John F. Jungclaussen, UK correspondent for German newspaper Die Zeit, travels to Munich to join the millions of revellers celebrating 200 years of the Oktoberfest- the largest folk festival in the World. When he was a student, Jungclaussen spent three years working at the festival selling cigarettes in one of the big beer tents- an experience he describes as 'somewhat traumatic'. He was born in the northern city of Hamburg and found Bavaria to be an alien land- a place of strange customs where people wear lederhosen and dirndl dresses, drink beer out of huge mugs and where brass bands play Oom-pah music.
In this programme, Jungclaussen returns to the festival to ask what it means for Bavarian identity and why over 6 million tourists come from across the globe to join in. He speaks to Prince Luitpold of Bavaria whose great-great-great-grandfather King Ludwig I founded the Oktoberfest in 1810 and who has had a long argument with the city of Munich over his right to sell beer at the festival. He also meets a tent owner who sells thousands of litres of beer for 12 hours a day to increasingly inebriated party-goers.
He speaks to locals who come with their families dressed in traditional clothing and are very proud of their distinctive culture. He goes inside the beer tents and meets tourists from many different countries and from the rest of Germany - many of whom also come in traditional dress. He asks how Bavarian symbols and customs have come to represent the German stereotype and considers why many are still wary of celebrating their national and local identity since the War.
Producer: Susie Warhurst
A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.