Every year in Munich, Germany over 1.5 million gallons of beer are consumed at a sixteen-day festival known as Oktoberfest. Held between late September and early October, it is the largest festival in the world (with an average of 6 million people in attendance) and one of the most well-known events in Germany.
Traditionally taking place during the sixteen days leading up to the first Sunday in October, the schedule was modified in 1994 so that if the final day of Oktoberfest falls on the 1st or 2nd, it will continue through German Unity Day (October 3). It is held in an area called Theresienwiese (sometimes shortened to “die Wiesn”) named after Princess Therese. The original Oktoberfest occurred October 18, 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Princess Therese to King Ludwig I. It was lengthened and moved to begin earlier to take advantage of the good weather still present at the end of September.
Known primarily for the copious amounts of beer served, hearty traditional foods are abundant too including grilled chicken, pork, fish, and plenty of sausages. Also expect pretzels, dumplings, and sauerkraut. This is no place for you to start your diet. Each beer is served in a one liter mug at an average cost of around $12.00 (USD). As often happens, drinking goes hand in hand with smoking. Although Germany has one of the most stringent anti-smoking stances in Europe, due to problems with enforcement and security, Oktoberfest tents are currently exempt from these regulations.
One of the “can’t miss moments” is the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade where well over 5,000 locals in traditional dress march through the center of town. On the first Saturday of the festival a twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 noon by the incumbent Mayor of Munich opens the Oktoberfest. This is followed by the entry of the Oktoberfest staff, breweries, and bands and is the official beginning of the celebration. Ornately decorated teams of horses walk with the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. Some of the most popular tents are: Augustiner, Paulaner, Hippodrom, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, and Hofbräu (the largest, holding over 10,000 people) each serving their own specialty brews.
In 2010, Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th birthday.
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