Munich (dpa) – After two years of a forced break due to corona, the Oktoberfest has started in Munich – in wet and cold weather and with fewer guests than at the last Wiesn before the pandemic. According to estimates by the festival management, around 700,000 guests came to the festival on the first weekend. In 2019, the number of visitors was around one million. A major reason for the restrained attendance, especially on Sunday, was probably the weather.
Wiesn boss Clemens Baumgärtner (CSU) said on Sunday that he was happy about a comfortable start, but: “For the next two weeks we still want Petrus to remember what decent Wiesn weather looks like.” Despite the weather, thousands lined the streets as people wearing traditional costumes and riflemen marched to Oktoberfest in colorful robes, including groups from the USA and Canada.
Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) and Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) drove with their wives in coaches of honor. Reiter had opened the folk festival the day before and toasted a peaceful Wiesn with Söder. However, the mayor seemed a little out of practice after the long Oktoberfest break: he needed three hits to tap the first beer keg – instead of two as before. He took it calmly – at least there was room for improvement.
Reiter, who gave the green light for the Wiesn in April after careful consideration, now called this a good decision. “Everyone is looking forward to it – and that’s what pleases you the most as mayor.” For Söder, who was always in favor of Oktoberfest 2022, the mass event is a “festival of joy and freedom”.
Even if we celebrate without conditions, Corona has not disappeared. The authorities warned visitors to take a test if they had cold symptoms and not to come to the festival sick. Doctors expect a corona wave after the Wiesn as after other folk festivals. Shortly before the festival, Mayor Reiter said that the situation in the clinics was important and that there were no extraordinary burdens there.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called for caution. The fact that the giant folk festival is taking place again is justifiable, said the SPD politician. “The willingness to vaccinate, the understanding of the measures, the caution of the population make it possible.”
There were many young people among the visitors, almost nobody wore a corona protective mask. Before the pandemic, six million visitors came to the folk festival, which is often described as the largest in the world.
According to host spokesman Christian Schottenhamel, a similar number of guests flocked to the tents as in 2019. The mood was downright euphoric and people were happy to be celebrating the Oktoberfest again – despite the higher prices: the beer liter costs 12.60 euros to 13.80 euros, almost 16 percent more than in 2019.
Outside, when it was raining, people were drawn primarily to covered rides such as the Ferris wheel and the ghost train. Hot things like roasted almonds and bratwurst were sold in the street. Business remained subdued, especially on Sunday. Rudi Bausch, who sells alcohol among other things, said: “Due to the weather, it wasn’t the dream start, but billing will be done on October 3rd.” But: “First and foremost, I’m glad that we can be there again at all.”
There was just as much going on as in 2019 on Saturday evening at the Wiesn medical station. The helpers had to move out every minute, as spokesman Markus Strobl said. Hundreds of patients had to be cared for, many because of excessive alcohol consumption. The first “beer corpse” to be treated was a young “completely drunk” woman shortly after 2 p.m. But there were also head injuries and lacerations.
The police recorded an overall quiet start. A man was arrested for a sexually motivated assault, he had kissed and touched a woman against her will. A Wiesn visitor was caught with drugs. A man was taken away after injuring two helpers in the head at the medical station. At the train stations, the federal police only registered minor offenses, such as jostling to the point of bodily harm or drunk people on the tracks.
Animal welfare activists had already tried on Saturday morning to protest against the high meat consumption at the Wiesn, to disrupt the entry of the landlords. In addition to beer in abundance, meat is one of the staple foods at the Oktoberfest: in 2019, almost 435,000 roast chickens, 125 oxen and 30 calves were eaten.
The festival lasts until October 3rd, one day longer, since German Unity Day falls on the Monday after the last Oktoberfest Sunday.
© dpa-infocom, dpa:220918-99-807283/4