By Clara Bosonetto

Venetians know that their town and style of living are enviable, yet from time to time we all must heed our wanderlust. Here’s a pair of trip ideas to celebrate autumn.

Raise your stein and hail, “Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit . . .” (“a toast, a toast...”) to mark the 200th anniversary of the marriage between Crown Prince Luitpold I of Bavaria (he became King Ludwig I) and princess Therese of Saxon. That event of 1810 started the eating and drinking orgy of Oktoberfest held each year in Munich, Germany on the 103-acre Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow), the royal reception site.

At straight up noon on September 18, Munich’s lord mayor taps the first keg of beer in the Schottenhamel tent. That small feat will declare the 16-day festival officially open and the quenching of thirsts can begin. An expected six million visitors will come to make merry and empty steins while swaying arm and arm to the big, bold sounds of Oompah bands.

Besides the more than a dozen impressively decorated beer tents that can serve up to 10,000 revelers at a time (Winzerer Fähndl is one), this year’s Oktoberfest promises to be bigger than ever with a labyrinth of family-friendly and scary carnival rides, game booths, roaming performers and a flea circus. Foodies will delight in the abundance of hearty and traditional German dishes such as reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), sauerkraut or blaukraut (red cabbage), würstl (sausages), haxn (pork knuckle), schweinsbraten (roast pork), knödeln (potato or bread dumplings), halbe hendl (half of a spit-roasted chicken, about $11.50) and the classic brezel (pretzel). Beer flows in an endless supply with a liter (just over two pints) costing nine euro, or just over $11. That doesn’t hinder many patrons. Nearly two million gallons of beer are consumed each year. Beer isn’t exclusive at Oktoberfest. Several vendors and tents are proud to offer a nice selection of Germany’s fine wines and sparkling wines.

Coveted seating inside the largest of the beer tents is reserved up to a year in advance, but arriving before noon or late in the evening could boost your chances for a place. Expect to pay about 35 euro or $44 per person for a main floor seat (less expensive for balcony seating) which includes two liters of beer and a half roasted chicken.

Asplendid not-to-miss event takes place on the second official day of Oktoberfest, September 19, at 10 a.m. It’s the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade, where nearly 7,000 performers make up a rich and colorful procession—a parade of traditionally dressed country men, country women, livestock and the magnificent horse-drawn drays of the Munich breweries. Mixed in the five-mile central Munich street parade are trumpeters on horseback, decorated floats, humble carriages, marching bands, and a variety of characters and performers.

Two useful websites, oktoberfest.de and muenchen.de, provide visitor tips on how best to experience Oktoberfest along with contact information for the beer tent reservations. The sites are also useful to search overnight accommodations in and around Munich. With just weeks to go, finding city center lodging could be futile. Consider yourself fortunate to find a small inn or Gasthaus in the distant burbs. Fortunately, the Oktoberfest subway stop, Thereseinweise U-Bahn, is just one stop from Munich’s Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station. This major terminal station provides a massive web of U-Bahn or underground routes throughout the city center and numerous S-Bahn routes to reach distant suburbs and towns.

Oktoberfest Munich runs through October 4.

A passport and deep lederhosen pockets aren’t required to party German-style on this side of the pond! The German American Social Club of Cape Coral throws a wonderfully authentic Oktoberfest that welcomes nearly 35,000 people from across the nation to drink, dance and dine on the last two weekends in October. This event is the largest Oktoberfest in Southwest Florida.

Live German bands play nonstop on three stages highlighted by Blaskapelle Peng, an award-winning 20-piece brass band direct from Germany. Expect plenty of dancing places to polka between the rotating bands. A huge tent offers shelter and concrete picnic tables in the 25-acre Bavarian Gardens seating more than a thousand people.

Outdoor vendors serve traditional German specialties (potato pancakes are often a sell-out!) and German beers. Homemade full course meals (up to $10) such as sausage, roast chicken, ham hocks, sauerbraten, schnitzel and sauerkraut will be served in the air-conditioned “von Steuben Hall” where guests will be greeted and served by waitresses at decorated tables.

Cape Coral’s 25th Annual Oktoberfest also features rides and games for all ages.

When? October 22, 23 & 24 and October 29, 30 & 31. Open 4:00 p.m.-midnight Saturdays; noon-9:00 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $5 in advance; $6 at the gate.

The German American Social Club is located 7 miles west of Route 41 or off of I-75 at Exit 143; 2101 Pine Island Road West. Parking is free. For more information, visit gasc-capecoral.com.

As nice as it is to get away for a couple of days to explore the Sunshine State or a couple of weeks on the other side of the world, it’s always sweet to come back home.

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