If you were asked what comes to mind when you think of Germany then you might answer beer, sausages, and Lederhosen – yet these three things are all specific to Bavaria and are all things that you will encounter at Oktoberfest.
Munich simply comes to life at Oktoberfest. Every year, come rain or shine, over 6 million people flock to the city to experience this thoroughly German phenomenon – that’s more than the entire population of Scotland! With this vast number of visitors it’s unsurprising that Oktoberfest is the largest festival of its kind and that it’s known and loved the world over. It’s hard to believe that it all started with a wedding – she must have been a pretty special girl to have this massive festival thrown in her honour!
The original Oktoberfest was held to celebrate the marriage of Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810 and back then it was little more than a horse race. In the years that followed, the festivities slowly grew: first into an agricultural show and then slowly but surely into the Oktoberfest we know and love today. One of these changes was when it actually occurs: Instead of taking place in October, modern Oktoberfest is actually held at the end of September with only the last weekend happening in October – mainly to take full advantage of the milder weather and warmer evenings.
Today, Oktoberfest is a very weird and wonderful affair and visitors are pretty much guaranteed to leave with some fond memories of their time at the festival. Some might take with them the image of drunken, Lederhosen-clad German men bouncing along to an oom-pah band atop a rather flimsy table that looks like it’s about to break under their weight – others might remember bouncing on the table beside them! A friend of mine even tried to teach me how to bop like a true Bavarian in preparation for my year abroad! But come what may, at Oktoberfest you are sure to have a good time.
After all entry is free and a litre of beer costs less that £8, what more could a discerning tourist ask for? And we’re not talking about a litre of any old bog standard beer: at Oktoberfest, the beer is specially prepared for the festival and you can choose from a wide variety supplied by Bavaria’s largest breweries. Each brewery has their own tent and beer is served to you by waitresses in Dirndl (traditional dress) who can carry up to 8 Maß at a time – an amazing feat of strength by anyone’s standards!
But Oktoberfest isn’t just about the beer – the food is just as important! Knödelei, Bratwurst and Weisswurst, as well as lovely German pastries are devoured by the plateful – yummy! Entertainment for children is also supplied during the day with lots of music, parades and even a fair. This year there was also a horse race on the opening day, complete with historical costumes in celebration of the festival’s 200thanniversary, as well as a museum tent so visitors could catch a glimpse of what the first Oktoberfest was like.
Although St Andrews isn’t Germany, our German society tries its best bring some German spirit to the bubble and this week we held our annual Oktoberfest. I know, we were a little late in holding it, but we were merely staying true to the original! The night was made complete with Bratwurst, German beer and a questionable selection of music, plus a few of our most dedicated members came dressed in traditional Bavarian attire (including our president)! So if you find yourself in the bubble next year when Oktoberfest rolls around, and not in Munich with the rest of the hordes, then come along to our belated celebration and get a taste of what all the fuss is about!