Europe’s Festivals: Munich’s Oktoberfest
Munich’s grand Oktoberfest — one of Europe’s biggest and best-known festivals — opens with a parade that kicks off two weeks of beer-fueled revelry, party-tent fun, food, music, dancing, and amusement rides. It’s a celebration of Bavarian culture.
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Of Europe’s many great festivals, one of the wildest is Oktoberfest here in Munich. Germany’s favorite annual beer bash originated about 200 years ago with the wedding reception of King Ludwig I. Ludwig’s party was such a hit, they’ve celebrating every year since.
Oktoberfest lasts for two weeks, from late September into October. Filling a huge fairground, under a dramatic statue representing Bavaria, locals set up about 16 huge tents that can each seat several thousand beer drinkers.
The festivities kick off with grand parades through Munich, heading toward the fairgrounds. The queen of the parade is the Münchner Kindl, a young woman wearing a monk’s robe riding the lead horse with her beer stein raised.
With thousands of participants, the parade seems endless. You’ll see traditional costumes from every corner of Bavarian society. Elaborately decorated horses and wagons, along with keg-filled floats from each of the city’s main breweries, entertain the crowds while making their way to the festival grounds.
Revelers fill massive tents awaiting the grand opening. After trotting through much of Munich, the parade finally enters the fair grounds. Dignitaries are formally greeted, and another Oktoberfest begins.
From now on, for the next two weeks, it’s a beer-fueled frenzy of dancing, music, food, and amusements. There’s no better place to see Germans at play.
The tents are surrounded by a fun forest of amusements. There’s a huge Ferris wheel. The five-loops roller coaster must be the wildest around. For locals and tourists alike, the rides are unforgettable. And probably best done before you start drinking your beer.
Inside the tent, the party rages day and night. Bavarian culture is strong here. Each of the tents has a personality. Some are youthful, some are more traditional. It’s a festival of German culture. While there are plenty of tourists, it’s really dominated by locals, who look forward to this annual chance to celebrate Bavaria…and its beer.
Fast-moving waitresses hoist armloads of massive glasses. The beers are served in cherished glass mugs — each holding a liter of their favorite local brew.
The people watching — Germans letting their hair down — is itself entertaining. It’s a slap-happy world of lederhosen, dirndls, fancy hats, and maidens with flowers in their hair. It’s a multigenerational blowout — complete with smaltzy music and lots of new friendships.
Rivers of beer are drunk, and tons of food are eaten. Radishes, pretzels, lots of sausage…all served by saucy maids. While I was too tipsy to count, locals claim there are 6 million visitors, 7 million liters of beer drunk, half a million chicken cooked, and 100 oxen eaten. That’s one truly memorable festival.