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Kaffee & Kuchen: A German Tradition You’ll Love

Denise and I had been married for several years before she realized that Kaffee und Kuchen was a German tradition. She simply thought my family had a serious coffee and cake habit, one of many reasons why she loves my family!

Kaffee und Kuchen, a German Tradition You'll Love with Plum Cake Pictured

Kaffee und Kuchen, Coffee and Cake
Kaffee & Kuchen is a casual get-together in the afternoon, usually around 3:30pm, either at a coffee house or in a private home. Its as simple as it sounds, everyone eats cake, and most drink coffee or tea. Kaffee und Kuchen is also referred to as a Zwischenmahlzeit, meaning a meal between meals, comparable to the British tradition of tea time.

When is Kaffee und Kuchen?
The most common day for Kaffee und Kuchen to happen is Sunday. Most Germans are off work, sleep long, have a late breakfast and read the newspaper. After a stroll through a park or the city, in the afternoon it is time for Kaffee und Kuchen. Germans will also have coffee and cake for someone’s birthday or other family celebration.

Let's Talk Cake...
The abundance of bakeries and cafes in German cities offer many varieties of cake for people who do not want to bake and prefer to pick up a cake to share with the rest of the group. There isn’t one specific kind of cake for Kaffee und Kuchen, it can range from an elaborate decorated cake made by a bakery to a simple grocery store-bought sponge cake topped with seasonal fruit like strawberries or cherries. As a child I always looked forward to Kaffee und Kuchen, even though I never liked coffee. The different varieties of cake were right up my alley, and I would eat as much cake as I could in record time. It was a great treat for me. I was always worried one of my favorite cakes (plum pictured above or strawberry, followed by cheesecake with tangerine pieces) would be gone before I'd had a piece. Then came the hard part...

I was stuffed and happy, wanting to lay down and relax. However, this was always the part where my grandparents wanted to hear how my grades were, if I get along with my sister, or even have a girlfriend already. In between there was grown-up talk about the changing weather, upcoming holiday plans and other family members. Needless to say, this is the most boring and tiresome part of Kaffee und Kuchen, especially for a child who wants to go into the next room to watch TV or crack another high score in Tetris rather than answer an adult’s questions.

Kaffee und Kuchen, a German Tradition You'll Love

The older I become and the less I see my family during the year, the more I look forward to the first afternoon get-together when I arrive in Germany. I still prefer the cake over the coffee, but I also treasure hearing everybody's stories and adventures since the last time I have seen them. Next time you are in Germany, enjoy the chance to indulge in sweet, buttery desserts in the afternoon and spend time with family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

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A Practical Guide to Oktoberfest Costume from Head to Toe

A Practical Guide to Oktoberfest Costume from Head to Toe • Tourist is a Dirty Word Germany Travel Blog

I had several Oktoberfests in my future. We were attending THE Oktoberfest in Munich, then when we came home we were having a company-sponsored one at Sebastian's work, and then we were hosting our own in our backyard for family and friends. My motivation to figure out this Bavarian costume was high! We saved money on our outfits by shopping during the off-season. You can find good deals online, even in the States, during the summer months or immediately after Oktoberfest season (September-October). Admittedly it was not fun to pack. Sebastian's lederhosen are really heavy, then adding the shoes and hats we bought while in Germany, we could not bring as much German chocolate home with us that year. You pick your battles!

Similarly to how everyone wears green on St. Patrick’s Day regardless of Irish ancestry, in Munich during Oktoberfest everyone wears traditional, historically-inspired Bavarian costume regardless of German ancestry. I'm here to help where I can as an American who has researched the tradition and after having been there and seen the variety of costumes on display.

Ladies First-

Option 1: Dirndl (pronounced DURN-dul)
The dirndl is available in a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns today. Traditionally the skirt length is mid-calf, which is still available, but more commonly seen on women 40+. Most young ladies wear a knee-length skirt. If you want to look more historically accurate, avoid shiny fabrics with excessive embellishments. Embroidery, eyelet, or lace is as fancy as a historical dress should get.

There are countless white blouse variations to layer with your dirndl. They’re typically cut very short and will end right below the bust line in order to reduce unnecessary fabric bulk around your waistline. Some tops will have a adjustable ribbon in the middle of the bust that you can adjust if you want your blouse to be more or less revealing.

Your costume is incomplete without an apron. Some aprons are a simple, one-colored cotton fabric, others are slightly embellished with lace and embroidery. Often, they're sold as a set, so its likely the apron will flatter the dress already.

