“O’zapft is!” – the Oktoberfest 101

Each year the Oktoberfest (colloquially known as “Wiesn”) officially starts with the mayor of Munich’s words “O’zapft is”, meaning that the first barrel of beer has been officially tapped. Here is everything you need to know about the famous Bavarian beer festival.

SZP1076322 Oktoberfest waitress in a dirndl with beer mugs of Hacker brewery, Munich, Germany, 1930s (b/w photo); © SZ Photo / Fotoarchiv Otfried Schmidt; PERMISSION REQUIRED FOR NON EDITORIAL USAGE; out of copyright PLEASE NOTE: Bridgeman Images works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.
Oktoberfest waitress in a dirndl with beer mugs of Hacker brewery, Munich, Germany, 1930s © SZ Photo

 

SZP1076319 Participants at the traditional folklore parade during the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, 1988 (b/w photo); © SZ Photo / Karl-Heinz Egginger; PERMISSION REQUIRED FOR NON EDITORIAL USAGE; out of copyright PLEASE NOTE: Bridgeman Images works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.
Participants at the traditional folklore parade during the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, 1988; © SZ Photo

 

The Oktoberfest is based on traditions – from food and clothing to the opening parade. Even though there is no official dress code, young and old mostly wear traditional costumes. These range from leather dungarees (the “Lederhosen“) to the famous and colourful Dirndl dresses.

 

A man sits with his pipe on a decorated bench & A peasant of Schliersee poses for a portrait, Hans Hildenbrand (1870-1957) / National Geographic Creative
A man sits with his pipe on a decorated bench & A peasant of Schliersee poses for a portrait, Hans Hildenbrand (1870-1957) / National Geographic Creative

 

Looking for a “Gschpusi” (German dialect for romance)? Then it’s essential to know that if a woman wears the bow of her Dirndl apron on the left side she’s single. Hands off though if the bow is on the right – that means she’s married! 

If you know where your chosen one is staying for the night and you can get hold of a ladder, then why not try to climb through you sweetheart’s window. But be careful – not everyone is familiar with this old tradition and you might end up causing a scene!

A man climbing a ladder to visit a girl in Bavaria, 1968, German Photographer / © SZ Photo / Kurt Schraudenbach / Bridgeman Images
A man climbing a ladder to visit a girl in Bavaria, 1968 / © SZ Photo / Kurt Schraudenbach

You like beer, sausages and roast chicken? Then the Oktoberfest is THE place to go to. Only the local Munich beer breweries are allowed to serve their beer there. It comes in one litre jugs, called “Maß” (pronounced “mass”). The most famous is probably the beer from the Hofbräuhaus – a traditional Bavarian brewery.

 

Waitress with beer mugs of the Hofbräu brewery at Oktoberfest in Munich, 2003, German Photographer / © SZ Photo / Wildgruber, Josef & Künstler München / Private Collection / © Arkivi UG
Waitress with beer mugs of the Hofbräu brewery at Oktoberfest in Munich, 2003 / © SZ Photo / Wildgruber, Josef & Künstler München / Private Collection / © Arkivi UG

To find your way round it’s certainly important to know some German words and phrases: in addition to “O’zapft is” and “Maß”, “Danke” (thank you), “Prost” (cheers) and “Oans, zwoa, drei, gsuffa!” are the most important ones. The latter is a phrase used to motivate people to drink, meaning “one, two, three, down the hatch!”.

 

A Bavarian in traditional costume, 1959 © SZ Photo / Wolff & Tritschler & Hofbräuhaus in Munich © SZ Photo / Kurt Schraudenbach / Bridgeman Images
A Bavarian in traditional costume, 1959 © SZ Photo / Wolff & Tritschler
& Hofbräuhaus in Munich © SZ Photo / Kurt Schraudenbach / Bridgeman Images

Well, then there’s only one thing left to say: “Oans, zwoa, drei, gsuffa!”

 

Find out more

Each year more than 6 million visitors go to the Oktoberfest, drinking more than 7 million litres of beer. Read more.

See all Oktoberfest images in the Bridgeman archive.

All images in this article are sourced from www.bridgemanimages.com. Contact the Bridgeman sales team (uksales@bridgemanimages.com) for more information regarding licensing, reproduction and copyright issues.

 

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