In 1810, Prince Ludwig of Germany married his bride, Princess Theresa, in the city of Munich. All of the citizens were invited to celebrate with the royal couple on the huge fields just in front of the city gates. The fields were later named Theresienwiese (Theresa’s meadow) in honor of the much-loved Princess. The meadow is now referred to simply as the “Wiesn.”
This celebration is still honored each year on the grounds as is known as Oktoberfest. The year 2014 marks the 181st time that the festival has occurred. Plagues, famines, and wars cancelled the affair several times over the centuries. Also, known as the Bavarian Beer Festival, Oktoberfest runs for 16 days each year, from September 19 to October 4. More than 6 million people from around the world attend the event every year. Seven million liters of beer are served during that time. Only beer that is brewed in the city of Munich can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. A beer that meets this criterion is designated as an Oktoberfest Beer. Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Hofbrau are popular brands at the festival.
The beer tents start serving on weekdays at 10:00 a.m. until closing at 10:30 p.m. They open at 9:00 a.m. on weekends. To accommodate older patrons and families, a “quiet time” was developed recently. Until 6:00 p.m., the tents only feature quiet music. Children are always welcome in the beer tents, but they must leave by 8 p.m. along with older persons, when louder music and laughter tends to drown out the conversation. Travelers to Munich share long tables inside the tents with German citizens who cordially welcome all visitors to sit with them.
Other interesting attractions draw the people into the Wiesn. Amusement rides, carousels, games, and souvenir stalls abound. Both inside the tents and out, traditional German foods such as sauerbraten, spatzle, brezel (pretzels), schnitzel, wurst, and apfelstrudel are available throughout the day.
Visitors to Munich are treated to the surrounding area of Bavaria which has much to offer in the way of entertainment. Munich (Munchen) is a German word meaning “monks,” and refers to the Benedictine monks who founded the city of Munich in 1158.
The Hofbrauhaus am Platzl in the center of the city is the world's most famous beer hall. It is popular among foreigners as well as locals. Pretty German waitresses are seen carrying as many as six beer schupers through the aisles to the patrons. Gerrman Oompah Band members dressed in lederhosen entertain the customers with their music. The Hofbrauhaus is known as the location where Adolph Hitler held many of his large political events. In this Beer Hall, he proposed a 25-point program which eventually became the Nazi Party.
Another interesting spectacle is the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz in the center of Munich. It is the most famous carillon in the world. Each day at 11 a.m. and noon, people come to gather in front of the tower to hear the Glockenspiel chimes and to watch the 32 life-sized figures reenact historical Bavarian events. A golden bird chirps 3 times to mark the end of each show.
King Ludwig's Castle
In southwest Bavaria, Americans especially are interested in the Neuschwanstein Castle, which was built as a retreat for King Ludwig II. The castle is the model for the Cinderella Castle in Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida and the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The beautiful waterway known as the Rhine River is another attraction that can be experienced while you are visiting Munich. A cruise down the Rhine River affords a view of castles, forts and farms that are so prevalent in Germany. The cruise takes patrons from Heidelberg to Mainz, and by the way, serves beer on the trip even at 10 o’clock in the morning.
Cruise Down the Rhine River
Small group tours are offered to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. It is a memorable experience, albeit a sad one, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Several years ago, I was able to attend Oktoberfest in Munich on a trip which took us to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. All of the above sites were part of our tour and were unforgettable. The Glockenspiel in Marienplatz stand out in my mind as a quaint, historical sight which brought so many visitors together.
In the United States, German-Americans are the largest ancestral group recorded. Thus, you can easily find several Oktoberfest celebrations held annually in our own country. The largest gathering is called the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Also, Pennsylvania, with its historic Pennsylvania Dutch population is well known for its many Oktoberfest celebrations.
Outside of Germany, though, the next largest Oktoberfest is held just across the border in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario in Canada. Many Americans like to experience the traditional German culture which is practiced in this nearby Canadian province.
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