Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is a huge tourist and local attraction and a full dose of Bavarian culture. It dates back to a very elaborate wedding toast, in 1810 when the future king Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese. They threw a party at the city gates that was so popular, locals turned up a year later hoping it would be repeated. It was, for many years, and Oktoberfest became a regular event.
Today, it attracts a staggering—often literally—six million-plus visitors each year for a two-week festival, who between them they manage to knock back around six million litres of beer. The festival actually begins in late September, to much pomp from various processions and brass bands, and takes over the 'Wiesn'—the nickname for the Theresienwiese, which lies to the southwest of the city centre.
Fourteen vast tents spring up along custom-built avenues, surrounded by around 200 fairground rides and sideshows. Each tent is filled with rows of wooden tables where visitors down litre-sized Steins of beer and link arms to the pounding of oompah bands.
It’s best to visit at lunchtime, when the tents are slightly less packed and you can enjoy a big meal in relative peace—roast chicken and plates of sausages are the usual. In the evening, the pace picks up, the tents get crammed, and revellers take to dancing on the tables. Outside, the fairground rides churn the stomachs of those stumbling between tents. Although the festival attracts a fair contingent of British and Australian tourists, the majority of visitors are Bavarian and you’ll still see plenty of genuine punters in Lederhosen and feathered caps—not that wearing these are obligatory. So raise your large Steiner of frothy beer, and clink glasses with your neighbour with a cheery, 'Prost!".
For more information and inspiration, see www.oktoberfest.de.