Tight security as Oktoberfest opens, with prices up again
Munich's traditional beer festival kicked off Saturday under heavy security and with the price of a litre tankard at a record high.
City mayor Christian Ude, a Social Democrat, tapped the first barrel on the stroke of midday and clinked glasses with the conservative governor of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, to launch the 178th Oktoberfest.
Despite the economic climate, some six million local and foreign visitors are expected to attend the festival billed as the biggest popular celebration in the world, downing some seven million litres of beer over three weeks.
Queues began forming early for the opening day, despite the price of 9.20 euros ($12.70) per litre and complaints that up to a quarter of it is spilled on its way from the barrel to the table.
Smokers were also warned that they risk fines this year as a ban will be strictly enforced in the 14 beer halls on the site.
Tight security measures are in place around the festival, seen as a possible target for attacks, including some 500 police on duty and 200 concrete blocks protecting the beer halls.
The Oktoberfest goes back to the marriage of King Ludwig I of Bavaria on October 12, 1810. In recent times it has been brought forward to September, when the weather is generally better.
© 2011 AFP