It may come as a surprise that the world’s biggest beer festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest, was born out of celebration for a royal wedding back in the early 19th century. Yet it was the drinking and partying that drew most attention at the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (later to become King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12th 1810, and it was this that launched ‘Oktoberfest’ as we know it.
Today, Oktoberfest has evolved into an epic 16-day festival running from late September until the first Sunday in October. It takes place in a part of Munich called Theresienwiese (meaning ‘field of Therese’, after Princess Therese), also known as d’Wiesn, and is easily one of the most famous drinking events in Germany, if not the world, attracting some 6 million revellers each year.
It’s not all about drinking beer though – although you’d be forgiven for thinking this, with some 70,000 hectolitres of beer consumed at the last count in 2007. Oktoberfest is also about eating – think 300,000 pork sausages, 40kg of fish and 100 units of oxen – and then adopting an iron stomach as you join in the fun rides at the world’s largest fair. You should also catch highlights such as traditional Bavarian Oompah bands, the Official Tapping of the Keg, the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade (which fall on Sept 19th this year) and the ‘Böllerschießen’ handheld canon salute.
At approximately 8 euros for a litre – that’s litre, not pint – of beer, your wallet or liver may not survive the full course of the festival, but even if you only catch a few days of this infamous party it will be an experience to remember.
Why not make your conscience feel a little better by combining your trip with a German course in Munich, and you’ll come back with more than just a beer belly and a hangover…
Cactus Language runs German courses in some 20 locations across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, from one week upwards and with optional accommodation in local families or student residences and apartments.
Oktoberfest in 2011 runs from September 17th to October 3rd.