takes place the second Sunday of the festival on the steps in front of the Bavaria statue in town. The 2012 festival opened Saturday, Sept. 22nd at 10:45 a.m.

6. According to the rules of Oktoberfest, the beer must be…

  • (A) Saluted by the crowd.
  • (B) Aged in a barrel for 15 years.
  • (C) From one of Munich's six breweries.
  • (D) Accompanied by a giant pretzel.

Answer: C
All beer served at the Oktoberfest tents must be from one of Munich's six breweries—Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. The beer must also follow the Reinheitsgebot. This "purity law" was enacted back in 1516 to control beer quality standards, and stipulates rules such as the recipe can only include barley, malt, yeast and hops. Brews contains up to 6 percent alcohol after being fermented and lagered for more than 30 days. At the festival, the beer is served in one-liter mugs full to the brim—Oktoberfest waiters and waitresses can be seen carrying trays with up to 10 mugs at a time! Talk about a balancing act.

7. Why do they call it Oktoberfest if it's really in September?

  • (A) A practical joke to confuse tourists.
  • (B) The weather was better in September.
  • (C) The first one took place in October.
  • (D) Both B & C

Answer: D
The first Oktoberfest did indeed take place in October (Oct. 12, 1810, to be exact). The celebration now takes place in September in part because of better weather conditions. Oktoberfest typically starts the second-to-last Saturday of September and runs through the first Sunday of October (Sept. 22nd – Oct. 7th in 2012). The celebration has been around for more than 200 years, although because of various wars or disease epidemics that were responsible for cancelling the festival, 2012 marks the 179th celebration.

8. What is the official rallying cry of Oktoberfest?

  • (A) O'zapft is!
  • (B) Sis Boom Bah!
  • (C) Hakuna Matata!
  • (D) Geronimo!

Answer: A
At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the mayor of Munich kicks off the celebration by officially tapping the first beer barrel and shouting to the crowd, “O'zapft is!” meaning, “It is tapped!” From that moment on, the beer flows and the festival has officially begun. During the festival, beer is served on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., and between 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekends. Tents officially close down by 11:30 p.m. As of 2011, smoking is banned in the beer tents. Not only will you not be served, but you may also be fined for doing so.

9. True or False: Children are never allowed in the tents during Oktoberfest.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False
It may come as a surprise, but despite all the flowing beer, Oktoberfest is a family-friendly festival with carnival rides, carousels, roller coasters, musical showcases and traditional parades fit for all ages. Every Tuesday is Family Day, and special discounts are given on rides between noon and 6 p.m. Things can get rowdy after night falls, though, and all children under the age of six must exit beer tents by 8 p.m.

10. Which city is home to the country's largest Oktoberfest celebration in the U.S.?

  • (A) Los Angeles
  • (B) New Orleans
  • (C) Miami
  • (D) Cincinnati

Answer: D
The largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States takes place every year in Cincinnati—or, Zinzinnati, as it's called. Unlike its German counterpart, the Ohio festival is much shorter, lasting only three days (Friday thru Sunday), but the party takes up six blocks along Fifth Street, stretching all the way from Downtown Cincinnati's Race Street to Broadway. The festival is free and open to the public and is a blend of the original German Oktoberfest and American cultural influences. The festival kicks off with a parade and a traditional barrel tapping ceremony similar to Munich's. The sixth annual “Running of the Wieners,” a dog race featuring tiny dachshunds dressed in hot dog costumes, will take place in 2012. There's also a Beer Stein race, where contestants carry a tray of, yes, steins full of beer, and points are awarded for the amount left in the steins at the end of the run.

11. Why did the first Oktoberfest take place?

  • (A) It was originally a horse race in honor of a royal wedding.
  • (B) To commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • (C) In honor of the first giant pretzel being created.
  • (D) A national excuse for men to don lederhosen.

Answer: A
The first Oktoberfest was held on Oct. 12, 1810, and was originally in honor of the wedding between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig—the future King Ludwig I—and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The wedding celebration lasted for five days, ending with the horse race on Oct. 17, and included many of the traditions and parades you still see at the festival today. At this point in history, Bavaria was still in its early stages of being an official kingdom, so the celebration helped the people establish their cultural identity as well as provide entertainment for the masses. While the horse race portion of the festival ended after 1838, and beer wasn't really a big part of it until 1887, the public appreciation and celebration of Bavarian history and tradition still lives on in today's Oktoberfest.

12. Where a woman wears a bow on her dirndl dress is important. What does it mean?

  • (A) If it's on the left side, she's available.
  • (B) If it's on the right side, she's taken.
  • (C) If it's in the front, she's a virgin.
  • (D) All of the above

Answer: D
Pay attention to the ladies' Dirndl dresses during Oktoberfest, as a little bow can tell you a lot about the person wearing it. If the bow is on the left side, it's understood she is single and willing to mingle. However, if her bow is on the right side, her affections are already given to someone else. Traditionally, a virginal woman will place the bow in front of her Dirndl dress. If you're looking to meet a man, it's a little trickier, since sadly, the same rules don't apply to lederhosen.

13. What is the most lost item at Oktoberfest in Germany?

  • (A) Clothing
  • (B) Wallets
  • (C) Live rabbits
  • (D) Children

Answer: A
Considering the amount of drinking that goes on during Oktoberfest, it's not surprising that certain things would get lost—chief among them, clothing. Last year's festival resulted in 1,300 items of clothing and more than 1,000 identity cards being lost, along with 425 lost keys, 390 lost mobile phones, and 370 lost pairs of eyeglasses. Ninety cameras and 80 jewelry items were also turned in to the Lost and Found, along with a set of dentures, Viking helmets, crutches, wedding rings, and even passports. Luckily, the Lost and Found office, or Fundbüro, is open from 12:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night during Oktoberfest. But don't wait too long to visit—items are typically held for up to six months, at which point they're auctioned off to the public.

14. What instrument is often associated with German Oompah bands?

  • (A) Alphorn
  • (B) Clarinet
  • (C) Flute
  • (D) Oboe

Answer: A
Originally used as a way for Alpine farmers in Switzerland to communicate with people in surrounding villages—and as a way to calm nervous cows when it was time to be milked—the long, skinny alphorn is now used as a musical instrument, and is often associated with German Oompah bands. This video demonstrates the unique look and sound of the alphorn, played by members of the Oompah band at the Biergarten Restaurant in Epcot's Germany section at Walt Disney World.

15. How much beer is regularly consumed during Oktoberfest?

  • (A) Almost enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool
  • (B) Enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools
  • (C) Enough to fill five Olympic swimming pools
  • (D) Enough to fill 10 Olympic swimming pools

Answer: B
The amount of beer consumed by Oktoberfest patrons is an astounding 7.5 million liters, or close to 1.98 million gallons—that's enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools! While that may seem like a really high number, keep in mind that Oktoberfest brought in 6.9 million attendees in 2011.

More from Budget Travel:

TOP