The festival was first held on October 12, 1810 as a five day public celebration of the royal wedding of the crown prince Ludwig and princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (and henceforth the name Theresienwiese). On the fifth day a great horse race was organized and much to the delight of the people, the authorities decided to repeat the festivities the following year and so a tradition began. The successive years saw the agricultural festivities blending along with normal regular activities and huge beer tents first came up in the last decade of 19th century. Horse race was eventually abolished due to practical reasons as Theresienwiese is no more a meadow , it is located in the heart of Munich and the festival ground is tightly packed with tents, rides and other attractions.
Today Oktoberfest is a crazy 16 daylong event wherein drinking beer has been a primary focus. Spread over an area of approximately 104 acres, Theresienwiese or simply Wiesn encompasses 14 huge wooden beer tents, eateries, entertainment centers and the wonderful rides which include the latest roller coasters which you would surely want to try before gulping down your beer……or would you? The festival opens with the tapping of the first beer keg and calling out “O’zapft is!”(It’s tapped). Munich’s major breweries sponsor this event. Parades are carried out, the highlight being the big wagons with all the beer barrels accompanied by various marching bands.
As you find a place in one of the large wooden tents, a busty Dirndl clad barmaid carrying 10 or more huge steins or Maß (I liter glass beer mugs…….yeah that’s right) welcomes you with pleasant smile giving one enough reasons to Prost! (German for cheers) multiple times. From swinging to the Oom-Pah music with the locals to the tasting of gastronomic delights like Hendl (grilled chicken) and Schweinshaxe (pork knuckles), this Bavarian fest proves to be an ultimate picture of German culture and hospitality. In 2007, Oktoberfest hosted 6.2 million visitors who drank 6,940,600 liters of beer and ate an equivalent of 104 oxen, 1, 42,253 pair of sausages and 521,872 units of chicken. People often overestimate their drinking ability and ultimately they pass out due to drunkenness. They are specifically called Bierleichen (beer corpses) and you would not like to become one of the drunken patrons for sure.
The 177th Oktoberfest* starts on September18 2010 and will end on October 4 2010. The official starting ceremony will take place in Schottenhamel beer tent by the lord mayor of Munich. Already more than six and half million visitors are expected to swarm up d’ Wiesn. Getting a place inside the tent will be extremely difficult, so it’s advisable to reserve your tables in advance through www.oktoberfest.de .The beer tents open at 10:00am on weekdays and close at 11:30pm. On the weekends the tents open at 9:00am. But if you want a table and enjoy the inaugural events, try reaching the tent one hour in prior to the opening time. All the tents except the “Weinzelt” and the “Kaefer’s Wiesnschaenke” close at 11:30pm. These two tents serve alcohol till 12:15am.
Now if you are wondering why Oktoberfest is held in September and not in October, the reason is simple: the weather. Because the September nights are much warmer the visitors enjoy strolling out in the gardens. And the real highlight this time, as the rumors has it, will be the restoration of the stalls and attractions of bygone era and the major one will be horse race in remembrance of the origin of Oktoberfest.
There are 14 main tents. Each beer tent has its distinctive atmosphere, some known for its crowd or music, the other ones being traditionally more famous for drinks and the various kinds of food they serve. Hippodrom and Kaefer’s Wiesnschaenke are hip tents popular amongst the VIPS and youngsters. Hofbrau tent is more famous for attracting foreign tourists than the locals. Augustinerzelt is more famous for its traditional Bavarian authenticity while Weinzelt is for the wine gourmets.
BEER AND FOOD-
The beer which is brewed for the occasion is both dark in color and much stronger than the normal ones. One full Maß would cost around €8.60. Now that’s expensive but then doesn’t matter unless you have a big beer belly. Steckerlfisch (fish on the stick), Hendl (grilled chicken), Schweinshaxe (pork knuckles) are few dishes you simply cannot resist. And people who want to try new tastes, there’s always the option of trying an Osche (oxen). To get good service, be polite to barmaids and tip them generously.
TRANSPORTATION AND ACCOMMODATION-
The best way to reach Oktoberfest is through public transportation as trains and subways run every 10 minutes. Do not make way for trouble by calling a cab or taking your own car as the city streets are congested. Moreover there is no parking near the festival grounds.
Getting to stay somewhere during the festival proves to be very difficult. Either the hotels and rest rooms are already booked or they are highly expensive. It’s better to reserve one for yourself in advance or look out for public hostels. Or you can stay at Thalkirchen camping ground as tents are easily available and affordable.
* It’s the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest this year but the reason why it is 177th Oktoberfest is due to the fact that the festival was canceled several times mainly due to the Epidemics and the World Wars.