The mother of all festivals is up and running, and our series of blogs on the lesser known stories behind Oktoberfest continues …
Number Two. King Ludwig was not a fan of Oktoberfest.
Bavaria’s most famous king, “mad” King Ludwig II of fairytale castle fame, hated Oktoberfest. Really loathed it, almost as much as he despised beer. And he disliked beer almost as much as he spurned the company of people. And he detested being in the company of people almost as much as he deprecated Munich.
And King Ludwig II really did not like Munich at all.
Such was his desire to remove himself as far as possible from Munich that he built castles on mountain peaks and palaces on islands in distant lakes, where he would brood in Wagnerian solitude. Such was his disdain for Bavarian speech that he would order his servants to elocution lessons. He preferred French to German in any case. And also had less need to see his servants than hear them. They were ordered to cover themselves in his presence.
No ruddy faced peasants bellowing “O’zapft is!” for Ludwig.
It’s hardly surprising that a misanthrope who abominated beer and disfavoured Munich would not enjoy the presence of a large number of people drinking beer in Munich. In his two decades as king, he visited Oktoberfest less than half a dozen times, all of them reluctantly.
It is, however, odd to think that the figure who is celebrated in folk memory and tourism here more than any other felt so estranged from the other iconic features of Munich that he shares space with on the postcards – Oktoberfest, beer, and Munich itself. It’s like finding out that Mickey Mouse hasn’t spoken to Donald Duck in years and that his relationship with Minnie is a sham kept up only for PR purposes.
Poor Ludwig. As kings go, he wasn’t the worst of them. It is sad to to think that he is doomed to spend all eternity grimacing from a thousand murals, gaudy paintings and t-shirts onto a bloated festival of beery folksiness that so offended his sensitive and secretive soul in life.
All he wanted was for his life to be a fairy tale. But his afterlife has turned out to be a ferris wheel.