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Pleasure would be boring without the pain, and one of Munich’s best traditional festivals involves getting up early (and we mean early) to dress up and head to the park to dance polkas and drink beer together with thousands of others as the sun rises. The party in question is the annual Kocherlball (cook’s ball), which takes place at the Chinesischer Turm beergarden on July 18 between 06:00 and 10:00.
The tradition dates to the 1880s, when some 5,000 cooks, butlers, maids, soldiers and other staff of the posh Munich households would party. This was only allowed if it didn’t interfere with the master’s daily routine, so the feast was held at crack of dawn, and ended in time for the participants to head back and prepare breakfast.

Some influential people couldn’t stand the idea of other people having fun, so the tradition abruptly ended in 1904 with a police ban. Sense prevailed though 15 years ago and the Kocherlball was reinstated - only very bad weather will prevents it from happening nowadays.

It’s important to arrive early if you want to get close to the action; last year 12,000 people showed up, and not everybody got a front-row seat at the long tables near the band; arriving at 05:00 may already be too late. If you want to party in style, do as the Münchners do and dress up in traditional 19th century costumes.

There’s a candlelit breakfast on offer, including Schmankerl (soup, sausages, pork belly and bread) or a less exotic breakfast of eggs, ham, strudel, etc. You can also choose to bring your own food along, just remember that drinks are supposed to be purchased on-site (bottle of Sekt €20, Hofbräu beer is €6.40/litre, coffee €3.50).

While you stuff yourself and begin regretting that third beer, you can literally dance your excesses away with something aptly called Tanzvergnügen (dance pleasure). A brass band cranks out traditional oompah classics to which thousands dance to such favourites as the Landler, Zwiefache, Polka and Boarische. Intimate knowledge of moves is not required; just go with the flow but mind the toes.

Even if you’re a lazy latecomer you can still experience a bit of the feast. Though the Kocherlball ends at 10:00 exactly, that doesn’t stop thousands to carry on dancing and drinking throughout the day before collapsing sometime in the late afternoon.

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