Few cultural festivals are more internationally celebrated than Oktoberfest, but odds are you have no idea how it came to be. It all started with a royal wedding.
On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in Munich. As was the case with any proper sovereign event, the area's commoners were invited to join in the affair. Festivities were set up on the fields next to the city's front gates. (The field picked up the moniker Theresienwiesse, or Therese's field, named for the princess.) The events culminated with a horserace, attended by the royals, several days later, on October 17. The following year, the horserace was repeated, resulting in the development of the tradition. Also, an agricultural show, intended to promote Bavarian agriculture, was added to the roster.
Over the past couple of centuries, much has changed. Carousel and games were incorporated. The dates were moved to late September to take advantage of better weather. And most important, a few beer stands with the backing of the local breweries, expanded to include massive tents and halls.
Once a local Bavarian festival, the two-plus week event now attracts more than 6 million visitors from around the globe. The pilgrimage, however, is no cheap thrill. So German bars, restaurants, beer halls, and cultural centers around the world honor the tradition in their own way.
Old Heidelberg Restaurant, New Times' 2014 pick for Best German Restaurant, is one of many.
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