There’s a debate on how to tie your apron. Some say tying it to one side, front, or back, indicates your relationship status. I haven’t been able to find any historical proof to that, and it may be a more modern interpretation. But, in any case, tying it in a bow on your left side means you’re single and looking, tying it in a bow on your right side means you’re taken, tying in a bow in front means you’re a virgin, and tying it in a bow in the back means you’re widowed or a waitress. Let me know if you discover it makes any difference;-)

Option 2: Lederhosen for Ladies
“Anything you can do, I can do prettier.” Not interested in skirts? No problem! Nowadays lederhosen is available for women as well. Perfect for the tomboy girl who wants to rebel against the norm while still nodding to the culture. The lederhosen is typically real leather, these will often be more expensive than a dirndl set, but again it depends on the embellishments and the length of the shorts and if suspenders are included or not. Pair your lederhosen with a checkered button up shirt or blouse.

Option 3: Makeshift Oktoberfest Outfit for Ladies
Try pairing a checkered button-up blouse with puffy princess sleeves or a deep-cut peasant flowy top with tan khaki pants or capris. While you may not have the 75+ Euros to buy a simple dirndl, for 20-30 Euros you can buy a wool fedora hat with feathers or a neckerchief, both are part of the traditional costume to polish up a makeshift costume.

Oktoberfest Accessories for Ladies
• Shoes For the dirndl, look for flats or low-heeled pumps that coordinate, but don't distract. For lederhosen shorts, look for short boots. For both options, thick socks or stockings are appropriate and encouraged.
• Purses Look for a handheld or wristlet clutch, or small cross-body purse. Time to sneak into Grandma's closet for the perfect one!
• Jewelry Pearls, lockets, or beaded jewelry. Heart, flower, and deer designs are popular.
• Hair Pinning hair up in braids is a perfect, low-maintenance look that keeps the eye’s attention on your outfit. Floral headwraps or pins are also popular.

Oktoberfest Costume Guide • Tourist is a Dirty Word Germany Travel Blog

For the Gentlemen-

Option 1: Lederhosen
This is the only time I’ve ever seen men’s fashion cost more than the coordinating ladies’ fashion. However, a good pair of Lederhosen can last for a generation or two if well maintained. Lederhosen are sold in several lengths; shorts that hit at the knee, or a cropped pant length that hits at mid-calf. The mid-calf will be more expensive. Aim for some that have suspenders, those will be more comfortable to wear without a belt. If you choose a pair without suspenders, try a complementing vest. Pair your lederhosen with a checkered or solid colored shirt.

Be mindful of the buttons connecting the backside to the pants to the suspenders, as these need to be sewn tightly to endure sitting all day at the tent. I’ve seen two different pairs that on the first or second wear the back button popped off. Perhaps pack a few safety pins if you’re able, or reinforce the buttons before the event.

Option 2: Makeshift Oktoberfest Outfit for Men
Similarly to the ladies’ makeshift outfit, look for a checkered button-up shirt to pair with tan or grey khaki pants or shorts (without cargo pockets). While you may not have the 120+ Euros to buy authentic lederhosen, for 20-30 Euros you can buy a wool fedora hat with feathers or a neckerchief with edelweiss or whatever you fancy.

Oktoberfest Shoes for Men
With lederhosen, try and keep the shoes slightly dressier, or with a classic short boot. For the makeshift option, try and complement the pants that you choose.

Have fun, and be safe! And don't forget to send us a picture of your outfit!

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. Maybe you noticed I didn't recommend picking out the Halloween costume of the German 'bar maid'. I don't recommend it. It could be offensive at worst, and its very touristy at best. Leave it for Halloween in the States.


Oktoberfest for the First Time Visitor

Oktoberfest for the First Time Visitor: An Introductory Guide

Over 6 million visitors yearly...

The biggest beer tent holds almost 10,000 thirsty visitors...

The Oktoberfest in Munich is the world's largest beer festival.

It starts during late September and ends two weeks later in early October. So why do we write about this in April? It will take coordination and planning to get into one of the festival beer tents or even secure a hotel nearby, so we recommend you start early. Accommodations in Munich fill up months in advance for this event.


Muenchen.de Official 2015 Oktoberfest Map

Let's start you off with a map of the Oktoberfest. They haven't posted 2016's yet, so we'll use 2015 for now. The Oktoberfest is located at Theresienwiese, but locals just call it Wiesn which means meadow, a huge fairground about a mile from the center of Munich.

