Say ‘Guten Tag’ to Oktoberfest

Sad that you could not make it to Germany even this year for the Oktoberfest? Another year without getting to say “Ein bier, bitte” in style. Never mind. Oktoberfest celebrations are almost everywhere, with most major cities hosting beer-centred festivities around this time. Here are some that you could join in to get a feel of the real thing.

 Kitchener and Waterloo

The largest Oktoberfest in North America, the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest from 11-Oct to 19-Oct is celebrated with a Thanksgiving Day Parade. With a large population of German descent, there is traditional live music and dance in festhallen organized by German clubs. A free-for-all luncheon is organized by the city council, and a Feastival food truck with German delicacies is another one for the foodies.

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Hong Kong

With interesting variants of the Munich Oktoberfest at different venues in Hong Kong and Macau, the season is festive and frothy. The Marco Polo German Bierfest from 25-Oct to 16-Nov along the harbor is one of the better known Bavarian celebrations in Asia. The speed drinking and sausage eating contests at Happy Valley and King Ludwig Beer Hall are also draw crowds.

Beer: Löwenbräu, Beck’s draught beer and Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier.

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Dublin

The Dublin Oktoberfest from 19-Sep to 6-Oct is a place to show your competitive spirit after downing some light, bitter spirit – the Bavarian Games include nailing, schuhplattlern and Fliegerlied dance.

Beer: German Erdinger Fischer’s Hell and Weizenbier (wheatbeer).

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 Leavenworth

Over the first 3 weekends in October, about a million revelers find their way to “Washington’s Bavarian Village” to witness the parade, the bands and the keg tapping. And for a totally guilt-free experience, there is also a marathon to ward off the possible beer belly.

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Blumenau

The Brazilian Oktoberfest from 3-Oct to 20-Oct has the best of both worlds – Brahma and Das Bier, samba and polka, waltz and mazurka. There are friendly contests along with the festivities – Concurso nacional de Chopp em metro, which is a beer drinking contest and Noite dos Gincaneiros.

Beer: Brahma, Eisenbahn, Bierland, Wunder Bier, Das Bier and Gaspar.

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Les Festes de la Mercé in Barcelona

Sunshine, sangrias and La Sagrada Familia:  there’s just once city to have it all – Barcelona. The second half of September has the city agog with celebrations of its biggest festival, Les Festes de la Mercé or Festival of the Virgin of Mercy, a celebration of the city’s patron saint “Mare de Deu de la Mercé”. As the festival happens towards the end of summer with temperate Mediterranean weather, most of the celebrations takes place outdoors. There’s a lot to do during this period with events and performances popping up all over the city and several activities to watch or take part in.

The festival has a long and proud tradition since its inception in 1687.

One of the oldest traditions here is the formation of the human towers or “Castellers” reaching upto 9 or 10 levels in height, a meticulous exhibition of balance and agility.

A recurring theme throughout the festival is the celebration of fire and one of the most exhilarating experiences of La Mercé is the “Correfoc” (the “Fire Run”) where costumed fire-breathing devils, dragons and beasts run amok through the city streets in a colourful pyrotechnic display. The fire runs are a favourite with the kids, as is the “Dragons and Giants” procession which starts in the Plaza Real next to Las Ramblas.

24-September is Museums Open Day where many of the city’s museums and galleries, such as the Picasso museum, the Museum of History of Catalonia, the Maritime Museum and several others do not charge any entry fee.

The celebrations culminate in the Piromusical at the Magic Fountain at the foot of Montjuic hill near Plaza Espanya with the Palau Nacional in the background. It is a scintillating display of fireworks, water and laser light set to music for a wonderful audio-visual experience.

La Mercé is the perfect setting to experience Barcelona at its best – it enhances the colorful, vibrant atmosphere of this gorgeous city.

Egremont Crab Fair

The annual Egremont Crab Fair held each September in the Lake District is a 750-year old tradition.

The Lake District in England may be famous for its lakes, mountains and climate, but it also has some quaint local traditions such as Cumbrian wrestling, ferret racing and fell running which are worth a watch. The most entertaining of these are the “Biggest Liar in the World” competition which has a colorful tradition and the World Gurning Championships at the Egremont Crab Fair which was started as a celebration of the completion of harvest.

