Lost & found at Munich's Oktoberfest 0
Revellers salute with beer after the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich September 22, 2012. Millions of beer drinkers from around the world will come to the Bavarian capital over the next two weeks for the 179th Oktoberfest, which starts today and runs until October 7, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
With about eight million beers downed each year at the Oktoberfest, you might expect a few items to go awry, but the lost-and-found office at the world's top beer fest really has seen it all.
A total of 4,900 items were lost at last year's festival, with the objects missing ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Alongside 1,220 items of clothing, 420 mobile phones, 380 pairs of glasses and 70 umbrellas, presumably well-refreshed party-goers also mislaid a megaphone, a dog, a viking helmet and five wedding rings.
Four out of five items that wash up in the office are never claimed, explained the head of the lost-and-found bureau, Mike Mueller, 40.
"The problem is that people get drunk and only realise they've lost stuff the day after," he explained.
"As a lot of the people are tourists, they have already left and they can't get back to reclaim their things."
On the opening days of the festival, the intake is always meagre, he said, taking down the details of a dirndl-clad woman who had lost her mobile. Only a few dozen items were lost so far, but he expected the pace to pick up later.
"We've seen everything. People have lost wallets with thousands of euros (dollars), diamond engagement rings, all sorts of valuable stuff," said Mueller.
The most commonly lost items were keys, jackets, mobile phones and wallets, he explained.
In the same building, there is also an office for reclaiming children lost in the Oktoberfest crush, complete with toys to entertain the wayward kids while their parents are on their way.
"Last year we also had an abandoned wheelchair and two pairs of crutches so you have to wonder how those people got home," he laughed.
The wheelchair was later claimed by its owner but no one ever came back to pick up the crutches. "Maybe they were cured by the beer," joked Mueller.
Lost property is kept throughout the 16 days of the Oktoberfest. Items left unclaimed are moved to Munich's main lost-and-found office, from which Mueller and his team are seconded every year for the festival.
Objects lost by the millions of foreign visitors to the world's biggest folk festival are transferred to their respective embassies and consulates, said Mueller.
Mueller said that last year, he made a furry find before its owner even knew it was lost.
A dog belonging to a businessman at a nearby firm wandered onto the fairgrounds, hoping to lap up some tasty treats.
The canine festival-goer was eventually delivered to Mueller, who rang the number on the dog's collar to tell the owner the good news.
"'Don't be silly, he's under the table,' insisted the owner, before realising that in fact the dog was missing.
The grateful but slightly sheepish businessman came to collect his pet an hour later, Mueller recalled with a chuckle.
Drink, flirt, stumble home: there's a beer fest app for that
Whether you want to know how long until you're sober, flirt with like-minded single revellers or where to stumble home after a few, help is only a click away at this year's Munich Oktoberfest.
Amid the pageantry, oompah and lederhosen associated with the world's biggest folk festival, a galaxy of ingenious apps for smartphones and tablet computers this year have blasted the 202-year-old party into the 21st century.
The "official" Oktoberfest app was already proving popular with visitors, with more than 75,000 downloads.
It enables users to input their weight and height, as well as how many "Mass" (litre-sized beers) they have drunk and calculates their blood alcohol content.
From this, the app also offers drunken revellers an estimate as to when they might feel sober again, but unfortunately no indication as to when the hangover might clear.
For weight-watching festival-goers, the app also tells you how many calories are lurking in the pork knuckle, suckling pig or giant pretzel.
One feature proving a hit at the festival grounds -- packed despite driving rain -- was real-time updates for tents that were already full to the rafters and not letting people in.
"Actually, I found it pretty useful. When I realised that most of the bigger places were already full, I just went to a smaller place," said Australian student Claire Taylor, 21, sheltering from a torrential downpour at a sausage stall.
Frugal German student Elis Strauss said she was using the app to compare prices at the various tents, amid complaints this year that the cost of a "Mass" has risen too far.
"I know before I go into a tent how full it is and how much the beer costs so I can make plans," said the 22-year-old, sporting a bright pink dirndl.
For friskier Oktoberfest visitors, there is the "Wiesn flirt and find" app, which enables you to set up a profile, write messages to other like-minded singles and even invite people for a beer or a spin on a nearby rollercoaster.
Users upload a photo (traditional dress preferred), their age and what sort of person they would like to meet and the app pairs potential couples up and passes on their respective locations.
Other apps especially suitable for non-Munich dwellers are a translation device that renders the particular Bavarian accent into something approaching high German and an app that teaches you the best Oktoberfest beer songs.
Prudent drinkers can also take advantage of a feature allowing you to input your home or hotel and receive directions if you may have overindulged somewhat on the suds.
"Actually, I have programmed that in, but I don't reckon I'll need it," said Richard Stroebele, a 31-year-old German builder, before adding: "Well, you never know."
Around six million people are expected to attend this year's Oktoberfest, but for those unable to make it there are a host of webcams enabling them to get a small slice of the action remotely.
And for those who have always wanted to own their own Munich beer fest tent, an enterprising German company has set up a simulation game especially for this year's festival.
"Oktoberfestmanager" allows you to control the temperature of your tent (a warmer hall means more beer consumed), recruit your waiters and waitresses in traditional garb and even employ spies to sabotage the competition.
"The beer fest is of course an event that is known all around the world. People come from everywhere, from Japan to Australia, every year to experience the event live," said Michaela Schultheis, spokeswoman for the Munich-based firm behind the game.
"We're sure that the game is not just a souvenir of the event but also a sort of consolation for people who have not been able to go."
This year's Oktoberfest runs until Oct. 7.