The Oktoberfest has adopted what could be somewhat cynically known as the “Irish Pub” attitude to tradition – that is: “Look, we Bavarians are the salt of this beautiful earth. Aye, we know a party when we see one, and aye, hand over that there credit card for your vat of beer.”
Not that the Bavarians don’t take their traditions seriously. Earnest fun is invested into their rituals and the peasant costumes like Lederhosen, meaning you’re supposed to laugh with them, not at them.
Bavarians are also big on parades. At Oktoberfest, it all starts 10.45 on Saturday morning, with the opening parade of 1,000 brewers, barmaids and other assorted employees of the booze industry onto the Wiesn, all led by the Münchner Kindl, a sexy young lass on a horse who has been chosen as the official “ambassador” of this year’s Oktoberfest.
Carriages heavily laden with the brewers and their families – plus their own weight in flowers – trundle merrily across Munich and onto the meadow.
Pop-brass music from each tent’s respective band accompanies every hoof-step. Then, at midday, the mayor taps the first barrel, gives an incomprehensible Bavarian cry, “O'zapft is” [It's tapped!], and the Olympics of Drinking is officially open.
Adding to the excitement this year is a new mayor for Munich, who has been nervously practicing his “O'zapft is”.
Having warmed up with this solemn little pageant, the real deal starts on Sunday, at 10am.
That’s when a crowd of up to 8,000 costumed representatives of various clubs from all over Munich, Bavaria, Germany, and even parts of Europe gather on the banks of the Isar to the east of the city and march merrily towards the Oktoberfest grounds to the west in the Trachtenumzug.
There are stag-hunting clubs, sports clubs, craftsman’s clubs, huge ornate floats, the inevitable marching bands, and clusters of Swiss, Austrian, Croatian, Italian and Polish people dressed in extremely expensive outfits to look like what their native peasants used to. It’s all televised by public broadcaster ARD – so be sure to set your video recorder!
By Ben Knight