Peeing is Believing at Oktoberfest 2016

One man’s quest to find a restroom yields plenty of useful advice for surviving Oktoberfest 2016
Peeing is Believing at Oktoberfest 2016

Bob Ecker

Navigating through the crowd can be quite the challenge.

During Oktoberfest at Munich’s Theresienwiese there are 14 giant tents each representing a different brewery, holding up to 10,000 people, open from noon until 11:00 p.m. (on weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on weekends, with some staying open later), for 16 straight days. This translates into more than 1.6 million gallons of beer consumed by the 7.5 million people who flock to the original Oktoberfest. That’s a lot of beer.

With so much beer consumed, it's only logical that urination becomes a world-class activity. The Oktoberfest bathrooms at the festival run the gamut from fine, adequate, okay, crowded, packed, and insane (see below) to convivial, non-existent, behind a tree, in bushes, on lampposts, and directly on the grass. The festival is still a wonderful, memorable experience, but we human beings, well...we do have to go. So after drinking heartily with locals at the Hacker-Festhalle, I really needed a bathroom. I boxed my way down a crowded staircase, out the door, and headed for the nearest lavatory I was told lay around the corner.

After turning the corner, I encountered a dense, swelling crowd of maleness — guys of all ages and nationalities pushing to enter a small white shack labeled "W.C." Speaking quasi-faux German now, I shouted, "I hav-en-to-pissen!" and joined a group of about 250 similarly distressed guys straining to enter the one doorway. I was now squished from the every side as purposeful masculine energy heaved the group toward the door. We were like a ball of snakes roiling slowly forward. Against this tide, guys were attempting to exit through the same door, looking for a seam and slithering out of the onrushing, squirming horde. It reminded me of a fullback attempting a tough draw through a stout defense.

Most (but not all) of the guys found the situation funny, and I heard lots of German, English, Danish, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, French, as well as other languages. Some laughed, while others swore in languages I could not understand. Finally getting in, I found a urinal, took care of business, and turned around to get out of this insane W.C. Finding some big blockers, I pushed hard against the group and popped out like a kidney stone into the fresh air.

Whew! This scene was worse than when I saw Johnny Rotten at the Roseland Ballroom.

By contrast, the bathroom inside the Augustina Brewery tent was a model of German efficiency as you stood next to — and oddly facing — fellow urinators standing on the other side of a partition. It was a time for light conversation, a time for reflection, and a time to pee. Plus, it had an actual exit door. How civilized.

Some additional insights if you plan on visiting Oktoberfest.

  • Visit the beer tents early in the event and early in the day. You stand a much greater chance of walking in and finding a seat than in the evening. Then, you can return to your hotel early, or have dinner elsewhere. Non-crazy times around lunchtime or before 4:00 p.m. are ideal. And you can keep you seat until closing.
  • For evening fun, definitely make reservations for visiting the brewery tents. There is no fee for entrance, and walk-ins are welcome, but there are times when every single inch of the Oktoberfest tents are full and you'll be left outside looking in. My favorite tents were the big Paulaner tent, the Augustina Brewery tent (the oldest brewery in Munich, dating from 1328), and, my favorite, the beautiful tent from Hacker-Festhalle, selling Hacker-Pschorr beer. This tent has a huge blue sky painted on the ceiling with white puffy clouds. Everyone has their own favorite. Ask around and do some research.
  • Try to order a glass of water (“wasser”) along with each beer. You can never have enough.
  • Don't forget to eat. Try the great rotisserie chicken (“Hendl”) available everywhere. It will help with beer consumption issues.
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