September has arrived, and that can only mean one thing on the global LGBT calendar – Oktoberfest – when thousands of gay men don leather lederhosen, gingham shirts, and head to Munich for the biggest drinking, singing and sausage-quaffing-fest of the year.
But hold on a minute. If it’s called Oktoberfest, then why isn’t the event held in October?
That is certainly a question I asked myself, especially considering that this is an event held in Germany, a country well known for its pragmatic, well-organized approach to life.
This little idiosyncrasy seemed peculiar, so I did some research and the answer is surprisingly, well, German. I discovered the reason to Oktoberfest taking over September is that extending the festival into September allowed even more time for festivities, fun and frolics during the beautiful early autumn days that bless Germany’s most southerly state of Bavaria.
Now what could possibly be more pragmatic and well organized than that?
Oktoberfest actually runs from the middle of September until the first Sunday in October, and now attracts a staggering six million visitors every year.
2014 marks the 205th anniversary of the first Oktoberfest, which was organized to celebrate the marriage of the then Crown Prince of Bavaria, Ludwig, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810 (hence the name) and the celebrations have continued ever since. You might ask yourself: ‘But what is so gay about that?’
Well, things didn’t really start to officially gay up until the 1970s, when a gay leather and fetish collective called the Munich Lions Club organized their first gathering in the now famous BrÃ¤urosl beer tent.
It does seem a little curious that it took so long for an LGBTI element to arise given the afore-mentioned dress code, however the largest LGBT gathering on Gay Sunday now attracts 8,000 mostly gay and lesbian visitors on the first Sunday during the event’s schedule. But this is by no means the only gay party that takes place here.
The very next day has been aptly called Pink Monday or RoslMontag, thanks to the large number of gay and lesbian visitors, as does Prosecco-Wiesn take place on the second Monday in the Frischer Vroni tent.
So what else can one expect from a visit to Oktoberfest?
Essentially this is all about celebrating true Wiesn tradition. The BrÃ¤urosl beer tent is just one of 14 such tents located on the green open spaces of the Theresienwiese fairground, which is just on the outskirts of Munich itself.
Each tent serves up their very own brand of Bavarian tradition, which in the BrÃ¤urosl tent means just one thing: Entertainment. The BrÃ¤urosl beer tent has been managed by the Heide family for seven generations, so they know a thing or two about what makes for a good Bavarian beer bash.
The format is fairly uncomplicated – plenty of 6% German beer, served in one 2 pint ‘masskruge’ mug, and live music in the form of an ‘oompah’ band belting out all manner of camped-up cover versions.
Then there is the venue – an extravagantly decorated drinking hall that can seat over 6,000 (mostly LGBTI) patrons in long rows of communal tables, and you have the scene set for one hell of a party. It would normally be safe to assume that when you pack over 6,000 Euro-gays into such an environment, it is going to turn into a celebration.
But when you add in some vaguely fetishistic costumes, copious amounts of alcohol as a social lubricant, and some oompah covers of Britney Spears, it is pretty much certain to go off.
Oktoberfest also offers visitors more than just the beer halls of course, and the fair also has plenty of other attractions: Fairground rides and amusements to keep everyone entertained.
It is a pretty safe bet though that once you get seduced by the fun-drenched atmosphere of the BrÃ¤urosl tent, you might never ever want to leave.
Those who think Bavaria is all about beer and bawdiness would be mistaken, for the city of Munich and the wider state of Bavaria hold some intriguing sites and beautiful countryside vistas for visitors. Munich itself is home to a thriving year-round LGBTI scene, and also hosts one of the most popular pride events in the country.
More information about everything that Munich has to offer, including where to stay and flight connections can be found on the Germany for LGBTI microsite.
Head a little further afield and Bavaria is one of the most beautiful and enchanting regions of Germany to explore.
This southerly part of country boasts a rich history, full of castles and lakes that are dotted throughout the mountainous alpine landscape. The Berchtesgadener Land is one such amazing destination, which is located just over an hour from Munich right in the heart of the Alps. As far as a picture-postcard setting goes, it doesn’t get much more irresistible than this.
One of the most popular places to head for here is the Königssee Lake, which winds for miles up a valley that is flanked by towering and majestic Alpine peaks. Boat trips on the lake are popular, especially to see the church of St. Bartholomew which perfectly epitomizes Bavaria’s rich Alpine environment and heritage.
Not only does this area offer the perfect photo opportunity, but also an idyllic environment in which to rejuvenate after enjoying everything that Munich and southern Germany has to offer.
More details about everything that Germany has to offer for LGBT people is available on the LGBTI for Germany website. Details of tickets for LGBTI events during Oktoberfest can be found on the MÃ¼nchner Löwen Clu’s website.