Munich Mayor Christian Ude has officially opened the 2013 Oktoberfest. The annual event will run until October 6 and cater to 6 million visitors from around the globe.
Though bartenders would not pour until noon, the tents were packed for hours before Mayor Ude, a Social Democrat - smarting from a bitter defeat in the September 15 Bavarian state elections - inaugurated the annual beer festival.
He ceremonially opened the first keg with two whacks of a large wooden hammer.
Like two centuries of mayors who have preceded him (and whoever will replace him next year), Ude called out "O'zapft is" - it's tapped.
And, he issued a warning to revelers, sure to be ignored by many, not to overdo the drinking at Oktoberfest, which doubles as a fun fair.
"What I don't like here is competitive drinking," said Ude. "You don't need to prove to the world that you're a total idiot."
Former horse race
Oktoberfest began in 1810 as a horse race to amuse the public on the occasion of a Bavarian royal wedding.
Wars and cholera epidemics meant that Bavarians did not always get their annual fill, but Germany's southern state, portrayed as a land of plenty, has managed to celebrate Oktoberfest 180 times in 203 years.
Past Oktoberfests - the largest celebration of its kind in the world - have seen as many as 6 million "Masse," or liter beers in the Bavarian dialect, guzzled.
mkg/ipj (AFP, dpa)