Oktoberfest, more than just beer

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iol travel feb 17 MARISA OKTOBERFEST SUPPLIED Beerhalls open from 10.30am - 11.30pm; with last drinks served at 10.30pm.

Munich - This has got to be at the top of everyone's bucket list. It's not just a European must-do, it ranks up there as one of the world's biggest parties!

Where else can you get to drink from steins the size of your head, burp loudly to oompah music and get away with wearing lederhosen?

More than just beer and pork knuckles, there's a wealth of historical and cultural background behind the world's biggest beer festival. The first Oktoberfest was held in October in the year 1810, in honour of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

The celebrations were repeated and gradually the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September - now starting on the 4th Saturday of the month.

During the opening ceremony landlords, brewery staff, beer hall bands and beer hall waitresses (in the sexiest of traditional costumes - Dirndls!) parade, with the first barrel of beer tapped by the Lord Mayor at midday with a resounding 'Ozapftis!' - the keyword for everyone to start partying!

One of the largest parties on earth and a celebration of Bavarian culture; fab beer, great food, a giant carnival and awesome music are central to the festivities. Bands perform in each tent mixing older German songs with more well-known contemporary music, whilst traditional Oompah bands play their brassy, grin-inducing variety of tunes, keeping the party going way past dark.

Each of the six main breweries in Munich have at least one 'tent' at the Beerfest grounds, along with various other temporary structures erected to keep the estimated 7 million visitors fed and watered, creating some mind dazzling stats in the process:

* 7,100,000 litres of beer at the Beerfest grounds alone

* 89,259 litres of wine

* 37,733 bottles of bubbly

* 245,335 cups of tea and coffee.

* 505,901 chickens consumed

* 119,302 pork sausages (sausages are a German speciality, with over 1 500 variations; blood sausage, brain sausage... if it moves, the Germans will kill it, grind it up, and find a way to make a sausage out of it!)

* 62,2119 pork knuckles

* 93 Oxen

* 980 toilets and 878 metres of urinals

Beerhalls open from 10.30am - 11.30pm; with last drinks served at 10.30pm (Sundays start even earlier - first drinks at 9am!) Many of the smaller wine cafes stay open for an hour or so later, but if you want to carry on into the small hours of the night Munich is the place to be.

Schwabing - the area close to the university - has a super wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars from the ultra-cheap to ubertrendy, whilst the Kunstpark has the best concentrations of nightclubs in Europe. Entrance and drinks can be pricey, but the clubs are awesome, featuring some of the best, most ground breaking dance music around.

Away from the beer grounds Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle commissioned by Mad King Ludwig, and Dachau concentration camp are at opposite ends of a wide spectrum of things to see in and around Munich, whilst the Englischer Garten, a huge park in the heart of the city complete with jogging, cycling, horse trails and a surfers wave; the Glockenspeil, a clock that puts on a show at 10am, 12 noon and 5pm, and the Hofbrauhaus, one of the most famous drinking establishments in the world, all lie waiting to be discovered.

Busabout has a 6-day camping Oktoberfest travel option that is discounted from now until 28 February. For one set departure on 18 September join your merry Busabout band of travellers in London as you depart for Munich via the ferry from Dover to Calais. On arrival in Munich the next day you will be allocated your pre-pitched tent and then it's off for an orientation walk of the city.

Your tour of the festival begins on day three with the opening parade. Horse and carts in traditional dress carry in the very beer kegs you will soon be drinking from! Watch the landlords make their festive entry to the Theresienwiese. Then you have three full days to experience the Oktoberfest or take an optional day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, a bike tour through Munich or a walking tour of Dachau. Then it's time to head back to London.

Priced from R5 380 per person sharing Busabout Oktoberfest Camping special includes accommodation, transport to and from Munich, sightseeing, three breakfasts and a Busabout T-shirt.

To book contact your local ASATA travel agent or contact Busabout on (011) 280 8400 or visit www.busabout.com

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