FORGET ABOUT OKTOBERFEST – VISIT THIS BAVARIAN BEER CELEBRATION INSTEAD!
Other places have lovers’ lanes – Oktoberfest has hurl hill: a mound to make out, retch and keel over – all in one spot, accompanied by fellow thrower uppers.
What is more, die Wiesn, as the natives call Oktoberfest, features unwarranted prices, massive crowds, and dreadfully long waits – it’s like Disneyland’s plastered, little brother.
But fret not! Only 2.5 hours north of Munich, you can have a slightly more modest, less packed, and more authentic beer fest experience, that’ll still leave you reminiscing unendingly.
If you decide to drive there, make sure to read my Six Facts You Wish You Had Known Before Braving The German Autobahn For The First Time and if you’re planning on wearing a Dirndl, learn how to wear it correctly in this post.
Read on to learn more.
Berch, as the natives call it, kicks off every (non-pandemic) year on Thursday before Pentecost. After tapping the first keg, Erlangen’s mayor hands out gratuitous beers until the barrel is empty. Of course, the attending hordes totally wait their turn – just like the patient, civilized, and cordial souls they are.
The annual celebration, which dates back to 1755, is one of the most unique ones you’ll come across. Unlike other fests that lure you onto a large cement fairground with no escape from the scorching sun, this one is located in the refreshing forest on Erlangen’s hill.
With very few tents, you’ll likely be perched outside on a bench under the trees, feeling like you’re in a colossal sylvan beer garden, surrounded by more than 100 motley rides and carnival booths for all ages, scrumptious fair foods, and several stages blasting live music. It’s the perfect destination for family outings – just leave before the hill gets crowded and turns into a whacking boozeroo for the night.
After a wild 12 days of partying, the end of Erlangen’s so-called fifth season is marked by the traditional burial of a keg accompanied by the song Lili Marlen. It’s being played simultaneously on every stage, so all several thousand visitors can chant along while waving tissues and shedding a tear or two.
MEET YOU ON THE CELLAR
That’s correct – it’s “ON the cellar” since the benches are stationed on top of the 13 beer cellars that were carved into the rocky hill back in the Middle Ages. During Berch, the hop juice is sold straight out of those vaults.
So, you’re not going there to drink – you’re selflessly sacrificing your sobriety to learn about German history!
The fest winds down at 11 pm each night. Join the queue to return your stein and get your deposit back early! If you’re late, they will shut the cellar gates right in your face.
Pro tip: Gather some abandoned steins on the way and hand those back too for some extra dough. Just make sure you return them to the right vault.
Finally, a yodeling (either meaning of the term works here!) and reeling avalanche, made up of zonked university students, rolls down into Erlangen’s old town to continue their spree at various After Berch Parties all across the city.
Don’t sweat it if you get separated from your friends here. You won’t see them again for the rest of the night, but you’ll make new ones before you can say “Oh shit, we’ve lost Dave!”.
Works the same way with significant others.
Until 1999 Erlangen’s university used to be closed for an entire week during Berch as the majority of students were too hammered all week to ever attend lectures. Even though it’s not an official rule anymore, to this day, many professors, won’t hold classes that week and all lessons still end at noon on Thursday after Pentecost.
Countless villages in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria have their own beer fest called Kirwa, which is as authentically Bavarian as it gets. Check out this calendar to find out when.
No rides, but there will be a tent featuring a busy dance floor, live cover bands, beer from the local brewery, brats, and if you hit the jackpot, there might even be a candy truck.
People will be whirling around the Kirwa tree in their Dirndl and Lederhosen and may belt out folk songs. Quite possibly, they’ll even slap themselves and each other in the style of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Yes, that is an actual thing and it’s called Schuhplattler. Go check it out!