From the moment the lord mayor taps the first cask in mid-September, Munich erupts into the two-week frenzy of Oktoberfest.
The world’s largest and most famous beer festival (Sept. 19–Oct. 4 this year) began with the wedding in 1810 of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The horse race staged in celebration was so popular it was repeated annually; nearly a century later, beer tents were added, gradually morphing into today’s brew fest.
A parade of bands, carriages and lavishly decorated horsedrawn brewery wagons heralds Oktoberfest’s kick-off on the opening Saturday. The next day’s costume and marksmen parade marches through the heart of the city in an even more colorful display of Bavarian culture with elaborate floats, traditional dancers, regional costumes, flag-throwers, horse-drawn brewery drays and marching bands. On the second Sunday, a huge open-air concert features all the Oktoberfest bands, about 400 musicians.
For the rest of the 16-day festival, activity centers on the huge beer tents at the heart of this carnival in the Wiesn festival grounds, where about 6.3 million people consume 6.4 million liters (about 6.7 million quarts) of draft beer. Tents of the seven large breweries line Wirtsbudenstrasse, where Augustiner still serves beer from large wooden barrels (the others have gone to steel kegs). The Hackerbräu tent features a revolving stage for traditional Bavarian bands and entertainment; of course, Munich’s famous Hofbräu has a tent. All serve traditional Bavarian foods, but the Ochsenbraterei-Spatenbräu tent has an old-fashioned ox roast, and the Schützenfesthalle serves roast suckling pig with steins of Löwenbräu.
Smaller tents run by local beer halls sometimes offer more character. Smallest is the Fischer-Vroni tent, serving Augustiner beer and grilled fish. The Armbrustschützen serves Paulaner beer in themed booths dedicated to hunting quarry such as pheasant or wild boar. For those who love a party but not beer, one tent serves only wines and Weissbier, a German wheat beer. It’s not all about brews; the Wiesn is also filled with traditional music, dancing, variety shows and carnival rides from old-fashioned carousels to hair-raising thrill rides.
While tourists from the world over flock to Munich, Germans themselves are more likely to head for Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Volksfest, held Sept. 25–Oct. 11 this year. Second only to Oktoberfest, Cannstatter Volksfest began in 1818 as a harvest festival celebrating the end of a famine. It’s marked late September ever since, its beer tents, music, costume parades, rides and fireworks drawing 4 million people. Locals arrive in traditional lederhosen and dirndl dresses to drink beer and eat wursts; travelers looking for an authentic experience amid Germans will find it here.
IHG® Hotels & Resorts certainly has a lot to celebrate, starting with an incredible growth story. Over the past five years, IHG has acquired or launched six new brands: Six Senses® Hotels Resorts Spas, Regent® Hotels & Resorts, Vignette™ Collection, voco™ hotels, avid® hotels and Atwell Suites™. Most recently, IHG reached an important milestone with its 6,000th open hotel. The company looks to further expand its portfolio by 30 percent with 1,800 hotels in the development pipeline, with significant focus on growth in the luxury segment where IHG is positioned as one of the top two hotel chains.
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Experience the beauty of Alaska and save 60 percent off cruise fares on your second and fourth guests. Plus, drinks, WiFi and tips are all included.
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