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Germany is justifiably famous for its great beer and wine festivals, which start in late summer or early fall and focus on regional wines, beers, and culinary specialties. The most famous is the Munich Oktoberfest, the world’s oldest and largest beer festival , which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2010. Festival dates this year are September 18 to October 4.
The Munich Oktoberfest turns the city into party central. Dozens of huge tents serve food, beer and entertainment to thousands of people each night, and a sprawling midway lures visitors to Ferris wheels and other rides. Each of Bavaria’s beer breweries has its own tent and serves only its own beer, and of the beer tents serve tons of wurst, roast pig and chicken nightly, and every tent features an oompah band.
Every few minutes, the band plays a rendition of the “Prosit” drinking song, and everybody stops chatting or eating or drinking to stand up and sing while waving their beer mugs in unison. It’s tough to resist.
I’ll admit — I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. And, I never ceased to be amazed at the strength of the waiters and waitresses who thread their way through the crowds while juggling up to eight one-liter mugs without spilling a drop.
Munich hotels are already sold out for the big party, but there still are rooms available in nearby towns such as Augsburg and Ingolstadt, each about 45 minutes away by high-speed commuter train.
Or, you could head north to Stuttgart for that city’s version of Oktoberfest, called Canstatter. 2010 is the 164th year for the Canstatter Wasn, the world’s second largest beer festival. This one is September 25 to October 11, shortly after the Stuttgart Wine Festival, from August 28 to September 5, which showcases more than 250 wines from the region.
It fascinates me that the world’s two largest beer festivals are in the cities that are home to three of the world’s top automobile manufacturers — Mercedes and Porsche in Stuttgart and BMW in Munich. Four if you add in Audi in nearby Ingolstadt (VW is headquartered in Wolfsberg, near Berlin). Perhaps that’s why German engineers are such leaders in safety technology such as lane-departure warning systems.