The first Saturday after 15th September marks the beginning of the world’s largest funfair. Yes people, I am talking about none other but the Oktoberfest! Held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, this festival attracts around 6 million people each year. A gathering as big as this obviously will have loads of fun things going on. But before I talk about any of it let me first tell you how it all began.
Crown Prince Ludwig ( later King Ludwig I) was married to Princess Therese of Saxe- Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810 . The people were all invited to celebrate their wedding in front of the city gates which was named Theresienwiese ( Therese’s meadow) in the honour of the crown princess. The name has since remained the same, for Theresienwise is still the place where the main festival is held, although the name has now been abbreviated simply to “Weisn”. The original festival had been marked with a race horse. The practice being followed in the consequent years had led it to become a tradition unless it was permanently scrapped in 1960.
The festival is supposed to be a 16 day celebration but can be prolonged to 17 or 18 days . If the first Sunday falls on 1st or 2nd October then the festival continues till 3rd October. Hence the holiday continues for one extra day, since 3rd October, being the “German Unity Day”, is a national holiday.
Over the last 200 years, there have been some major changes in the rules and ways in which the festival is celebrated. I have already mentioned two of them i.e. the end of the horse races in 1960 and prolonging of celebration since the German Reunification in 1994. And although the celebrations start in September, the Oktoberfest is named so, since it originally started in October but was eventually prolonged to avail the better weather conditions that attracted a larger crowd.
With the mention of Oktoberfest, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is beer. Well, beer drinking is a real serious business at this fest. This tradition had originally begun in 1880. Since 1950 however, another major change came up and the festivities began to be celebrated only at 12 noon when 12 guns sound a salute and the first beer barrel is opened by the Mayor. He then shouts , “ O’ zapht is!” ( “It’s tapped” in Austro-Bavarian language) and hands over the beer to Minister- President of the State of Bavaria. It is only after this that anyone else, the visitors or owners of the tent, can drink beer. So important is this tradition that you can easily find 16 year olds drinking beer, for this is the legal drinking age there. Infact, here a 14 year old too is allowed to drink if accompanied by an adult!
The beer festival is indeed very special because the only beer served here is the one brewed in Munich itself. Yes, inspite of the fact that Germany has many special kinds of beer, none besides those brewed in Munich are served here. These contain 7.5 – 8 percent alcohol and cost around $12 per drink.
People at this funfair seem to forget about the high alcohol content of these drinks and have too much of it and pass out, hence a very special name for fellows like these- “ Bierleichen” meaning “beer corpses”!
And not just beer and wine. Oktoberfest offers to it’s visitors a potpourri of mouth watering delicacies as well. It was in year 1880 that food was first served here and it received such a warm welcome that the practice continued and today they offer you a wide variety of their traditional cuisines like as Hendl(roast chicken), Schweinebraten( roast pork),Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knodel (potato or bread dumplings), Kasespatzle(cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes),Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda(a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst(a white sausage). Oh yes! This is a heaven for any food loving person!
Well, if there is a festival as huge as this (with an even huge amount of beer served) you obviously need to be careful with your stuffs. Oktoberfest’s Lost and Found counter finds itself laden with a number of weird lost items which includes lost kids! Last year there were 48 kids that were lost, and then found. On an average 4,000 things are lost each year. Besides an obvious and huge number of lost cell phones and wallets and passports and also keys, glasses and clothing, this counter has also seen the arrival of lost set of dentures, viking helmet, crutches and an electric wheelchair!
If there is provision for lost and found here, of course there are also provisions for people who attempt to steal. The tight police cover makes sure such thefts do not occur. The weird part is that what most of the people attempt to steal is some memorabilia from the fest. The most common one of them are the beer mugs. Known as “masskrugs”, these 1 litre beer mugs are properties of the tent owners and many people have been caught trying to sneak out with them. While most of the people caught are fined, depending on the crime, one can be banned from the festival too! Well, not just for this, you can of course be banned for other reasons as well. Paris Hilton was one celebrity banned from the fest because she had come to the festival dressed in the traditional Bavarian dress to promote a wine company. People protested against the money making promotional event that spoiled the image of their loving festival. The authorities hold the festival in a very high esteem and any such event or person who “cheapens” the occasion is not tolerated.
Though this festival dates back to 202 years, it has but only garnered much more attention and popularity. People are so keen to be here or feel the ambiance of this fest that, for those who aren’t able to attend many contemporary techno-versions of Oktoberfest have now been developed. Many apps have been launched since, to reach out to a larger crowd – one of them being that by entering your height, weight and the amount of beer drunk, it calculates the alcohol content in your blood and the time it will take for you to sober up! Another trending one is “Wiesn flirt and find” app through which you can meet your love interest by sharing your knowledge of Oktoberfest songs. So if you have this ardent desire to go to this fest, no worries bro, neither the lack of time nor a constrained budget can stop you from getting a feel of it as long as you have a smart phone in your pocket!
You can have a quick look of this festival by following the link given below-