A bigger and brasher Oktoberfest

9th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

It's that time of the year again when Munich plays host to the world's biggest beer festival. With the horrors of 11 September starting to fade and worries about SARS receding, organisers are predicting that this year's Oktoberfest will be bigger and brasher than ever. Ernest Gill takes a look at the preparations.

The finishing touches are being put on the Munich's 171st annual Oktoberfest, which gets underway on 18 September for a run through 3 October.

This year's Oktoberfest is set to break all records

Billed as the biggest and brashest Oktoberfest yet, this year's event hopes to see an upsurge in visitors from abroad.

"We feel the post-11 September anxiety and SARS epidemic fears are waning and that this will be a record-breaking year for us," says Oktoberfest official Gabriele Weishaeupl.

When Oktoberfest says big, it means big! The fairgrounds and beer tents will offer some 600 booths and vendor stands.

Festivities are launched on the third Saturday of September with the official tapping of a beer keg by the mayor of Munich.

"O'zapf ist!" (the beer is flowing) declares the mayor when the beer gushes through the tap hammered into the barrel in an opening call for Oktoberfest.

*quote1*Everyone has seen pictures of those buxom Oktoberfest waitresses in their low-cut folk costume pinafores. Well, there will be 12,000 waitresses, waiters, cooks and bartenders on duty during Oktoberfest.

As for that Bavarian beer. Some six million litres of fresh-tapped sudsy brew will be poured down thirsty throats. And the price has broken all records, too. At about 7 EUR a mug, the Oktoberfest beer prices are the highest ever. Last year some 6.3 million visitors drank 6.1 million litres of beer.

Oktoberfest is traditionally a cash-only kind of place, where credit cards are frowned upon. For the first time, though, fest visitors will be able to buy a debit card, called a "WiesnCard" in denominations of EUR 30, 40 and 50.

Using the cards also entitles visitors to a 10 percent discount.

6 million litres of fresh-tapped sudsy brew will be poured down thirsty throats

In another first, the Oktoberfest First Aid Station has finally been given permanent quarters. Gone are the ugly old temporary pre-fab buildings. Now the First Aid Station is housed in attractive new headquarters shared by the fest security and firefighting team.

On the carnival fairgrounds adjacent to the beer tents, there are several new ride attractions. The biggest and possibly scariest is something called the Cyber Space ride. Gondolas containing four people each are slung 50 metres into the air to make aerial loopings at 100 kph.

Cyber Space ride patrons are guaranteed breath-taking (and stomach-churning) views of the Munich skyline.

For the more timid at heart, there are nostalgic 19th Century style carousels and boat swings. They lend a feeling for the early days of this fest, which is billed as the world's oldest and largest public beer drinking party.

In 1810 King Joseph Maximilian of Bavaria the first decided to celebrate is marriage with princess Theresa of Saxonie in royal style and chose the now famous Theresien Meadow.

Originally it was meant to be just a simple horse race event but the Bavarian character quickly took over and it became a happy gathering of cheerful beer drinkers.

And as soon as the beer started flowing seriously the celebration became the biggest hit ever, weddings and horse races were never seen again.

While this is called the 171st Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest actually celebrates its 185th birthday this year. The discrepancy is due to a few wars and cholera epidemics which briefly interrupted the regular yearly beer celebration.

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September 2004


[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Life in Germany, Oktoberfest

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