Biggest Liar in the World Competition: Will Ritson, a 19th century landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn, was renowned as a highly amusing storyteller, counting William Wordsworth and Thomas De Quincey among his audience. Credulous visitors from out of County were enthralled by his account of locally grown giant turnips, which, he said, were of such massive proportions, that villagers would spend weeks carving out edible portions before surrendering the remaining outer skins as shelters for the Herdwick sheep. The popularity of Will’s yarns led to the annual “Biggest Liar in the World” competition, held annually in November at the Bridge Inn, Santon, before an enthusiastic audience well nourished on a menu of “tatie pie” consisting of local mutton, black pudding, potatoes and red cabbage, washed down by some fine locally brewed ale.

Egremont Crab Fair: The Egremont Crab Fair, which has been held annually since 1267 (except the war years), is being held on 21-September this year. Named after the Lord of Egremont’s donation of crab apples, this tradition has continued to this day as the Parade of the Apple Cart, where apples are thrown to the crowds which throng the Main Street. The modern day fair commences with a number of sporting events. The highlight of the fair is the truly unique World Gurning Championship where contestants stand on a stage with a horse collar placed over their head and shoulders, framing the attempts to contort their faces into distorted expressions. Winners of the most bizarre and grotesque faces are decided by the level of audience applause. It is believed that the Lake District in Cumbria is the only place in the world where such a contest is held. Entertainment on the streets, people climbing up greasy poles, motorcycle displays and several events for children makes it a fair time in Egremont.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Mooncake or Lantern or Reunion festival, on 19 September this year, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. In Chinese tradition, the full moon symbolizes peace, and the number 8 signifies prosperity.

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Historically, Chinese emperors worshiped the moon and prayed for prosperity and a good harvest next year on this auspicious day. The ancient Chinese associated the moon with rejuvenation. There is an ancient fable in which the sun and moon are a couple, with the stars being their children. The full, round moon signified pregnancy, and the crescent was considered the post-natal state. These beliefs led women to worship and give offerings to the full moon during this time.

People have traditionally offered sacrificial offerings of mooncakes and fruits. During this time, farmers have just completed their harvest, and the mood is bright and festive. It is an occasion for family get-togethers and is a public holiday in China. Mid-Autumn has traditionally been an occasion for weddings. In some parts of China, dances are held for young men and women to find partners.

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Mooncakes have played a major role in Chinese history. Ming revolutionaries hid secret messages in mooncakes to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China during the Yuan dynasty, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Some messages were also printed on the surface of mooncakes as jigsaw puzzles. Each of the four mooncakes packaged together had to be cut into four parts each, and the sixteen pieces thus formed had to be re-arranged to form the message. The pieces of mooncake had to be consumed immediately thereafter to destroy the message. Now that’s some real food for thought!

Around the World in 30 Desserts

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

If you’re the kind of person who lives to eat dessert, and would rather fall in chocolate than in love, join the club!

We have picked out a few desserts, trotting across the globe from East to West, finding some elaborate, grand desserts along with a few simple and scrumptious ones

1. Australia/ New Zealand – Pavlova

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Named after Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, this meringue-based dessert with a soft, airy interior and a light crust topped with whipped cream and fruits is a delightful delicacy.

2. Japan – Dango

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Apart from the several variations of the famous mochi, Japan has simple but elegant and yummy desserts. Sweet rice dumplings called Dango are traditional accompaniments to tea, and are made in different flavours like green tea and red bean.

3. South Korea – Patbingsu

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The not-so-secret weapon of the Koreans to beat the sweltering summer heat is the delicious Patbingsu – ice shavings with condensed milk, fruits, syrups, fruits, ice-cream or froyo, jelly and other sprinkles.

4. Malaysia – Bubur Cha-cha

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Taro figures in a lot of Malaysian sweet dishes, and combined with sweet potato and banana cubes in a chilled pandan-flavoured coconut milk and sago soup, it makes a delectable bubur chacha.

