Oktoberfest: a celebration of German beer

Each autumn, travellers from all over the world head to Munich for the world-famous Oktoberfest; this year, though, it's the 200th anniversary of the event, providing better reason than ever to raise a glass in celebration.

Oktoberfest 2010 Enlarge

This year sees the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest 

It may only be September, but the Bavarian capital is once more about to open its doors to a flood of visitors all ready to set about joining in the fun and enjoyment of the annual Oktoberfest. It's a mammoth event that's been going on now for two hundred years, and this year, from September 18th to October 4th, the residents of Munich are planning their biggest party ever. Some six million litres of beer – mostly blonde German beer or lager – will be consumed, but there are also plenty of family-focused activities for non-drinkers and kids. The vast open-air enclosure where the beer tents are set up will also be home to numerous food outlets as well as carousels, roller coasters and other sideshows and attractions offering all the fun of the fair.

Everything will get underway at noon on Saturday Sept. 18th, when the mayor of Munich taps the first keg; as he slams home the wooden peg with a wooden mallet and the beer flows out, he will pronounce the traditional words "Ozapft ist" – it's tapped – and from then until October 4th there will be almost non-stop activity, with locals dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes, marching bands and parades of horse-drawn drays loaded with beer barrels.

The centre of attention will of course be the huge marquees set up by the main beer companies on the vast esplanade of the Theresienwiese in the centre of Munich, the third largest city in Germany,  and one of the most beautiful in the country. The Theresienwiese takes its name from Therese, the wife of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, and it was their marriage celebration in 1810 that was the original Oktoberfest. Locally, the festival is simply known as die Wiesn.

From ten in the morning till ten thirty at night – later in some tents – litre after litre of golden beer will be served to the crowds sat at wooden tables inside the tents. Among the imbibers will be many a local man clad in lederhosen, and the waitresses handing round the foaming steins will be dressed in the traditional dirndl worn by the women of Bavaria on special occasions. Tens of thousands of traditional German sausages will accompany the booze, as well as innumerable pretzels.

Entrance to the Theresienwiese ground is free, as is entry into the beer tents. Children are allowed in the tents, but younger children must leave before 8 pm. In the marquees you can sample a selection of beers from the main breweries: Augustiner, Paulaner, Spaten-Franziskaner, Lowenbrau, Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbrau. 
Prices vary between tents, but a Mass – one litre – of beer will cost between 8.30 and 8.60 euros.

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