Oktoberfest kicks off
With the traditional shout of "O'zapft is," or "It's tapped," the Munich Oktoberfest got going on Saturday for the 178th time. Some six million people are expected, and they'll be paying more for the beer this time.
The world-famous fair is a little longer this year, running 17 instead of 16 days and allowing beer-lovers more time to lift their heavy beer steins in the Theresienwiese (Therese Meadow) near Munich's centre.
But they'll be digging a little deeper into their pockets to pay for the suds this year as the price for a mug, or Maß, has risen 3.6 percent since 2010, costing between €8.70 and €9.20. It's the first time it has cost more than €9.
Still, the higher prices won't likely put too much of a dent into what Oktoberfest organisers say is the biggest fair in the world spread out over 34 hectares (84 acres) and featuring beer tents, bands and women sporting plunging neck-lines delivering copious amounts of beer to inebriated revelers.
Just like last year, a special area called the "Oide Wiesn" will look back of two centuries of high-level beer consumption. The retrospective will feature brass bands and many men and women in traditional Dirndls and Lederhosen.
Despite the focus on tradition, Oktoberfest Director Gabriele Weishäupl says the festival continues to evolve and is pulling in a younger and younger crowd.
"That has to do with the music in the beer tents," she said. "We aren't a disco, but the lively music brings the young people in."
According to Munich's tourist office, 6.4 million people attended the party last year, 60 percent of whom were from Munich. Among international guests, Italians, Americans and Britons are most common.
Security has been stepped up again this year and several new security measures have been taken to protect the fair from possible terrorist attack. Several hundred police officers will be on hand to provide security, although authorities say they are aware of no concrete threat.
The history of the Oktoberfest goes back to 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in a sumptuous ceremony. In 2010, the event celebrated its 200th anniversary, although the party has been canceled over 20 times over the years due to war, disease or other emergencies.