Its roots date back to the 17th October 1810 and Ludwig’s I wedding with princess Therese from Sachsen-Hildburghausen. To celebrate this event, a horse race was organized at the edge of Munich – at the “Theresienwiese” (named after the bride) where Oktoberfest is still celebrated today.
The festivity was such a success that it continued in the following years. At first, the event was privately financed, but from 1819 the city of Munich took over this responsibility and continues to do so until today.
Over the years, Oktoberfest became more and more the “Wiesn” we know today: an increasing number of booths and carrousels were added to the horse race and festivities, the nowadays traditional “Wiesnhendl” (roasted chicken) was introduced and the first big beer tents with music bands playing inside were built. Even though the tradition of the horse races was discontinued after World War II, Bavarian music still plays a prominent role: The breweries are asked to not play modern party music before 6pm.
Of course even the Oktoberfest has suffered in times of crises: It had to be cancelled various times because of war (for the first time in 1813), cholera epidemics, during the inflation in the 20s and in the post-war years. The most tragic day in Oktoberfest’s history was no doubt the 26th September 1980 when 13 people died and over 200 were injured in a bomb explosion. This attack has been one of the most horrible ones in German history.
Nevertheless, it did not negatively influence on Oktoberfest’s popularity. Every year the world’s biggest fair attracts more than 6 million visitors, a lot of them from faraway places.
Oktoberfest means sociability, music, excellent Bavarian beer and the possibility of making friends with people from all around the world. But of course the hordes of tourists also cause some negative side effects: expensive hotel rates, overcrowded beer tents, a lot of drunk people and long waiting times at the fairground rides. At least with children it is thus highly recommendable to visit the Wiesn outside peak times (Friday -Sunday).
But don’t worry: Munich and its surroundings have a lot to offer to those who need to recover from Oktoberfest or who would like to entirely avoid it. In our next blog entries, we will present some of those possibilities.
To all the others: Enjoy your time at the Wiesn! Who knows, maybe we meet there cheering with a “Maß” (the traditional 1l beer mugs).