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Of all the holidays and festivals, Oktoberfest in Germany must be the single most famous. Each year, Bavaria plays host to one of the most vibrant celebrations of life you can find anywhere. The stereotype of the typically stolid German is shattered amidst laughter, singing, dancing, and the clatter of those renowned giant beer steins against tables.

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Organizers expect that during the festival hosts and guests to drink more than six million liters of beer, which as usual, beautiful and skillful use barvaske waitresses, carrying a dozen and a half mugs in hand, to the delight of visitors from Europe, America, Australia …Young visitors rest during the opening ceremony of Oktoberfest 2011 in Munich, Germany, on September 17. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Colored tents line Wirstbudenstraße during Oktoberfest in Munich. Over a dozen of them, gently crowded with locals and tourists alike, gather to take part in Germany’s most famous festival, a historic event that has taken place in the fields of Munich for almost 200 years. What began as a wedding celebration in 1810 has transformed into what you see now: one of the biggest parties in all of Europe.

A waitress carries beer mugs in the Hofbräuhaus-tent after the opening of the famous Bavarian Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany, on September 17, 2011. The world’s largest beer festival will see millions of visitors between now and October 3, when it closes. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Each tent will pump out millions of liters of beer, thousands of traditional Bavarian songs. All the images of 19th century Germany come alive, from the girls in their soft blue and white dirndl getups to the bearded men swaying to the ubiquitous drinking songs, oversized Oktoberfest Munich Germany stein in hand. Traditional Bavarian music comes from everywhere, the off-kilter and catchy melodies traveling from tent to tent. Tipsy groups of people gently stumble around the festival grounds, a liter of Maß (the traditional Oktoberfest beer), lingering in their bellies. Anyone that experiences Oktoberfest will never look at festivals the same way ever again.

A waitress carries beer mugs in the Hofbräuhaus-tent after the opening of the famous Bavarian Oktoberfest beer festival in a beer tent in Munich, Germany, on September 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

 

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Despite its name, Oktoberfest in Munich always starts in to late September. When it was decided that the festival would be an annual celebration, it was thereby lengthened and moved up in the year to capitalize on the better weather of early autumn. Held in the fields known as Theresienwiese, though colloquially known as Weisn, Oktoberfest begins when Munich’s mayor – with great fanfare – taps the first keg of Maß.

But you are not limited to just Maß, there are hundreds of Hefeweizens available (some flavored with fairly obscure beer ingredients like chocolate, banana and coffee), along with a random array of imported beers. Most every Oktoberfest beer comes by the liter – and there’s no sipping, no nursing, no warm dregs remaining in the glass. This celebration is like Disneyland for beer lovers. As long as you drink out of one of the many Oktoberfest Munich Germany steins that seem permanently attached to patrons’ hands, you’ll be part of the group.

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Revelers salute with traditional 1-liter beer mugs on the first day of the Munich Oktoberfest, September 17, 2011. (Reuters/Michael Dalder)

One of the best parts of Oktoberfest in Munich is that each tent offers a slightly different drinking experience. And it’s more than family and tourist friendly – there’s even a roller coaster than sends drunken revelers flailing into the night. Some of the tents shut down a little early, around 11pm (there are always a couple tents that stay open later, until the normal closing time of 1:30), so make sure you get your fill of Oktoberfest beer early in the evening.

On September 8, 2011, a man stands near the largest pitcher of beer in the world, according to its designers. The seven-meter-tall pitcher, awaiting transport to Oktoberfest in Munich, is illuminated from within and will rotate atop a tower in front of one of the 14 beer tents at the festival. (AP Photo/Norbert Millauer)

Drinking is an all-day event here, though, so don’t be surprised to find the tents filling steadily at times more conducive to breakfast than beer. But you can stay all day – the rest of Munich is as silent as a tomb and there is no shortage of food in the tents, since nothing goes better with a liter of Maß, than a brat or currywurst. With your Oktoberfest Munich Germany stein in one hand and a sausage in the other, you’ll be well on your way to Bavarian bliss.

Festival-goers enjoy an amusement park ride after the opening of Oktoberfest, on the Theresienwiese fairgrounds in Munich, on September 17, 2011. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

 

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