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Oktoberfest History

Foto: mde – I. Rahman
Böllerschießen unter der Bavaria

In October 1810, Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The new kingdom of Bavaria was only four years old at the time. The festivities lasted almost a week. An old style horse race was held to the south-west of what is now the Altstadt and this marked the close of the festival. The area in front of Munich’s gateway was christened Theresienwiese to honour the new Crown Princess. The horse racing was held every year as it proved so popular. 

The character of the Oktoberfest has changed over the decades. More and more stalls and travelling game booths joined the horse racing and the first carnival rides soon followed. The current form of Oktoberfest, with beer tents and the festival lasting more than two weeks, evolved towards the end of the 19th century. The start of the festival was also brought forward to September. Since 1850, the Bavaria statue has watched over the Oktoberfest, Munich and Bavaria. The bronze statue was designed by Ludwig Schwanthaler. The Oktoberfest is only cancelled very rarely. In 200 years, there have only been 24 years where the Oktoberfest has been cancelled - during the wars in particular. The horse racing was discontinued after 1945. This has only been held again to celebrate the 150th anniversary, and also in 2010 to celebrate the 200th. Horse racing was part of the Oktoberfest for the anniversary.

The saddest event in post-war time was the assassination on 26th September 1980 in which 13 people were killed and many were injured. A bomb was detonated in a wastepaper bin at the main entrance. The assassin, a Neo-Nazi, died in the explosion. There is a memorial at the site of the attack. It was redesigned in 2008.

The Oktoberfest is now one of the biggest and most popular festivals in the world. More than six million people visit the Oktoberfest every year. And they come from all over the world. As well as Italians, you will often meet Americans, Australians and the Japanese in particular.

The Oktoberfest has also established itself in the homeland of foreign Oktoberfest fans: there are around 300 Oktoberfests around the world that follow the example of the original in Munich.

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