Munich: The Festival City

How would you like to sip a glass of cold beer while sitting in the shadow of a Chinese pagoda surrounded by English gardens in the middle of a southern German city? It may sound unlikely, but that is what millions of visitors from around the world experience in Munich in late September and early October every year. They come to celebrate Oktoberfest, probably the largest public festival in the world.

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I of Bavaria. The celebration featured horse races, which were repeated the following year, and the festival became an annual event. Beer stands were introduced in 1818, and these were changed to the now-famous beer tents in 1896. The drink is a major feature of the event, and this year's visitors are expected to top last year's numbers of 5 million liters of beer and 650,000 pork sausages consumed.

It is fair to say that the city of Munich was founded on beer. Christian monks established a settlement there in the ninth century and began to brew a tasty mixture of malt and hops which they probably used to help " convert " local inhabitants to their religion. The tiny village where they lived eventually became known as Bei den Mon chen, meaning "where the monks are". Nowadays, St. Peter Church stands on the site where the monks founded their settlement.
若说慕尼黑是因啤酒而建,并不夸张。九世纪时,基督教僧侣在当地建立了一个定居点,并开始酿造某种将麦芽及啤酒花混合而成的美味饮料,他们曾经利用这种饮料来帮助他们令当地居民皈依基督教。这座基督教僧侣曾居住的小村落后来成为人所共知的Bei den Mon chen,意为“僧侣之地”。今天,圣彼得教堂便座落在当时僧侣建定居点的地方。

It was in the early years of the nineteenth century that Munich really began to grow, and many of the city's best known buildings date from this time. Despite being the modern metropolis that hosted the 1972 Olympic Games, Munich has retained a quiet charm. It is easy to forget you are in a big city as you stroll through the English Gardens, one of Europe's largest parks—complete with the Chinese Tower—and a beer garden of course.

There is much more to modern Munich than beer gardens. It is Germany's favorite city, insofar as surveys show a majority of Germans would prefer to live there. Some jokingly call it the only Italian city north of the Alps, a reference to Munich's easygoing spirit that contrasts with the staid impression many foreigners have of Germany.

Despite the city's traditional image, many residents never set foot inside a beer hall or go anywhere near Oktoberfest, which is looked down on by some as a festival only for foreign tourists. These citizens see themselves as part of a thriving, modern metropolis which is the high-tech capital of Germany. Indeed, Munich plays host to a large concentration of communications and electronics firms.

Munich, then, is a city of fascinating contrasts. It has terrific museums, architectural treasures, and open-air shopping as well as space-age factories and world-class markets. If you could visit only one city in Germany, the capital of Bavaria would be a worthy choice.