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Culture

Oktoberfest: It's An Addiction

Booze, grub, women and fun: that's the motto for a lot of visitors at Munich's Oktoberfest. The "Wies'n", as the locals call the event, is definitely a spectacle. DW-RADIO's Irene Haider took a closer look.

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It's wild, it's crazy, but everybody loves it: Oktoberfest

The beer is flowing in masses and throughout the Oktoberfest's tents, you hear the festival's national anthem: "Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit."

It's a toast to German Gemütlichkeit or coziness.

But the action in the tent is anything but cozy. Two students report that they had to wait one hour to get in and then four hours for their beer.

"It's the same craziness every year," said one. "You wait and then you get it and then everything's all right."

Strenuous, but fun

Anyone who can wangle a seat in one of the 14 tents is lucky. Especially on the weekends, this is no easy task.

An average of 6,000 people fit into each tent. And when it's full, the security guards at the entrance show no mercy. They also have to ensure that there are not too many annoyances. "And that not too many people are standing in the aisles, so the service personnel can get through," said one guard.

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The whistle helps the waitresses get through the crowds

For the staff, which navigates through the tight rows of tables to to appease the masses with beer, Bavarian pretzels and grilled chicken, the annual event is anything but cozy.

Hilde Minx has been waiting tables in the Schottenhamel tent for 20 years. Every year, it's a strenuous endeavor -- but she can't help herself.

"It's an addiction," Minx said. "I need this a bit for my psyche because I like people and like to have fun."

But it's also hard work. The over 60-year-old Minx can carry 12 one-liter mugs (2.1 pints) of beer at a time, which weigh around 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

An international crowd

One phrase Minx is saying a lot this year when guests pay is "thank you very much." International visitors in particular bring a lot of money to Oktoberfest.

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Gianluca Rolla from La Spezia, Italy celebrates Oktoberfest in style

Gabriele Weishäupl, the festival's main organizer, said it's mainly Italians. "Young Romeos in jeans buy these huge hats and stuffed animals," Weishäupl said. "You recognize them right away by their lively mannerisms."

Of course, there are also visitors from overseas, she added. "The Americans are back this year, too," -- like a group of twenty-somethings from Georgia.

This is their second Oktoberfest and they came to Germany precisely for this event. When asked why, one young man replied: "For the beer and German culture, the songs, the dances and I like Lederhosen," he said. "I don't know why."

Some 15 percent of Oktoberfest's six million visitors are foreigners. With the exception of Africa, nearly every continent sends large delegations of tourists to the festival. Asian guests, particularly, are growing in numbers. A Chinese tourist said, "We came here solely for this beer fest," and added, "I don't think I'll ever forget this."

A party for the common folk

Oktoberfest was originally a celebration to mark the marriage of Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event.

Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest

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Almost 200 years after the first Oktoberfest, people still love the "Wies'n"

The fields have been named Theresienwiese or "Therese's fields" ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the Wies'n.

By the end of the 19th century, the festival had grown significantly and is today the largest in the world.

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