Between rivers of beercostume parades, folk concerts, rides and typical dishes opens today at Munich (after two years of hiatus due to the pandemic) Oktoberfest, the most famous beer festival in the world. This morning at dawn, thousands of people were waiting for the gates to open, which opened at 9 o’clock, kicking off the 187th edition which will end on 3 October. Tradition and transgression, magical atmosphere and excesses, deep roots and “carnival”, the Munich Oktoberfest is the largest popular festival in the world: over 5 million visitors flock to the Theresienwiese, the theater of the festival, every year. he area of 420 thousand square meters that is peacefully invaded by an army of beer lovers (entrance to the area is free). As per tradition, the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, started the celebrations (without any health restrictions) by tapping the first keg of beer in the Schottenhamel tent, offering the first mug to the regional head of state of Bavaria, Markus Söder, and saying the phrase “O’zapft is!” (“Let the party begin”).
POTATOES AND BRETZEL
Then off to the parades of the brewers aboard carriages and carriages pulled by horses and oxen, to the rides, concerts and tastings of Bavarian dishes, based on pork shank, sausage and roast chicken, potatoes and bretzel, the traditional savory bread. And the cascade of beer: during the last edition, that of 2019, about 6.3 million people drank more than 7.3 million liters.
The return of the popular festival takes place in a context of increase in beer prices (by about 16 percent compared to the last edition): the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused the prices of raw materials and energy to rise, forcing several breweries to pass these costs on to the price of the drink. It will be necessary to understand whether the increase will affect the consumption of the more than 5 million “holy drinkers”, a third of whom come from abroad, especially from Asia. The event generates an average of 1.2 billion euros in economic benefits. Over six million are expected this year. The organizers are even confident of breaking the 1985 visitor record, when over seven million people visited the “Wiesn”.
THE LUDOVIC PRINCE OF BAVARIA
The first edition of Oktoberfest was held in 1810, on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen: since then the event has been held annually, with rare exceptions. The cancellation in 2020 was the first since World War II. While, in 1854 and 1873 it did not take place due to cholera epidemics..
The large tents remain open on weekdays from 10 to 22.30. They close when the bands stop playing and the waiters start cleaning. On weekends and holidays (October 3), activities start at 9 am. There are two exceptions: the Kuffler wine tent stays open until half past midnight and the Käfer Wiesn-Schänke until 1 am. The historic Oktoberfest (“Oide Wiesn”) is open every day until 10.30pm. It is located next to the Ferris wheel and costs 3 euros to enter. On the first day, the Ferris wheel, ghost train and other attractions opened at noon and run until midnight. Sunday to Thursday: 10am to 11.30pm. Friday, Saturday and October 2, from 9 to 24. Six Munich breweries supply the 38 Oktoberfest tents: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. The costs are higher. A 1-liter mug (known as “Maß”) costs between € 12.60 and € 13.80. The main courses, on the other hand, range from 8.90 to 14.50 euros – depending on the pavilion.
Among the highlights, the great parade of Oktoberfest hosts and breweries (today) from Sonnenstraße-Schwanthalerstraße to the Oktoberfest venue, which represents the official prelude to the Oktoberfest opening and involves about a thousand participants. Among them are the families of the owners of the tents parading in the decorated carriages, the magnificent horse-drawn carriages of the Munich breweries, the waitresses on the decorated carts and all the bands of the beer tents. Then, the parade of traditional costume groups and shooters that takes place tomorrow, from the monument of Maximilian II to the Oktoberfest grounds: with groups from Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, other German states and neighboring European countries. Then there is the open-air concert at the foot of the Statue of Bavaria (Sunday, September 25, on the steps of the statue of Bavaria), with about 400 musicians and the firecrackers at the end of Oktoberfest (Monday, October 3, on the steps of the statue of Bavaria) marking the end of the event.
THE WEEKEND OF ITALIANS
The second weekend of the beer festival, from 23 to 25 September, is known as the “Italian weekend” due to the huge influx of Italians on the Theresienwiese. According to statistics from the Munich Tourist Office, Italians represent the largest percentage of foreign visitors on the Wiesn, with almost 20 percent.