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When you mention Munich, it is likely that the first thing to come to mind will be the Oktoberfest: blonde junoesque waitresses carrying 8 or even 10 1-litre glasses, long wood tables, repeatedly chanted melodies that will stay in your mind and much, much beer. It is not by accident that the Oktoberfest is the most popular event hosted by the city, as well as being the world’s largest fair, with an average of 6 million visitors every year. The tradition dates back to 1810, specifically to the wedding of King Louis I of Bavaria to the Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The celebration consisted in a horse race. In 1811, besides the race, the first agricultural fair was held, with the aim of promoting the Bavarian economy. The horse race, that, as well as being the older event, was also the most popular, no longer takes place, whereas the Central Agricultural Fair is still held, every three years, during the Oktoberfest. Over time, the feast has become a cheerful folk revelry, with the vast quantity of beer its undisputed star, obliterating the memories of royal weddings and horse races. The popularity of the beer festival grew year by year, attracting ever larger numbers of visitors from Germany and, soon enough, from the whole world. Already in 1860, the Oktoberfest attracted 100,000 visitors, and, in 1985, set the record, still unbeaten today, of 7.1 million. It all begins with a parade across the city to the Theresienwiese, a 42 hectare space where the major breweries set up huge stands that can accommodate from 5,000 to 10,000 people; inside every stand there is a central stage on which bands play schlager, a sentimental, easy listening musical genre. Among the most important events there is, without a doubt, the opening, when the Mayor of Munich is tasked with pouring the first beer. To do this, the Mayor, with powerful mallet strokes, must hammer the tap into the inaugural barrel. Once he has succeeded, he pronounces the celebrated phrase “O’Zapft is!”, “It is tapped!” in the Bavarian dialect. The feast takes place over a period of over two weeks from the second half of September to the beginning of October; comprehensive information is available at www.oktoberfest.de.
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