May 1st is a day where a lot of people in Germany go out. Traditional activities for this day are demonstrating, celebrating and dancing. And most of these activities include the German’s favourite drink – beer. Hence, you might find our word of the day everywhere.
Bierzelt is a combination of the words Bier (“beer”) and Zelt (“tent”) and usually describes a big pavilion made out of plastic. Another name for it is also Festzelt, which means “party tent,” just to specify that it doesn’t have to be used solely for beer.
Particularly around Oktoberfest season, you simply can’t go to a Wiesn without seeing these white monstrosities everywhere. But when people go outside today to celebrate May and the beginning of spring, the chances are high that you'll stumble across a Bierzelt as well.
How big is a Bierzelt?
What we have established so far is that Bierzelte (that's the plural form) are widely popular in Germany. What I haven't talked about yet is just HOW BIG those tents can be.
If you think about a tent, teepee-style or tiny triangle tents destined for campsites probably come to mind first. None of those, however, resemble a Bierzelt.
Bierzelte are usually huge. They can vary from a smaller 3×4 metre tent with plastic walls and windows to a construction the size of a house with wooden walls and real windows.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to the humble Bierzelt. For example, the world’s biggest Bierzelt is the so-called “Winzerer Fähndl” at Munich’s Oktoberfest. It includes a whopping 8,450 seats on the inside and 2,450 on the outside. Not your average campsite tent, eh?
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in a Munich beer tent in May 2017 during an election campaign. Photo: DPA
The furniture for a Bierzelt has a specific name, by the way – Bierzeltgarnitur (“beer tent set”). A Bierzeltgarnitur usually consists of relatively cheap and easy-to-build-up tables and benches.
But what exactly is the function of a Bierzelt? Well, it is mainly used around spring (at May 1st celebrations, for example) or October.
These months are known for their unpredictable weather conditions. Hence, a Bierzelt is a place where people can get the sensation of being outside without actually being outside.
A Bierzelt doesn’t ensure that you'll remain dry, though, as it may literally rain inside. That's because of the condensation of air humidity, which collects under the plastic ceiling.
So next time you think about going to a Bierzelt, you might want to think about bringing an umbrella. (I’m just kidding; don’t do that.) But you might want to wear cozy or waterproof clothes that can withstand the rain.
Weißt du, wo ich auf die Schnelle ein Bierzelt herbekomme?
Do you know where I can get a beer tent quickly?
Dieses Bierzelt riecht komisch.
This beer tent smells funny.
Treffen wir uns im großen Bierzelt?
Can we meet in the big beer tent?