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German embassy hosts first Oktoberfest in Islamabad

German embassy hosts first Oktoberfest in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: The German embassy hosted the first Oktoberfest in Islamabad, which was organised along the lines of the Oktoberfest held annually in Munich, complete with traditional live music, food and games that created a very festive atmosphere.

People usually wear lederhosen and dirndl, traditional Bavarian costumes, to Oktoberfest.

The embassy arranged for checked shirts for men and dresses with a bodice, full skirt and an apron for women to be available for sale so that people could wear the appropriate Bavarian tracht.

German Ambassador Ina Lepel said: “This is the first time after many years that we have organised this event. We felt this is such an important festival in Germany that we should share it with our Pakistani friends. It is a long event and I’m positively surprised by the turnout. In fact we ran out of tickets. We have managed to include most of the traditional games held at the Oktoberfest like arm wrestling and stein holding.”

Stein holding is a traditional Bavarian strength contest in which competitors hold a full stein out in front of their bodies with a straight arm, parallel to the ground. The person holding the stein for the longest period wins. For the Pakistani version of the contest the stein was empty and simply participating counted.

Participating in five games, including arm wrestling, soccer, hammering nails, knocking down cans and stein holding, won each participant a traditional gingerbread heart - a must at Oktoberfest. They come in all kinds of colours and with all kinds of texts on them. Known as a Lebkuchen (gingerbread necklace) the hearts come strung on a ribbon so they can be worn or hung at home.

Director of the German Pakistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry Pervaiz Akhtar managed to win a ginger cookie.

“This is fantastic – it is a unique experience in Pakistan. The fun activities are great. I have attended Oktoberfest in Germany and that is on a very large scale. This is the first time I’m attending one here,” he said.

A festival that dates back to the early nineteenth century Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct 12, 1810.

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy event. Over time, horse races, agricultural shows, carnival games, carousels and swings became part of the festival, which is now the largest festival in the world, with an international flavour characteristic of the 21st century.

The Oktoberfest at the German Embassy in Islamabad was of course much smaller but it captured all the essentials of the event – food, drink, entertainment and live music, including a wandering accordion player in Bavarian tracht.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2016

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