The 2014 Oktoberfest starts this weekend
For some weeks now Munich has been preparing for it’s annual Beer Festival, with seven enormous tents being erected on the Theresienwiese and temporary stands appearing along the route of the opening parade. The parade is the official prelude to the opening of the Oktoberfest and involves about 1,000 participants, including the landlords’ families. They make their way to the Oktoberfest grounds, the Theresienwiese, in decorated carriages, the magnificent horse-drawn drays of the Munich breweries, with waitresses on decorated floats and all the beer tent bands.
The Munich Oktoberfest is one of the largest festivals in the world and is expected to attract over 6 million people during the festival which runs from 20th September to 5th October this year. It began life as a wedding celebration for the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. The national guard staged a horse race which was so popular that it was repeated the following year on the Theresienwiese – the meadow named in honour of the Princess. 1896 the very first beer tents were erected which sold only beer brewed in Munich. Due to lack of space the horse races with which it all began were staged for the last time in 1936.
As in 1896 the only beer sold during the festival is brewed within the city limits of Munich by the big breweries such as the Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten. Beer is served in one-litre glasses (ein Maß), several of which are typically carried at one time by the barmaids.
Many Bavarians will make the effort to dress up in Bavarian dress for the festival – Lederhosen for men and a Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress with full skirt, apron and tight bodice) for women. Anyone who wants to join in will find several shops in Munich specialising in the local dress.
The Oktoberfest is also aimed at families – with lots of fairground attractions such as merry-go-rounds, the Olympia Loop ride, a Star Flyer, candyfloss stalls and shooting galleries. Most tents offer traditional Bavarian music and some provide live band entertainment. Of course Munich itself has a host of attractions – first-rate museums and galleries, a beautiful town hall, the Frauenkirche and the Residenz, former palace of Bavarian monarchs. It also has some excellent shopping. The city also regularly makes the news because of Bayern Munich, the football club which provided half of Germany’s World Cup winning team.