« Bit of Fun ... | Main | Seeing the sights of Dublin ... »

September 19, 2006


Germany consists of 16 Federal States and at this time of the year I am always brought to realise the extreme diversity of our different states. Last weekend the famous Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, started and will last until October 3. I think to really enjoy something like that you have to be a Bavarian.

The Octoberfest is the world's largest fair with over 6 million (!) visitors each year. Most of the festival area is taken up by enormous tents of the local breweries where people can eat and drink and listen to music bands playing. I don't know if they can hear much of the music because the noise level inside the tents must be enormous. Each tent is big enough for several thousand people.

Bavaria is the land of breweries, probably because there have also always been quite a number of monastries. And the monks had to survive during winter and the time of Lent. Therefore beer in Bavaria is not considered an alcoholic beverage but part of your daily food. During the Octoberfest the local breweries brew a special beer for the occasion called Wiesnbier. It contains a bit more alcohol than the usual Bavarian beer.

Beer at the Oktoberfest is served in a 1-litre tankard, called Maßkrug. The waitresses dressed up in their traditional Bavarian costumes, Dirndls, have all my admiration. Fancy carrying 10 or more of these tankards through the enormous tents all day! Prices for a 'Maß' have been going up steadily over the the years. They have now reached 7.50 Euros. The other thing is that the breweries always tried to make some extra profit by short serving customers. That was quite easy when they still used earthenware tankards. With the beer foam on top it was impossible to tell how much beer was inside. Its not so easy nowadays when glass tankards are mandatory but even if you short serve customers only a little bit it adds to your profit considerably. In 2005 6 million tankards of beer were sold during the festival! Some years ago a private association has been founded whose members check the amount of beer in the tankards and encourage customers to demand that their glasses are topped if they have been short served. I bet these people have a great time during the two weeks of the festival although they are exactly popular with the landlords. On the other hand it is impossible to check each one of 6,000,0000 tankards! Hard to believe but true: the local Munich breweries sell 30 percent of their yearly
production during the two weeks of the Oktoberfest.

The Oktoberfest has a long tradition. The first took place in 1810 on the occasion of Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I., with Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. At first all kinds of sports events were organised during the Oktoberfest. Legend has it that Pierre de Coubertin got his idea for the modern Olympic games from the competitions during the early October festivals in Munich.

Since 1950 the Octoberfest is traditionally begun with 12 gun-salute and the tapping of the first barrel by the mayor of Munich who utters the traditional war cry of "O'zapft is!".

Ever since 1960 the number of visitors has been steadily growing from all over the world. Especially Americans, Japanese and New Zealanders obviously love to come and enjoy the festival. I am afraid the Oktoberfest is also responsible for the picture of the typcial German in the world. I remember when my sister had an English girl visiting her during a pupil's exchange program in the 1970's Fiona was very much surprised that my father wasn't wearing leather breeches and we didn't live on Sauerkraut and Knödel.

Probably the most interesting part of the Oktoberfest is the parade of the breweries on the first Saturday. Quite a sight - the big horses drawing the beer carts through Munich onto the Theresienwiese where the festival takes place.

But as for the rest - for the life of me I cannot imagine what makes people sit in a big, noisy tent, day after day, drinking themselves stupid and thinking this is a great way of spending your day. But then, I was born in the North of Germany, at the opposite end, so to speak.

Posted by Mausi at September 19, 2006 03:37 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: