Drink and be merry -- Oktoberfest to toast millions
Germany's world-famous Oktoberfest kicks off Saturday with millions of revellers set to soak up the frothy atmosphere in a 16-day extravaganza of lederhosen, oompah music and, of course, beer.
With the traditional cry of "O'zapft is" ("The keg is tapped"), the amber nectar officially begins to flow at noon after Munich's mayor, with due pomp and ceremony, takes a mallet to the first barrel.
This year the job falls to new incumbent Dieter Reiter, who'll be hoping to breach the 200-litre (53-gallon) cask with as few swings as possible.
Other Oktoberfest customs call for the wearing of classic southern Bavarian costumes -- 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.
Thousands of serving staff carry millions of "Mass" (litre-sized) glasses of beer from one of six historic Munich breweries, to punters seated at long tables in dozens of tents at the Wiesn fairgrounds.
Last year more than six million visitors drank 6.7 million Mass glasses -- 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 was this year due to creep over the 10-euro mark for the first time -- to 10.10 euros ($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.
Last year 114 oxen and 58 calves were served up to sate the appetite of revellers.
Foreign tourists, led by Italians and Americans, flock to Munich to enjoy the Oktoberfest merriment but the festival remains largely a Bavarian event with more than 70 percent of visitors hailing from the southern state.
And it also draws German celebrities and stars of the TV screen and soccer field who are often photographed, glass of beer in their hand.
The Oktoberfest, originally held in October as the name suggests but brought forward 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.
© 2014 AFP