Click to view the larger PDF from muenchen.de

What was once a wedding party
The first Oktoberfest was held for 5 days in October of 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen (leading to the name of the venue, Theresienwiese). The event was a success, which led to a yearly festival and an extension of the celebration into the month of September. It also starts in September for practical reasons, since the weather in Germany is better in September with more mild temperatures during the day. You can read a nice synopsis of Oktoberfest history here, also from muenchen.de.
Not Just Beer Tents
Besides beer tents, you will find plenty of attractions outside on the fairgrounds. From food vendors selling brats and candy to carousel rides, bumper cars, roller coasters and ferris wheels, there is something for everyone. For most visitors though, especially ones without children, the beer tents with its party atmosphere are the biggest draw.

Munich Oktoberfest Amusement Rides

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside the Tents

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside Beer Tents

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside Beer Tents

Getting into a Beer Tent

While reservations are required in all tents after a certain time, getting a seat during off-times (like weekdays before noon) usually isn't a problem. Beer will be sold in the tents from 12 noon til 22:30 on Opening day; 10:00 to 22:30 on weekdays; 9:00 to 22:30 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, so plan accordingly. If you can avoid being there on a weekend or around dinner time, you will have almost no wait time to get into a tent. Read about the different Oktoberfest tents here, also from muenchen.de.
If you do not want to take your chances and/or plan to be at the Oktoberfest during one of the busier weekend days, you have the option to make a reservation. These can be made through the individual tent websites. Some beer tents accept reservation requests as early as November or December. One caveat is that many beer tents require a minimum of 10 people for one table and while the reservation itself is free, you have to purchase food and drink vouchers in advance.

Munich Oktoberfest Beer Tents: Reservations & Food Vouchers Guide

Beer Tent Reservations

When you make a reservation at a beer tent, you have to purchase food and drink vouchers for that tent in advance. These are usually vouchers for beer and chicken, but can vary depending on the tent owner. The vouchers cost between 20-80 Euros per Person, based on the tent and time of the day. Please note, that reservations are NOT guaranteed until they are confirmed by the tent owners, they are treated as reservation requests until you get a confirmation. This can take a few days or even weeks, which means you have to be patient. If they accept your reservation request, they will either mail you the food and beer vouchers or name a place where you can pick them up locally in Munich.

Oktoberfest Tent Reservation Denied or Waitlisted?

What happens if your reservation request is denied or you are on a waitlist? You have the option to simply go and wait in line in front of a tent. But be aware, on a weekend you could stand there waiting for over two hours while the party is rocking on the inside. Another option to secure Oktoberfest tent reservations is to check this forum thread. Every year there is a post matching reservation holders and seekers for Oktoberfest tent tables. You might not be able to get the exact tent you wanted to be in, but you might be able to find a table with less than 10 people that you can meet up with and have a great Oktoberfest experience.

Beer Tent Drinking Etiquette

Now that you have made it into one of the tents, it is time to celebrate! Get yourself a beer and drink responsibly. All Oktoberfest brews contain roughly 5-6% alcohol by volume, compared to regular beer at about 3-4%. Oktoberfest beer will get you drunk faster based on alcohol content and volume. The traditional beer glass, called Maßkrug, is made of double-walled glass, weighs in at around 2 lbs empty and holds one liter of beer. That's 33.8 oz or just under 3 American beer bottles.

Here's a clip from the finale night. I have it starting at about a minute in, where you can really see the crowd singing along, and also how full the hall was. This is not our video, and there's no reason to watch the whole thing. It's just a sample of what the tent experience is like. The video is from the user Oifi74.

Proper drinking etiquette at Oktoberfest requires that during particular songs, all glasses are raised at the conclusion of the song. You will hear everyone say "Prost!" and carefully bang your glass into theirs. Make sure to look them into the eyes while doing so. Failure to look the person you're toasting in the eyes brings 7 years bad sex according to German folklore.

If you plan to stay at the tent longer, make sure to use your food coupons and get yourself some authentic German food. This also helps building a base for all the alcohol you are drinking. Get yourself an order of Schweinshaxe, which is roasted pork knuckle, or a Hendl, which is roasted chicken with butter and parsley. Your choice of either a half, quarter or whole chicken. Be sure to tip your waitress on the first round if you want her to come back. Cash is king - credit cards are usually NOT accepted in the tents and each beer or food item must be paid for immediately.

And if, after all the drinking, you need a little nap before going back inside or to your hotel, join the countless Bierleichen, meaning beer corpses, taking a break on the Theresienwiese hill, lovingly known as Kotzhügel or barf hill. Its a beautiful and entertaining view!

Munich Oktoberfest Kotzhügel, or barf hill

What to Wear

Check out Denise's post A Practical Guide to Oktoberfest Costume from Head to Toe.

Official Site

Visit the official Oktoberfest website for more information on the festival, tents, accomadations, and pictures from past years.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler