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Munich opens 179th Oktoberfest

The 179th edition of Oktoberfest may have gotten off to a rainy start, but that won't dampen the spirit of the millions of visitors expected at the 16-day celebration in Munich.

Thousands of thirsty revelers waited patiently until Christian Ude, the mayor of Munich, tapped the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at noon on Saturday. Only then could the visitors - many of whom had been waiting in beer tents for hours or waited outside them in the rain - quench their own thirst with a glass of suds from a massive stein.

Watch video 00:55

Oktoberfest begins

Oktoberfest is celebrating its 179th edition. The yearly festival dates back to 1810, when Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. In the years following their marriage, their anniversary was marked with another edition of Oktoberfest. There were no celebrations during and in the aftermath of the two World Wars, for a total of 24 years with no Oktoberfest.

Originally, the festival started and ended in October, but the start was moved to September to take advantage of the better weather on the Theresienwiese (Therese's Meadow, named after the bride).

A 'Mass' beer (1 liter, 2.1 pints) at Oktoberfest costs 9.10 - 9.50 euros ($11.80 - $12.33) in 2012, up from 8.95 - 9.20 euros last year.

There are 14 main beer tents, which includes those of Munich's biggest breweries, such as Hofbräuhaus, Löwenbrau, Spaten and Augustiner. In addition, food vendors, carnival rides and games are part of the offerings on the 'Wiesn,' as locals refer to the Theresienwiese. Admission to the Wiesn and the beer tents is free.

Last year, nearly 7 million people visited Oktoberfest, and similar numbers are expected this year. Oktoberfest wraps up on October 7.

mz, slk (AP, AFP, dpa)

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