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Well, the 178th Octoberfest in 2011 has come and gone. Seventeen days of the largest beer party you’ve ever imagined. Munich positively brims with tourists, and every U-Bahn train is full with drunk revelers at any time of day. The locals refer to Octoberfest as Wiesn. This apparently comes from the name of the fairgrounds where the festival is held, Theresienwiese, and wiese means meadow. There’s a very nice photo essay in The Atlantic that captures the spirit of Wiesn.

I went three times this year, twice with a larger work related group, and I know of some people that went twelve times. What’s amazing is that it can be quite expensive; for two people with (2) one liter beers (maß), (2) half chickens (hendl) and (1) pretzel (brezn) it’s about 50 €. There’s a reason the beer tents for the breweries are called gold mines! In recent years it was reported that the net profit for Wiesn overall was 100 € million in just 17 days. The other thing that’s amazing is how relatively orderly it is. About seven million people attend, many of them spending their evening literally falling over drunk, and you don’t really witness fights or much disorderly conduct. It really is a family friendly beer drinking festival.

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All in all, it is a lot of fun. A great many locals and tourists dress in the traditional Bavarian attire of lederhosen (not just limited to men) and a dirndl (still mostly women, thankfully), making this something akin to a dress-up party and it really adds to the festive spirit. The trend to traditional clothing is a newer phenomenon now heartily embraced by all generations. How can you not be happy sitting at a picnic table holding a liter of beer, singing drinking songs and toasting Prost! with friends and strangers while you’re all dressed like extras in The Sound of Music?