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Germany's Oktoberfest gets underway in Munich

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The 185th Oktoberfest has begun in the Bavarian capital, Munich, with Mayor Dieter Reiter managing once more to open the first keg of beer with just two blows of the hammer at the opening ceremony, reported Deutsche Welle (Germany).

The first glass of beer, traditionally reserved for the state's premier, went to Markus Söder, who is attending the fabled event for the first time in the capacity.

The festival grounds will have a size of 34.5 hectares. 545 businesses have been admitted this year, 143 form the gastronomical sector, 151 carnies and 251 vendors. About 13.000 people will be employed at the Oktoberfest.

Other guests at the Oktoberfest will be paying up to €11.50 ($13.53) for a liter (2.1 pints) of the amber fluid that will flow freely over the next two weeks into the throats of an expected 6 million guests from all over the world. The 16 small and big beer tents offer room for 119.000 guests. Altogether, 127 medium-sized and small businesses offer spicy and sweet specialties.

Heightened security
Some 600 police officers and several hundred security personnel are on hand amid concerns of possible terrorist attacks. The Theresienwiese, where the Oktoberfest takes place, is now surrounded by fences and visitors are no longer allowed to carry rucksacks into the area. Backpacks and large bags are generally not allowed.

The increased security costs are one factor driving the higher price of beer at the festival.
The festival, which has been held since 1810, will end on October 7.

The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.

By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over "die Wiesen" or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.

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