Oktoberfest. The quintessential thought that comes to mind when many Americans think of Germany. Drindl. Lederhosen. Beer. Schweinhoxen. More beer. Bratwurst. Bavaria. Ahh yes, Germany at it's finest!
Each year, in the city of Munich, the annual festival is held. While this is the biggest, and most well known festival, in Germany, we have come to find out that the Germans really don't need much of a reason to have a festival. In the late summer and fall, it's wine festivals and smaller, local Oktoberfests. In December, it's the Christmas markets. February is Karnival season and there is a huge one in Koln (from what I can tell, it's the German version of Mardi Gras). And then there's Easter markets and we're back to summer with more wine festivals! I think if one wanted, one could attend a different festival or carnival each weekend for an entire year.
Back to the festival of interest though: Oktoberfest. Legend has it that the first celebration was held in 1810 by the soon to be King Ludwig (the one who commissioned the building of Neuschwanstein) when he married his wife Theresa. It was held in front of the city gates in Theresa's Fields, Theriesenweise (still called so today). The celebration concluded with a horse race, which was repeated the following year, with the addition of an agricultural show. Year after year the event grew until it got to the Oktoberfest that we know today.
There are some that say this isn't a true history, or one that conveniently fit the timeline and gave the Germans in the 1800's a reason to celebrate and drink beer (not that a reason is really needed, but alas, now there is one). Whatever the real history of the event is doesn't seem to matter too much. Each year, Oktoberfest draws over 6 million visitors for a two-ish week period that begins near the end of September and continues until either the first Sunday of October, or October 3, whichever is later.
As for attire, pretty much anything goes, but it's not uncommon to see people dressed in Tracht (traditional German attire). The men wear pants made of leather (lederhosen) and the women wear dresses with aprons (dirndl). What was once very practical clothing has today become more of a costume worn by wait staff in German restaurants and those attending any of the many German festivals.
A dirndl is composed of three primary components: a dress with a bodice, a blouse and an apron. They can be as simple or as ornate as one wants or can afford and often feature embroidery and other embellishments. The important part of the whole getup is where the apron is tied. If it's tied on the woman's left side, it means she is single. If it's tied on her right, it means she's married. Tied in the middle can mean the wearer is a virgin while a bow in the back means she is either a widow or waitress. I'm not sure how much people actually pay attention to this though.
Lederhosen are usually either short length or capri length (capris on men are much more common in Europe than in the US), have a distinctive flap in the front for...ahem...taking care of business, and suspenders (either attached or separate). A typical collared button front shirt is worn with the lederhosen and are usually in some sort of check pattern.
Oktoberfest officially started last weekend on September 20. If you've been following along, you may know that we booked a train to go to Oktoberfest tomorrow. At 10 AM, we board a party train in Heidelberg and head to Munich for the day. I'm so excited! But nervous too. We've been reading some Oktoberfest survival guides (with over 6 million visitors each year, they are kind of warranted), and I'm slightly worried that we will have trouble getting into a tent. The biggest tents actually take reservation starting early in the year (some in January!) and are often booked by the middle of summer, or even earlier. If it's really busy, the hosts will even shut down the tent until some people leave. Thankfully, you don't NEED a seat in a tent to drink beer...it's just more comfortable if you do. Check out the info-graphic to the left for the nitty-gritty details of Octoberfest including the ever inflating prices of beer.
Wish us luck tomorrow! We are very excited and we're managing to check one more item off our European Bucket List! Check back next week for recaps of our experience!
Anyone else headed (or already attended) a local Oktoberfest?
- Meghan -