5. China – Mooncake

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Eaten specifically during the Mid-Autumn festival this month, they are filled with lotus seed or red bean paste and have a chewy crust.

6. Thailand – Mango and Sticky Rice

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Mango sticky rice is a classic Thai dessert, combining the tangy sweetness of mango with the smoothness of coconut milk, textured with rice. Tropical, flavoursome and simple.

7. Russia – Ptichye Moloko

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Ptichye Moloko or Bird’s Milk Cake, the first cake to be patented in the erstwhile Soviet, has a chocolate ganache topping on layers of cake and soufflé.

8. India – Kheer

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Kheer, the Indian rice pudding, consists of mildly flavoured rice boiled in thick sweet condensed milk topped with dry fruits. This smooth and wholesome creamy dessert is made during festivals and special occasions.

9. Iran – Bastani ice-cream

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Iranian ice-cream, with saffron and rose-water, sprinkled with pistachio is an intensely flavoured variation of the universally-liked dessert.

10. Turkey – Baklava

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Flaky phyllo pastry with a nuts and honey filling goes perfectly with a cup of Turkish coffee.

11. Egypt – Basbousa

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Semolina cake soaked in flavoured lemon syrup topped with nuts is ubiquitous in Egypt.

12. Greece – Yogurt

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Healthy and wholesome like everything else Greek, yogurt with fruit salad and dry fruits is a daily dessert.

13. Poland – Paczki

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Polish sponge cake with various fillings such as rose preserves, custard, budyn and chocolate, sprinkles with orange peel and sugar-dusted, is traditionally eaten on Fat Thursday as it is believed to bring good luck.

14. Hungary – Dobos Torte

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This Hungarian cake named after its inventor, is a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and a caramel topping.

15. Denmark – Pastry

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The Danish pastry (of Viennese origin) has several variations with different fillings, and satisfies your sweet tooth at all times of the day.

16. Austria – Sacher torte

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The most famous cake in the world needs no introduction. Rich chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam goes well with coffee.

17. Italy – Tiramisu

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Delectable and creamy with Marsala wine, the coffee and cocoa in Tiramisu come together to create magic.

18. Germany – Black Forest Cake

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Traditional, rich with chocolate, cream and cherries, it is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in German.

19. Netherlands – Vlaai

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Dutch pies come with a variety of fillings – fruit, chocolate or coffee cream.

20. Morocco – Harcha

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Fried flatbread made of semolina can be found everywhere in Morocco and can be easily prepared.

21. Belgium – Waffles

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A trip to Belgium is incomplete without sampling the warm, fresh waffles.

22. Spain – Turron

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A Spanish almond and honey confection, Turron is a favourite during the holiday season.

23. France – Dacquoise and St Honore

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Decadent desserts rule in France, and the layered Dacquoise with almond and hazelnut meringue and buttercream will always make you wish you had skipped le plat principal.

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St Honore, named after the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, is another classic dessert which presents itself beautifully. 

24. UK – Sticky Toffee Pudding

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This quintessential English dessert has sticky toffee sauce over a date sponge cake, often teamed with ice-cream or custard.

25. Brazil – Brigadeiro

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Traditional Brazilian chocolate candy, this smooth melt-in-the-mouth treat can be made in less than 15 minutes and is loved by all.

26. Argentina – Alfajor

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Alfajores have a creamy caramel filling in a cookie sandwich, sometimes covered in chocolate.

27. Chile – Tres Leches Cake

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Literally meaning ‘Three Milks Cake’, it is made from cake along with milk in 3 forms – evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream.

28. Canada – Butter Tart

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This scrumptious Canadian dessert with a semi-solid filling and crunchy exterior is a favourite throughout the country.

29. USA – Cheesecake

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Soft, airy cheesecake topped with whipped cream and fruit is what every foodie’s dreams are made of.

30. Mexico – Chocolate con churros

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Though not originally from here, deep fried churros dipped in thick hot chocolate are a clear favourite and a part of local cuisine. Quick and easy to make, it’s comfort food that’s warm and filling.

Discover the best food tours around the world here.