The Oktoberfest OR Munich's fifth season
September 16th, 2006

“O’zapft is!” might have been today’s most anticipated term for every Munich-ian, as it rings in our town’s most loved season: It’s Oktoberfest time again. At 12 o’clock AM mayor Christian Ude taps the first keg with these famous Bavarian words, accentuated by loud cannon shots and heavy applause. So for the next 18 days we’ll be happily feeding the stereotype that Bavarians run around in leather pants and Dirndl at all times ;) Actually, you’ll see them everywhere not just at the Oktoberfest, you can even find locals going to work in full armor! Probably just for convenience – saving an extra hour (for changing clothes) and heading straight from work to the Wiesn.

Beer!!!

Except for a brief time-out due to war, the Oktoberfest has been celebrated year after year, for almost 200 years now. The tradition of Oktoberfest was established 1810 with the commemoration of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. To honor the princess, the location/field was named after her: Theresienwiese or simply “Wiesn”. The entire area covers approximately 42 hectare on which 14 large beer tents, as well as lovely nostalgic rides and food booths share space with the latest high-tech-neck-breaking roller coasters.

Carriages

What began as a happy royal party -no pun intended-, today became a mega event with Munich’s major breweries sponsoring the event. Although horse races were eventually abandoned, many characteristics of the early Oktoberfest celebrations have been retained, if not expanded.

Münchner Kindl

Today’s pictures were taken during the grand parade of the Oktoberfest landlords and breweries with which the festival opens. Highlights of the parade are certainly the big wagons (mostly carriage and fours/sixs) with all the beer barrels, accompanied by various marching bands.

Young stars...

Up to 6 million visitors are expected this year, packed into huge beer halls and consuming over 5 million liters of beer. Speaking of which, the beer brewed for the occasion is both darker and stronger (~6% vs. ~4.8% alcohol by volume) and on top tastes even better (I think). Oh and yes it is more expensive, too. Between €6.95 and €7.50 for a Mass (= one liter).

Oktoberfest

In case you’re wondering why the name Oktoberfest if it starts in September, the explanation is simple: the weather! At the end of September Bavaria often has nice late summer weather, hence the early start. On a final note (for now), if you’re at a loss for what to eat, check out our favorites: Brathendl (roast chicken) & Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick).

Off to the Wiesn...

This way for more images »

A few hints and tips:

No need to nick a beer stein, they actually sell them, too. Security usually has little sense of humor and you may be fined up to 50 EUR.

Staying past 8 PM can be fun but watch out for flying beer steins – people tend to get crazy after too much alcohol.

If you take your kiddo to the festival, don’t bring your buggy on Saturdays or after 6 PM, they are not permitted due to “heavy traffic”.

Plan extra time for logistics, even public transportation is maxed out those days.

The popular tents tend to close their doors soon (no access in the evenings): either go there early, or make sure you have made proper reservations.

The 14 tents have different target audiences, some are frequently visited by gourmets and/or celebrities (like Käfers Wies’n-Schänke), others target especially young crowds (like Hippodrom). Find out more here.

A few more links:

Official Oktoberfest Website

Wikipedia (Ger/Eng)

Spiegel Online (Ger/Eng)

PS: Stay tuned for more Oktoberfest impressions – over the course of the next 17 days.

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2006

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