Mainz also does Oktoberfest
A trip to the real-deal Oktoberfest is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime, don’t-miss experience. But it’s not without its drawbacks. Hotel prices in Munich are through the roof, seats intents are all but impossible to come by at this late date, and simply navigating through crowds and vast spaces is daunting for many.
A possible workaround is to attend a much smaller-scale version of Oktoberfest celebrations. Wiesbaden’s residents, for example, need only hop a train and cross over the Rhine River to indulge in the beery festivities of the Rhineland-Palatinate’s nearby capital city Mainz.
The fourteenth edition of the Mainzer Oktoberfest gets underway Oct. 17 and runs intermittently through Nov. 3, giving revelers the choice between three extended weekends on which to party down Bavarian-style. The first two weekends offer Thursday-Sunday runs; on the last weekend, the fest moves to a Wednesday to take advantage of the next day’s sleep-in possibilities for locals, courtesy of the state-wide All Saints’ Day holiday Nov. 1. Festivities pick up again Friday through Sunday.
The event is so popular with the locals that by this point reservations aren’t easy to come by. Although seating for Friday and Saturday night sessions are by now fully booked, at the time of this writing, a few places for visits on Thursdays and Sundays remained. Reservations, if you’re lucky enough to get them, cost 29 euros for tent seats and 41 euros for box seats; of this outlay, 22 and 34 euros respectively is redeemable in the form of vouchers to be used toward the purchase of food or drink. The seven euro price difference goes toward processing fees. The tickets are also valid for free use of the Mainz and Wiesbaden public transportation networks to get to and from the festival site. The process for securing tickets is set out in an English-language page on the event website.
What’s a potential reveler without a ticket to do? On each date of festivities, up to 500 spaces are left open for guests without reservations. A call to the booking hotline tipped me off to the following tidbits: The best days to have a shot at being able to enter without a reservation (entry, by the way, is free) are Thursdays and Sundays. The third weekend is generally the least visited. Fewer visitors tend to turn out on rainy days than on sunny ones. Smaller groups are more easily accommodated than large ones. And of course the earlier you show up on the day, the greater your chances.
Those who manage to get through the door will enjoy an Oktoberfest atmosphere reminiscent of its larger cousin. Beers on offer include a festival beer specially brewed by Mainz brewer Mainzer-Aktien-Bier or Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen, both served in one-liter measures known as a “Mass.” Alcohol-free beers, wine, sparkling wine, schnapps and soft-drinks are readily available as well. The food on offer is exactly what you’d expect: bratwurst, pork steaks from the grill, roast chickens, pork knuckles and other hearty fares.
Mainz’s Oktoberfest lacks midway rides and offers set times for its twelve sessions. Doors open at 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and the fun goes on until midnight; Sunday hours are 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Each run features a live music accompaniment, from local brass bands to well-known groups from Bavaria and Austria. The band on stage on opening night, Münchner Zwietracht, is billed as the most popular Oktoberfest band in the world. Bands generally start playing a couple hours after the doors have opened.
Festivities take place in a tent set up the Hechtsheimer Messegelände, in a suburb of Mainz that’s easily reached by public transportation. From Mainz’s main train station, take trams 50 or 51 to the Mühldreieck stop in Mainz-Hechtsheim; from there, the Messelinie bus gets you the rest of the way. Other alternatives include bus lines 66, 67 and 660; get off at Messehalle Ost and you’re a five minute walk from the scene. Those with a designated driver in the mix can program their GPS to 55129 Mainz, Genfer Allee or Ludwig-Erhardt-Straße.
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