Grave Thoughts Indeed, Part 4 — The Oktoberfest

From royal nuptials to brass bands

It was the celebration of the wedding of the crown prince of Bavaria, Ludwig I, to Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen (try saying that with a mouthful of chips) that inspired the Oktoberfest tradition. The idea for it came from Andreas Dall’Armi, a member of the Bavarian National Guard, who is also buried in the Alter Südfriedhof. Thus the festival known all over the world as the quintessence of Bavaria was founded by none other than — an Italian.

Unrecognizable today: the grounds of the Oktoberfest shown in a painting of the horse race on the occasion of the first Oktoberfest, 17. Oktober 1810 by Wolfgang von Kobell.


The name of the city of Munich derives from the phrase ”forum apud munichen”, the place where the monks live, who so shaped the city that their image lives on in the city’s coat of arms, known as the Münchner Kindl. Monasteries, of which Munich had many, were known for brewing beer. In the Middle Ages, it was a culinary staple, a kind of liquid bread.

The Münchner Kindl, Munich child (L), in a postcard by German painter Richard Wagner, 1917. Over the centuries the original monk mysteriously morphed into a child and then into a woman, shown here (R) during the traditional barrel makers’ dance.

The Wieseneinzug parade

Schwanthaler is the name of a street used by the traditional parade that kicks off the Oktoberfest every year, named after one of the city’s preeminent sculptors. Very fitting, since Ludwig Schwanthaler created the model for the Bavaria statue, the local version of the Statue of Liberty that towers at one end of the Theresienwiese, site of the Oktoberfest.

The Bavaria statue and the Ruhmeshalle at the edge of the Oktoberfest grounds. Looks lovely now, but on Oktoberfest evenings the grass is often strewn with “beer corpses.”



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Brenda Arnold

Brenda Arnold


An American in Germany, I write historical but funny tidbits on life abroad and family relationships gleaned from raising two kids. Visit