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One of the things I love most about living in Germany, or specifically in Munich, is that there is almost always a festival going on – or there’s one to look forward to. Of course, there is Oktoberfest, the obvious frontrunner. But many are surprised to learn that there are a variety of other events throughout the year also.

During the holiday season, there is a plethora of Christmas Markets, or Weihnachtsmärkte, that offer handmade goods, yummy treats, and warm spiced wine known as Glühwein – a German holiday specialty. While there are many markets scattered throughout Munich to choose from, the main event to check out is the Tollwood Festival, held at the Theresienwiese (also where Oktoberfest takes place). Large tents are set up throughout the area, some filled with retail and food booths, and others with bars and even a performance platform for live music. Grab a mug of warm Glühwein and stroll through the tents and get ready to be put in the holiday spirit.

Fast forward a few months to Faschingsfest, otherwise known as Karneval. This Mardi Gras celebration of Germany is filled with costume parties, parades, and music. The carnival season traditionally begins on November 11th, but the real party begins a few weeks prior to beginning of lent, where hundreds of costume balls are held throughout the city, showcasing everything from stylishly elegant masquerades to those dressed in rainbow wigs, crazy makeup, and other insane getups. One thing is for certain during this festival: anything and everything goes!

Next on the list is Starkbierfest, which literally means Strong Beer Festival. Conveniently, this three week party frenzy full of good beer and even better people watching begins right at the end of lent. There’s a reason the beer is extra strong this time. Specially brewed for the occasion and served in a Keferloher (1 liter ceramic stein), you won’t need more than a couple Starkbier to be dancing on the benches with the locals and singing along to the modern and traditional German music. Trust me. This celebration is held at multiple beer halls and breweries throughout the city, but the most popular choice for the grandest party of all seems to be at Paulaner “Nockherberg” brewery, where hundreds of people pile in Oktoberfest style, dressed in their tradition Dirndl or Lederhosen ready for a good old fashioned Bierfest.

Just when you thought you’d consumed enough beer to last you until Oktoberfest, along comes Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival). Held at the Theresienwiese, many consider this festival to be a mini Oktoberfest, complete with carnival rides and those all too famous beer tents. While the tents appear to be about 1/2 the size of the Oktoberfest tents (and there are only a handful to choose from compared to the selection of Oktoberfest’s 14 large Halls, and that’s not counting the smaller ones…), delicious beer in 1 liter Maß and traditional munchies are served while a live band plays new hits and traditional favorites. Naturally, most everyone makes their way up on top of the benches after their first or second Maß for a dance party. And don’t forget your Dirndl or Lederhosen! Be prepared to hear more English than German as you are bound to encounter more tourists than locals at this festival. Think of this as a warm-up for Oktoberfest…

But don’t begin your preparations for that world famous beer festival just yet…there’s one more festival to check out before it’s that time of year again. Tollwood Sommerfestival, held at the Olympiapark from the end of June to the end of July, offers everything from performing artists and theater groups, to handicrafts and food, to a music arena displaying a variety of groups, this year ranging from Erykah Badu, to Billy Idol, to Lady Antebellum among many others. You won’t find any crazy Bier halls at this event, but it’s Germany after all, so you can expect to sip on a tasty Deutsche brew while enjoying everything this festival has to offer.

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