Did you know that Oktoberfest 2015, the largest fair in the world and Germany’s most famous export, is more than merely a beerfest where people just get drunk? Or do you know how there actually came to be an Oktoberfest in Munich anyway, and why the locals call it a ‘Wiesn’? No? Well then, listen carefully…
Today the Munich Oktoberfest is famous for being one of the largest fairs in the world – there are tons of carousels and of course plenty of beer tents to have fun in. In total around 6 million visitors make their way to Munich each year to be a part of this enormous spectacle (and it’s a trend that’s growing!). Visitors stream from all over the world to the Bavarian capital, especially from regions such as the US, Japan and Australia. This year the Wiesn is taking place on the 19th September to the 4th October and people will be drawn to tents such as Fisher-Vroni, Schottenhamel, and the more popular ones such as Käfer’s Wiesen-Schänke and the Hofbräu-Zelt. Reserving a spot in the most popular tents costs a whopping 4.5 thousand Euros! But how on Earth did this all actually start in the first place?
The Munich Oktoberfest 2015: A Festival with a Long History
Once upon a time in 1810, a civil sergeant came up with the idea of a horse race in honour of the royal wedding between Ludwig von Bayern and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hilburghausen. Upon hearing his idea Max I Joseph von Bayern, who was the king at the time, was absolutely thrilled, and so the first Oktoberfest in history was arranged on October 17th 1810 in honour of the royal wedding couple, who were getting married on October 12th.
Of course the event back then looked nothing like it does now! Back then it was much more focused on horse racing and there would’ve been just a few stalls around the place. The name of the meadow where the festival takes place, Theresienwiese, incidentally comes from the name of the bride, Princess Therese. Resourceful readers will have probably realised this is the reason why the event’s location has the nickname Wiesn!
From horse races to Wiesn in 200 years
The festival was such a massive success that after the first event everyone thought it should take place every year. The Bavarian Agricultural Society offered to organise the event, which would be financed and arranged privately from then on. The Society used it as an agricultural event to award prizes. The festival was privately funded up until 1819, when the Munich city fathers took over. Ever since it grew larger and larger every year – the focus was continuously shifting from horse races and agriculture prizes to fun fairs. More and more food and beer stalls, as well as carousels, were being set up and thanks to the growing number of visitors the entire event was extended to two weeks and brought forward. That’s why the term ‘Oktoberfest’ causes a lot of confusion nowadays – while it used to take place at the beginning of October it’s now mainly celebrated in the warmer month of September.
The statue of ‘Bavaria‘ that keeps watch over the festival was unveiled in 1850 and a rotisserie was brought to the festival in 1881, which has since grown into a proper Wiesn tradition. During the course of the late 19th Century beer tents were being built one after the other because the bands playing at the stalls wanted to have a bit of shelter in case it rained. Just a hundred years later in 1910 the festival was already far larger in comparison to how it started. It was suspended during both world wars, and when it was resumed the horse races were no longer part of the program. In 1950 the festival was launched for the first time with a ceremony where the lord mayor would tap the first barrel of beer. This annual “O’zapt is!” is now a tradition that has become an indispensable part of the festival.
In 2010, 200 years after its creation, the Oktoberfest is now a German institution and a massive event. The former horse race has now become a beer festival: in 2010 7 million measures of beer were dispensed, and it’s a number that’s increasing steadily! Innumerable visitors come to Wiesn just for the beer. In order to prevent it deviating completely from tradition, the so-called ‘peaceful Wiesn’ was introduced in 2005. Families and older guests are now shown particular consideration – loud party music won’t be played until after 6pm, and before that it’ll be the traditional Bavarian brass bands who’ll be calling the shot
Oide Wiesn – A nostaligic ‘festival in a festival’
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest the ‘Oide Wiesn’ (Bavarian for ‘old Oktoberfest’) was introduced. A cozy, family-friendly marquee offers a programme of cultural events and old-fashioned carousels – even a horse race was organised too, just like the old days! The ‘Nostalgia Weisn’ was such a huge success that from now on it will take place every year (alternating with the Central Agricultural Festival which takes place every 4 years). With the historic carousels, bands and Bavarian traditions such as shoe-slapping and whipcracking it’s a real nostalgiafest! You’ll find more information about Wiesn on the official Oktoberfest homepage.
The Oktoberfest 2015 is launching on Saturday 19th September at 12pm. The preparations are in full swing weeks in advance and hotels are more or less fully booked up. In case you’re fancying a trip to see the Bavarian capital at its loudest and most colourful you should really start planning right away! There’s a chance I could even get my hands on a few deals! Have fun, but don’t overdo it!
And if you’re looking for the right outfit for Oktoberfest 2015, just check out these ‘Dirndls‘ or these ‘Lederhosen‘ :)
This video gives you a good impression of the world’s biggest folk festival from the culinary aspects of Oktoberfest. Enjoy the Oktoberfest 2015 and “Prost” (Cheers)! :)
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