Bring out your lederhosen, load up on giant pretzels and raise your steins! The world’s biggest folk festival has just kicked off.
September 22, 2018, marked the start of the 185th Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany as the first keg was tapped to the cries of O’zapft is! Synonymous with the Germany region of Bavaria, the phenomenon that is Oktoberfest presents one of the most recognizable images of the city of Munich; one of Ferris wheels, gigantic tents and dirndl wearing waitresses balancing mountains of beer glasses.
The festival first began in 1805 to celebrate the wedding of the future King Ludwig I with Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. A meadow on the edge of town was chosen to be the site of the festivities with five whole days of eating, drinking and being merry. Horse races, marching bands, and shooting displays enthralled crowds; a tradition that would come to last two centuries.
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Today, the celebrations have changed but not by much. With the exception of smartphones capturing the revelries, everything is still the same. The festival begins with an endless parade of floats, and costumed marchers followed by the tapping of the first keg by the mayor of Munich. Watch out for the Costume und Riflemen’s Procession that takes place on the first Sunday of the festival. The highlight of the entire two weeks, the traditional costume parade is the grandest of its kinds and draws crowds by the thousands.
The festival itself is held in a meadow called “Theresa’s Meadow” (“Theresienwiese”) not far from the city center. A quiet patch of land for most of the year, the meadow transforms into a carnival every Oktoberfest. It is complete with fairground rides with incredible names such as Lightening from Hell, Skyfall and Devil’s Wheel. The biggest draws, however, are the beer tents. Oktoberfest has over beer tents that house anywhere from 100 to 10000 revelers. Unlike the spartan tents that protected Therese and Ludwig from the sun, today’s beer tents are multi-level affairs with mile-long wooden tables and traditional décor.
This year, Oktoberfest will be held from 22nd September to 7th October. Organizers expect over 8 million liters of beer to be consumed this year and over half a million chickens. Not bad for two whole weeks of non-stop hedonistic carousing. But then again, that’s how the Bavarians party.