German Festivals: Munich's 'Oktoberfest'
Munich's first ever 'Oktoberfest' was held in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding with horse races and various culinary delights. The culinary delights, primarily the beer, were much more popular than the wedding ceremony and horse races.
Since then, the munich beer festival has been repeated on an almost annual basis. Only major catastrophes like war or the outbreak of epidemics can stop Munich's inhabitants from gathering at the green expanse called 'Wies'n', the festival's location.
Even though it is called the 'Oktoberfest', the festival actually takes place in September, as the Bavarian autumn can be tricky and throw a surprise with early cold and snow.
Today, the 'Oktoberfest' is the largest festival worldwide attracting a multitude of visitors. Apart from beer tents the festival offers amusements as diverse as roller coasters, circus appearances, festival parades and live brass bands.
The ceremonial opening happens at noon. The mayor arrives in a festive coach followed by a decorated horse-drawn brewer's cart. Guests, staff and the numerous brass bands are all wearing traditional costumes (lederhosen and dirndls) for the occasion. At the end of the parade the major taps the first keg of beer and shouts, "o'zapft is!" (The keg is tapped).
It takes good nerves and a solid stomach to survive the festival's 16 days of intensive partying and drinking.
However, the festival is a huge success: Apart from attracting a multitude of visitors, the festivals brand name 'Oktoberfest' has been exported all over the world.
Of course, it is always best to get to know the real thing.