By Michael Dalder
Many of us have been invited to wedding ceremonies and receptions in our time, as guests or even as photographers. One Saturday, at five o’clock in the morning, my colleague Lukas Barth and I prepared our camera gear to photograph a wedding party, with around six million guests.
I’m not sure how many of them were aware of the fact that the party they were attending – “the Oktoberfest” – originally celebrated and honoured the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810.
Almost 200 years later, the celebration still exists in the form of the world’s biggest beer festival, a place where tradition meets madness. The fairground has been called “Theresienwiese”, or “the Wies’n” by experienced visitors and, despite the name “Oktoberfest”, the festival always starts on the penultimate Saturday of September.
Visitors from all over the world – some dressed more or less in traditional Bavarian attire – wait expectantly to taste the special Oktoberfest beer, which, with around six percent alcohol, is a lot stronger than regular German beer.
We arrived at the fairground to find almost 3,000 people already queuing in front of the entrances to each of the 11 tents, hoping to catch one of the non-reserved seats inside. Some of them had been there since four o’clock in the morning, even though the beer would not be served before midday. Many had already started drinking beverages brought from home and often revellers were very jolly before the festival had even begun.