Known as the Largest People’s Fair in the World, Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is Europe’s largest beer-drinking affair drawing 6-7 million visitors each year that consume more than 6 million liters (1 million gallons) of Bavarian brews.
The first Oktoberfest occured in 1810 with a horse race and fair to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (who became King Ludwig I) to Therese von Saxe, after whom “Theresienwiese” (the Oktoberfest grounds) was named (known as the “Wies’n” to locals). Though beer drinking didn’t become a major part of the celebration until 8 years later, Bavarian brews and food are now the major focal point of the event.
Oktoberfest kicks off with a parade on the second or third Saturday of September (so that the end of the event falls on the first Sunday of October) and commences at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel and cries “O’zapft is” (It’s open) after which party-goers join the drinking fest with a Prost! (Cheers!). Girls and guys alike dress in the traditional Lederhosen or Dirndls, respectively, and sing along with the ever-popular Bavarian drinking song Ein Prosit ein Prosit gemüdlichkeit, Ein Prosit ein Prosit gemütlichkeit… einz, zwei, drei, suffa! (A toast, a toast, that cosy feeling… A toast, a toast, good vibes…one, two, three chug it down!).
There are 14 main Bierzelts, or beer tents, at Oktoberfest that serve brews by the Mass (a 1-liter stein) to eager drinkers. Only six breweries are represented at Oktoberfest—Späten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Poschorr, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu—ensuring the caliber expected of a Bavarian beer. Most tents also serve hearty German food including sauerkraut, sausages, hendl (chicken),käsespätel (cheese noodles), and ox tails. Brass bands and traditional oompah music can be heard throughout the festival, which is also filled with rides, bratwurst stands and kids’ activities.
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