Next to the Christmas tree, the Oktoberfest is the most popular custom that Germany has ever exported. From Saturday thousands of thirsty tourists will flock to Munich for the world's biggest Oktoberfest.
Munich's not the only place for beer lovers
The Munich Oktoberfest is the largest German Volksfest, or festival. It all began with the marriage celebration of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig (later to become King Ludwig I.) to Princess Therese from the German kingdom of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810.
Over the years, the beer fest has spread to many parts of the world. But not all are as old and traditional as the Munich festival. However, they have similarities: All serve lots of beer and authentic Bavarian meals to traditional Bavarian music played by local or some times exported German brass bands.
Business means Pleasure
Opening ceremony of the Qingdao Oktoberfest 2003
The Chinese city of Qingdao has celebrated Oktoberfest yearly since 1991. The celebrations start in the second week of August, marking the golden season of tourism. The state sponsored bash combines pleasure with business: During the 16 days celebration period filled with cultural activities and sports events, important business trades take place in the background. This year over 500,000 visitors attended the international beer festival and consumed over 256 tons of beer.
Oktoberfest Saves Town
Oktoberfest in Blumenau, Brazil
The city of Blumenau in the south of Brazil holds the second biggest Oktoberfest world wide and the nation's second biggest public festival after the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, with nearly one million visitors yearly. The Oktoberfest was organized in 1984 for the first time after a good part of the city was damaged by a flood. The aim was to collect funds to help rebuild the city. In the course of the years it became a tradition, happening every year from Oct. 10 to 27.
Ready Steady Yodel
In the US the German Fest in Milwaukee celebrated its 150th anniversary in July and attracted up to 100,000 visitors in just two days. However, the brand-new Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas celebrates its Oktoberfest longer and more extravagant. This year’s attraction include Las Vegas' best-looking legs lederhosen contest, Dirndl contest, sauerkraut and dumpling-eating contests and yodelling.
Competition in Berlin
The Munich custom has also attracted much interest closer to home -- Berlin. Here, three Oktoberfest organizers battle it out for the crowd’s attention. The visitors are predominantly Berlin residents. Löwenbräu, a Bavarian brewery, working in association with the Bavarian Council, arranges one of them. The event, which was inaugurated by leading Berlin and Bavarian ministers on Sept. 7, ended on Sunday. The bash was held for the sixth time this year in Berlin. From Oct. 1 to 17, the independent Schausteller Verband Berlin celebrates its 54th Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest at the Rathaus in Berlin 2004
"We don't compare ourselves with the Oktoberfest in Munich as ours is celebrated on a much more smaller scale," said Peter Zorrer, the latter festival's chairman, adding that this year, 150,000 to 200,000 people are expected to attend.
The Spandau Oktoberfest is organized by Berlin’s Thilo Wollenschläger and is said to have attracted up to 150,000 visitors last year.