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An Accurate Oktoberfest

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It was our fourth Oktoberfest in Munich, and I have to confess that I felt a little jaded.

This year's party rocked more than ever, since the festival was celebrating its 200th birthday.  The ever-intrepid Zurika reports that the new Historisches Wies'n (Heritage Meadow) was so popular that it may be included in future years. Many seasoned Wies'ners judged Oktoberfest 2010 to be the best in living memory.

But for me, it felt a bit BTDT.   I mean, if you've seen one giant outrageous enormous flirty over-the-top binge-drinking extravaganza, you've seen them all.  Furthermore, the party takes place just across the street from my office; my colleagues and I get to see the less glamourous side.

So imagine my delight when one of our houseguests discovered a little Oktoberfest surprise, virtually on our doorstep.

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On the first Sunday morning of Oktoberfest, brass bands and other folky sorts gather from all over Bavaria, and parade through the streets into the meadow where the festival is held.  This is known as the Trachten- & Schützenzug Procession, or the Costume and Riflemen's Parade. 

Lo and behold, the marshalling area lies just a couple of blocks from home, in front of the Maximilianeum. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer to see a parade all scrunched up at the beginning, rather than wait for the whole lot to march by.  It was a treat.

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As far as possible, authorities keep the spectacle authentic to 1810, the date when the first Oktoberfest was held.  That means all travel is by foot, or by horse.  

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All those horses waiting around in one spot raises an obvious logistical problem.  Brass bands need to march very carefully.

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Costume rules are strict, too—read an English translation here.  You can't just show up in rags and call yourself a camp-follower or serving wench (that's what the word sutler means in the guidelines.)  Your historical character must rank yeoman or above. Munich is so bourgeois.

If you overlook the eyeglasses, zippers, rubber-soled shoes and musical instruments labelled Yamaha, the effect can be quite convincing.

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If you're thinking of visiting Munich for Oktoberfest next year, you'll find this spectacle spread out on Maximilianstraße, Widenmayerstraße and Steindorfstraße, just to the west of point A on the map.  It starts punktlich at breakfast-time on Sunday, September 18. 


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When one gets to the festival proper, the costumes stray a little from the period.  Here is a member of the band at the Weinzelt, during a ZZ Top medley.  Kinda sums it all up.

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