The first keg was tapped, and the beer started flowing as the 186th Oktoberfest got under way yesterday in Munich.
Mayor Dieter Reiter inserted the tap in the first keg with two blows of a hammer and the cry of “O’zapft is” – “it’s tapped.” As tradition demands, he handed the first mug to Bavarian governor Markus Soeder.
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Even before the waitresses started bringing the one-litre beer steins to their customers at noon, the festival grounds were so overcrowded that security guards allowed entry only for people with reservations in one of the beer tents.
Revellers – many women in colourful dirndl dresses and men dressed in traditional Bavarian lederhosen – started lining up in front of the gates before dawn to get inside.
Shortly after 9am, the festival’s organisers announced the party was starting. “Dear guests, welcome to Oktoberfest. We’re now opening the festival grounds.”
The announcement came in German, English and Bavarian – a German dialect so thick and heavy with accent and local vernacular that even many native German speakers from other parts of the country have trouble understanding it.
As the gates opened, many guests ran to the beer tents to make sure they would catch one of the coveted spots on the long, wooden benches inside. Around six million beer lovers from around the world are expected at the festival before the Oktoberfest ends on October 6.
Some 600 police officers and hundreds of security guards are tasked with keeping order around the many, often intoxicated visitors. Around 50 doctors are on call for those with health problems and there is a special security area where women can find protection from harassment.
E-scooters, which were legalised in Germany earlier this year, are banned inside and around the Oktoberfest grounds and plenty of traffic controls were set up outside to prevent drink-driving after the party’s over.
As in previous years, beer prices were up again, with a litre costing up to €11.80 – a 30c increase over last year’s festival.
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