Oktoberfest began in Munich in 1810, when a beautiful princess named Therese of Sachsen Hildburghausen married a young prince charming named Ludwig. The groom's father, King Max Josef of Bavaria, couldn't invite everybody to the wedding, certainly not all the peasants and workers, so he threw a big outdoor agricultural fair and horse race and invited all his subjects. The bash took place in a Munich field that was immediately christened Theresienwiese, or Therese's meadow. Everybody had a jolly time toasting the royal pair with the city's most important product, beer, thus boosting the local economy. The city fathers liked that a lot and petitioned the king to set aside Therese's meadow so a celebration could be held there every year to commemorate the royal wedding, and the king magnanimously granted the request.

Despite this auspicious beginning, life was not all hearts and flowers for Therese and Ludwig. Some 20 years later he became so enthralled with an Irish adventuress with the improbable name of Lola Montez (n,ee Elizabeth James) that a political scandal ensued. Ludwig's enemies said that Lola had too much influence over the king, and he was forced to abdicate. So, although Therese and Ludwig didn't live happily ever after -- fairy tales really should end at the altar -- the Oktoberfest did. It's still celebrated in the same meadow, though it's now generally referred to simply as the Wies'n and it's no longer in the country but adjacent to a subway stop.