• Germany's news in English

Oktoberfest opens to toast millions

AFP · 21 Sep 2014, 10:15

Published: 21 Sep 2014 10:15 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

With the cry of "O'zapft is" ("The keg is tapped"), the amber fluid began to flow at noon after Munich's mayor, Dieter Reiter, with due pomp and ceremony, took a mallet and in four swings breached a 200-litre (53-gallon) barrel.

The first litre-size mug, the "Mass", went to the head of the Bavaria regional government, Horst Seehofer.

Fourteen giant tents set up in the centre of Munich filled up quickly with people eager to imbibe the slightly stronger than usual beer after watching a rain-dampened parade of the brewers through the city's streets.

"Oktoberfest is very famous, everyone in the world knows about it. We wanted to see it and now I can tell my friends I've been too," said Moran Chen, 26, originally from Hong Kong but now living in Berlin.

At the festival site on the Wiesn fairgrounds thousands of serving staff carry millions of "Mass" glasses of beer from one of six historic Munich breweries to punters seated at long tables.

Last year more than six million visitors drank 6.7 million litre-sized mugs of beer -- more than twice the volume of an Olympic swimming pool -- during the whole festival run.

The price of the beer always touches off a debate and in some tents this year it will creep over the 10-euro mark for the first time -- €10.10 ($13), according to officials.

It all helps wash down the salty giant soft pretzels, dumplings, pork and grilled sausages that provide the customary hearty accompaniment.

For Johanna Kriessl, a 53-year-old from Frankfurt now living in Munich, its magic is the "super, nice atmosphere" and "the tradition of the tracht", referring to the traditional Bavarian costume.

Oktoberfest customs call for the wearing of classic southern Bavarian dress -- a dirndl, or low-cut blouse with a laced-up bodice and aproned full skirt for women, and the lederhosen leather shorts with embroidered braces for men.

Foreign tourists, led by Italians and Americans, flock to Munich to enjoy the merriment, but the festival remains largely a Bavarian event with more than 70 percent of visitors hailing from the southern state.

"For us it is wonderful for the whole Bavarian nation to gather together in such a small space," said Munich resident Barbara Huber, 50.

And she was insistent that the festival should not be seen as quintessentially German. "No, it's Bavarian, it's Munich."

It does, however, draw plenty of German celebrities and stars of the TV screen and soccer field, who are often photographed, glass of beer in hand.

The Oktoberfest, originally held in October as the name suggests but brought forward to September to take advantage of warmer weather, began in 1810 to mark the marriage of the prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

This year is the 181st edition of the legendary festival which was cancelled during two cholera outbreaks, both world wars, Napoleon's invasion of Bavaria and the hyperinflation of the 1920s.

It has since been exported around the world and versions of the festival can be found as far afield as China, Brazil, Canada, the United States, Russia and Australia.

This year's event runs to October 5.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Eurowings union threatens cabin crew strike for Thursday
Photo: DPA.

A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will start as of Thursday if ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd