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Munich Oktoberfest - Fast Facts
Albert Einstein was one of the hundreds of thousands of young people to have earned "pocket money" at the Oktoberfest. In 1896, aged 17 and working for his father's company, he screwed in some of the first electric light bulbs for one of the festival tents.
2.96 million kWh of electricity is used during a present day Oktoberfest, enough to provide 52 years of power for a family of four.
Still a typically Bavarian celebration the first Oktoberfest was a horse race with no connection to beer. Held on October 17, 1810, on fields in front of the city gates it commemorated the marriage five days previously of Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I, and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Later these fields were known as Theresa's fields, Theresienweise, now shortened to "Weisn", and the festivities were repeated one year later with an agricultural show as well as the original horse race, which signaled the end of the festival and remained a custom until 1960.
After the traditional Saturday procession to Theresienwiese, led by the Mayor of Munich and the city's symbol Muenchner Kindl, together with landlords, breweries, showmen, their flower decorated horses, carriages and accompanying brass bands, around noon there is a twelve gun salute showing the first "Oktoberfest keg tapping" of the year has taken place.
With that keg tapped, hopefully with only one strike, although the minimum so far is two, Munich's mayor shouts "O'Zapft is!", "It's tapped"; Oktoberfest can begin and the beer flow.
Oktoberfest Beer, Wiesn Maerzen, has just four ingredients, barley, hops, malt, and yeast, and has to be brewed within the city limits of Munich. Only six Munich Breweries are allowed to serve at the Oktoberfest beer halls, and the small tents and food stalls throughout the Oktoberfest grounds; they are Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Loewenbraeu, Paulaner and Spaten.
Maerzen Bier, "March Beer", is brewed in the spring and has a higher alcohol content because originally the ingredients were adjusted to allow it to "keep" through the warm weather, as stipulated by the 16th century Bavarian purity law.
At the end of September the casks were emptied so they could be filled with fresh beer from the newly harvested grain and hops, which because of the colder temperature did not deteriorate quickly, while the timing meant the concept of local autumn beer fests, and ultimately Oktoberfest, came about.
The first time beer was served in the traditional glass mug was 1892, and Oktoberfest beer in the tents is only served full strength in a one liter, two pints, "Mass", and you have to be seated. No seat means no drink.
Originally Oktoberfest did take place in October, but the date was changed in the mid 1800's to take advantage of Bavaria's mild late September weather. Also around this time it was lengthened to sixteen days, up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1994, after German reunification had taken place, it was changed once more so now, when the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, the festival continues until October 3. That is "German Unity Day" and means the festival lasts 17 or 18 days.
The tents seat from 3,000 to 8,000 people or more, with the 14 large beer tents seating almost 80,000 people, although calling them "Tents" is something of an understatement. Large solid structures each around the area of a soccer pitch, with the height of a three or four storied building, they take over two months to erect and not much less time to dismantle.
A Dirndl, consisting of bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron, is the traditional German dress often worn for Oktoberfest, and the position of the bow or knot can signify a woman's marital status. A bow on the left means "single" - a bow on the right: married, engaged, or taken - a bow in the front/middle indicates a virgin - while a widow wears a bow tied on the back.
Together with all the other food and drink consumed by the about six million Oktoberfest visitors every year, such as wine, Reiberdatschi, potato pancakes, Kasspatzn, cheese noodles, and cotton candy they also get through approximately 7,100,000 liters of beer, 506,000 chickens, 120,000 pairs of sausages, 81,000 pounds fish, 70,000 pork knuckles - Haxen, and 120 oxen; each of which has a name.
A few carousels and swings first appeared in 1818 but now 'Luna Park' is the Oktoberfest Fun Fair. A huge atmospheric mixture of traditional and modern, with over 80 rides and everything from a 164 foot Ferris Wheel, roller coasters and street performers to Houses of Mirrors and Horrors and even a good old fashioned Flea Circus.
The Bavarian dialect is under normal circumstances not one of the easiest to understand, often having little relationship to "everyday German", and the addition of alcohol makes sure that during Oktoberfest it is even more difficult.
There is a "Wiesn" dictionary for non-Bavarians, which can be downloaded to an iPhone, and contains most of the words/pronunciation anyone is likely to need. Including:
Biddscheen......."Please", or "Here you are", when someone is serving or giving something
Fingahackln......A Bavarian sport, and popular activity at the Oktoberfest where two men, who might not even know each other, hook their middle fingers and try to pull the opponent over the table
Namidog.........."afternoon", which is normally after 1.00 pm
Biafuizl............the beer mat used by the server as a notepad where dashes indicate the quantity of beer ordered and to be paid
Among the yearly average of 4,000 "Lost and Found" items that have turned up over the years, there have been Superman suits, a pet rabbit with a collar, and an intoxicated dachshund, both of which were claimed by their owners. Real hair wigs, a set of diving goggles, a pair of angel wings and a large collection of false teeth, together with a variety of rings, wallets, phones, reading glasses, phones, cameras and various items of clothing etc.
The tents at Oktoberfest are now "No Smoking Zones" in line with the various smoking bans in place throughout Germany, however, although it is probably better for the health of those in the tents, it appears there are also several side effects. One is that leaving the tent to smoke outside could mean you are not allowed back in, another that as it is no longer cloaked by the smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes, the smell of stale beer spilled on the floor, and dare one say it "body odor", can be quite powerful.
This is not a problem in the special Bavarian Red Cross Medical Tent. There about 100 volunteer medics and doctors wait for their "customers" every day, ready to deal with everything from general medical treatment to "Bierleichen"; Beer corpses. These are the revelers who have passed out having enjoyed rather too much of the year's "Wiesn Maerzen". Oktoberfest special brew.
Oktoberfest at Night via BAYERN TOURISMUS Bildarchiv - Mass Krug via German Beer Institute - Flea Circus at the Oktoberfest, photographer Usien via de.Wikipedia - Bierleichen via mittelbayerische.de
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