BEER! BEER! BEER! those are the words most heard in this crazy, gigantic and the largest fair of the world known to the world as the Oktoberfest and the locals as simply Wiesn, the name for the grounds at which it is celebrated every year. Oktoberfest is the greatest and largest people’s fair held in the world at the moment with attendances touching more than six million every year. Held in the city of Munich this festival is a great way to celebrate the culture, unity and togetherness of the German people, post the Second World War Oktoberfest became a global event with thousands of tourists coming from all parts of the world to the city of Munich to get involved in the festivities. The festival is one of the biggest cultural events of Europe and is very symbolic of the Bavarian culture and heritage.
Even though today Oktoberfest is singularly associated with beer it never started out that way though. In 1810, the crown prince of the Bavarian Kingdom Prince Ludwig I later to be crowned as King Ludwig I got married to Therese of saxe-hildburghausen on October the 12th which led to grand festivities in the garden in front of the Palace gates and people from all of Bavaria were invited to attend it. The event involved horse-racing as the main event which was a hit with the locals and was mostly a celebration of the wedding of the crown prince. The horse-racing event became a rage with the locals who wanted it to be held annually at very same spot, this marked the beginning of the Oktoberfest. What started out as a onetime celebration of royal wedding became an annual event for the entertainment and amusement of the locals of the Munich city area. Horse-racing was still the main event and beer which was the favorite drink of the locals became an integral part of it. In 1819 the founding citizens of Munich took responsibility for organizing the event every year and it was decided to move the festival dates ahead to September to prolong it making it a two-week long affair and also because days were longer and warmer during September.
The horse racing continued as the main attraction till 1960 after which it was stopped and the festival took its now famous image as the beer festival of the world with elements of amusement such as fancy rides became a big part of the whole festivities. The Oktoberfest is a big part of the Bavarian culture and heritage which is evident in traditions such as the opening of the festival with a grand parade which saw hundreds of Bavarians dressed in traditional costumes and depicting the agricultural as well as cultural life of Bavaria, this parade which was originally held in the wedding celebrations of Prince Ludwig I in 1810 became a favorite of the people. From the very same year the famous and huge statue of Bavaria has bore witnessed to the fun, frolic and celebrations of the Oktoberfest every year, also after the Second World War the festival began every year with a traditional opening of a twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first glass of beer between the Mayor of Munich and the Minister-President of the state of Bavaria at exactly twelve o’clock of the first afternoon of the fest.
Oktoberfest is a friendly party for all ages, the atmosphere, the sounds, and the rides all make the whole of Bavaria come to a stand still for the sixteen days of the festival, a time when Bavarians and visitors from world over indulge themselves over a muzz (litre) or several muzzes of authentic Munich brewed beer (as if they would ever want any other). The “liquid gold” is the main darling of this fest and it is gulped here in thousands and thousands of liters over the duration of the festival. The beer available at the Oktoberfest has to be hundred per cent Munich brewed no other company of a different place is allowed to sell Oktoberfest beer. The Munich Breweries which serve beer to millions of people throughout the festival have been in the city of Munich for centuries for example Ausustiner, which was established in 1328 has been one of the favorite and biggest brewery of the city, same can be said for Hacker-Pschorr which was established in 1417 and became one of the biggest breweries by the eighteenth century. The beer available at the Oktoberfest has gone through some changes over the years today the Oktoberfest beer has an alcohol content of around 5-5.5% and is golden in color compared to the dark brown color of the first beer that was sold at the festival some 200 years ago. Breweries such as Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau and many others have their own tents set-up at the festival grounds. These tents which have grown in size every year today can accommodate some 10,000 people within themselves including both the tented portion and the lawns. The tents are beautifully decorated with different styles of interiors to be as eye catching as possible.
The beautiful waitresses and people who dress up in traditional folk costumes known as Drindl offer great peek into the culture of the region, almost all the beer tents will have their waitresses wearing traditional Drindl dress and the sight of them holding five or six mugs of beer at one time can be recognized anywhere in the world. The festival though is not all about the “golden liquid”, one can dwell themselves into mouthwatering traditional Bavarian cuisines such as roast chicken, roast pork, grilled ham hock, sausages along with pretzels, potato dumplings and potato pancakes among others. The many amusement rides are great way of enjoying oneself at the festival, the rides are almost always full and provide great entertainment (beware though you won’t want to be 100m above ground after getting a little high on gulping beer after beer), there are also a variety of side stalls and games to entertain you. Oktoberfest is one of the coolest inheritances the people of a region could ask for, the beer, the beautiful ladies, the amusement rides and great music making one of the most enduring sights of human celebration and definitely a must-see.