It is the world’s biggest folklore festival and happens right in the middle of Munich, every year, by the end of September, gathering millions of onlookers, who come to enjoy music, traditional German food and outrageous amounts of beer.
This year’s edition counts as number 185 since it all started in 1810, when a merry crown prince named Ludwig, heir to the throne of Bavaria, invited the whole of Munich’s residents to celebrate his wedding to the future queen Therese. With brief interruptions and a number of adaptations, the party goes on year after year, roughly in the same location, the “Theresienwiese”.
After a colourful parade reaches the festival grounds, the mayor of Munich gives the starting sign, by tapping the first beer barrel and declaring the festival open. Gun salutes and the presence of many celebrities are part of it all as well.
Every day – and the Oktoberfest lasts just over two weeks – all sorts of entertainment are to be found inside the premises (did we mention that there is no entry fee?) scores of carousels, giant wheels, water rides, roller coasters, marching bands, parades, live music and traditional ceremonies.
The main feature though is beer. Aligned in their allocated spaces there are about 30 to 40 massive tents, some of them capable of sheltering well over 5000 people (no typo there!), each belonging to a brewery (some breweries gather under the same tarpaulin). This is where the drinking takes place, whether you’re a beer fan or just a curious mind. The beer is usually served in clay mugs of about a liter capacity, called a “maß” (German for “measure”) and is famously carried to the tables by voluptuous waitresses, who are themselves an iconic image of the festival.
The party goes on until late, especially over the weekends, and the general mood is one of amicable comradery oblivious to age, gender or provenance.