I visited Munich to attend Oktoberfest for the first time back in 2007. I was visiting a friend who moved there and thought I had to tie in the biggest beer festival in the world to our trip. Ten years later, I came back in 2017 for Oktoberfest and thought to myself that this thing has been done; it will never be as good as the first time. I was pleasantly mistaken! It was good, if not even better than the first time. As soon as you step inside the tent and you hear the ‘humpta’ music and smell the pretzels and beer, you know you have entered adult Disneyland.
So last year when I was researching events for Rad Season, and in particular crazy and quirky beer festivals, I came across Frühlingsfest; which literally translates as Springfest. Previously described as Oktoberfest, Springfest is a little bit smaller and more local. This I had to see for myself and without further adieu, I was up researching dates and locking in flights. This was going to be the perfect start to our European Tour. I wanted to see how it matched up to the mighty Oktoberfest.
When we arrived in Munich, we headed to our friend’s pad in the city. When I told them the reason we were here was solely to check out Frühlingsfest, they gave me a little crazy look. ‘It’s not like Oktoberfest’ they said. I know it’s a bit small but I want to check it out for myself.
Springfest starts in the middle of April and goes on for two weeks. We got there just in the nick of time for the last weekend. Yannick hooked me up with his Lederhosen; there was no way I was going in their underdressed!
“If it was anything like Oktoberfest, you’d feel a bit out of place in ‘normal’ pedestrian clothes and not donning the right Bavarian attire of lederhosen for men and dirndl for women would be just plain wrong.”
I headed over to Theresienwiese station, home to Springfest, to get there for lunch with Kat and Theo. This was T Man’s second time at the Wiesen, after we took him to Oktoberfest when he was 5 months old. I know what you’re thinking: nice and responsible, taking your kid to a giant piss up! However, the Wiesen is really family friendly and there are a tonne of fairground rides set up; T man was hooked on the dodgem cars. We met up with an old friend, Marcus, who now lives in Munich and headed to a beer garden for some lunch after a spot of shooting practice in the fairground of course.
Afterwards, Kat and Theo went back and Marcus and I ventured into the Hippodrom tent; run by the same people that have the Hippodrom at Oktoberfest. At first appearance from the outside, Springfest has less rides than Oktoberfest and significantly less tents. But once you get inside the Hippodrom, all that is forgotten. The place was packed! It took us about 20 minutes walking up and down the aisles to try and find a table. The rule is that you can’t get served any food, beer or anything else for that matter unless you are sitting down at a table; or at least standing on the benches next to a table.
We finally managed to squeeze on to a table and order our second Mass for the day. These things are not to be taken lightly; they are bloody heavy and pack a bit of a punch. The glass is exactly 1 litre (33.8 US fl oz). When we first got in the Hippodrom, everyone was sitting down, music was blaring out across the tent from a band on the stage and everyone was in good spirits.
“As time passed, you could feel the mood lift. It turned into what could only be described as one giant after ski party, with every man and their dog standing up on their bench singing away to the music.”
Man, I’ve got to throw it out there and say that this was exactly like Oktoberfest! The fun meter was through the roof! You suddenly find yourself singing along to all the German songs, becoming best friends with the people on your table and having an insane time. I will be back for sure.
Similar to Oktoberfest, many people dress in traditional Germany attire to celebrate Springfest. Traditional clothing is not mandatory and many locals and visitors can be found celebrating in everyday clothing; however, dressing up is definitely part of the fun!
Men typically wear lederhosen (leather pants), paired up with a button up shirt. Checkered shirts are most common, however, plain white shirts are also worn and preferred by older locals. You can also go all out and spice up your outfit with a traditional hat, belt or waistcoat!
Women are generally seen in ‘Dirndls’, a traditional dress made up of three parts; a blouse, bodice and apron. The Dirndl should fit tightly and be at least knee length or longer. While some accessories such as flower crowns and jewellery are sometimes worn, the Dirndl is believed to be the ‘main attraction’.
Unlike Oktoberfest, which boasts 16 large tents, Springfest only features two. The first is Festhalle Bayernland, a fun packed hall with an authentic Bavarian feel. Here, you can find Augustiner, one of Munich’s most popular breweries. The second is The Hippodrom, similar to Festhalle Bayernland, but serving Spatenbrau and other drinks such as cocktails. In addition to the two main tents, you can find a number of popular beer gardens, serving beers from the six main breweries in Munich. If you are attending in a large group, it is recommended to secure a table by making a reservation. Reservations can only be made for a full table of ten people.
Springfest features a number of special events and highlights throughout the festive period. Tuesday’s are known as family day and families with kids can take advantage of reduced prices and special deals on Tuesdays from 12-7pm.
The two Friday’s of the festival are known as ‘firework Fridays’, with firework shows at 10 pm. Also taking place during Springfest, you can find Munich’s largest flea market. More than 2000 vendors can be found at the single-day market, which welcomes more than 80,000 people each year.
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