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Oktoberfest starts with a thirst for beer after two years of hiatus due to the pandemic

Venue where the Munich beer festival is held. / ef


Millions of people attend the largest popular festival in the world, where the jar has risen 15% compared to 2019

After two years of “drought” due to the coronavirus pandemic, beer is running in abundance again from this Saturday in the “Wiesn”, the meadows on the outskirts of the Bavarian capital, where the largest popular festival in the world is celebrated. With German punctuality, the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, gave the formal hammer blow to the tap of the 200-liter wooden barrel at twelve noon to inaugurate the “Oktoberfest”, the traditional beer festival, while thousands of impatient attendees waited to enjoy the first liter jugs, the Bavarian cane. The authorities of the city, with more than one million inhabitants, hope to reach the visitor figures of the last edition. In 2019, more than 6 million people flocked to the festival grounds to enjoy its attractions and taste the fermented barley juice that the legendary King Gambrinus supposedly invented.

Despite the fact that under the tents of the breweries the attendees will number in the thousands and the human crowd in the venue will be overwhelming, there is no rule in place to prevent Covid-19 infections. Keeping a safe distance is impossible and the use of masks makes little sense when you do nothing but drink and sing your heart out to the popular songs played by the orchestras. Oktoberfest boss Clemens Baumgärtner has advised frail people to avoid the party. Anyone who doesn’t feel healthy or belongs to vulnerable groups “better not go,” Baumgärtner said. We will have to see how the public reacts, if families come with their elders. The mayor ordered the city administration months ago “to organize Oktoberfest 2022 without conditions or limitations.” And the Prime Minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder, has already announced that he will attend “without a mask.”

About 600 police officers are in charge of security in the compound in a provisional police station that is set up for the occasion. There are controls at the entrances and it is forbidden to bring large bags or backpacks to the party. Nobody forgets the devastating neo-Nazi attack in 1980 in which a bomb killed 12 innocents and injured more than 200 people. Despite the strong police presence, criminals are not lacking. In 2019, agents arrested more than 130 pickpockets. The Red Cross also makes a great deployment with hundreds of volunteers and a field hospital, mainly to attend daily to hundreds, if not thousands, of drunks, but also to those injured in small accidents, from cuts to blows and the odd fracture due to accidental falls.

Prices have also increased substantially, almost 15% compared to the last party three years ago. The “Mass”, the one-litre jug, is served in this edition for between 12.60 and 13.80 euros, according to the brewery. Helles, a blonde beer, is usually offered, and there are no smaller measures than that of the enormous container, which between liquid and glass is around two kilos. In 2019, more than 7.5 million liters were sold. Oktoberfest beer is produced especially for the occasion and has a higher than normal proof of 5.8% to 6.4% alcohol. Political attempts to cap the price of beer have consistently failed in the past. To eat there is no shortage of roast chickens, of which hundreds of thousands pass through the kitchens, white veal sausages heated in water and “brezel”, salty baked bread loops. More than 120 oxen are also slaughtered and roasted whole. New this year are vegan white sausages for those who avoid meat in their diet.

The 187th edition of the Oktoberfest, which has only been suspended due to war or Pandemics, will last until October 3 and its origin was not exactly popular. The first party on the Theresienwiese, Theresa’s Meadow, was the wedding of the then Crown Prince and later King Ludwig I of Bavaria to Princess Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghausen. At the end of a horse race, beer was served to the guests. And it is precisely the beer that is the only vestige that currently remains of that celebration. A party that is now a huge business for the Bavarian capital. In the last edition, the turnover of the Oktoberfest exceeded 1,200 million euros. Those who benefited most then were the hotels in the city, full to overflowing on these dates and which entered more than 505 million euros, while in the attractions and breweries of the fairgrounds, visitors spent more than 440 million euros.

It is not mandatory to dress in the Bavarian style, but those who go to the “Wiesn” find that many wear the typical regional costume of the Alps, Bavaria and Austria. Men with short or below-the-knee leather pants, suspenders, checked shirt, long socks and “haferl”, thick-soled leather shoes, closed and with buckles or side laces, as well as a collarless jacket similar to Basque kaiku. And the women with their “dirndl”, the traditional flowered dress, adjusted with ribbons on the chest, as well as an apron and white blouse. The bow worn by women at the waist reveals their condition. If you are tied to the left, single and without commitment. If it’s on the right, married or engaged. They are not cheap clothes and the exclusive models reach high prices, but in specialized stores and department stores regional costumes are sold in bulk, an offer that tourists take advantage of to dress in tone.

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