Twice a year, Munich Olympiapark becomes a township of tents and stages for the Tollwood Festival. The summer event takes place for 25 days over June and July, and in the winter, it starts at the end of November, offering cultural events in the lead-up to New Year’s Eve at the same place where Octoberfest is organized. Together, the events attract more than one million visitors.
What exactly is Tollwood Festival?
In the summer, Tollwood Festival consists of performance theatre, concerts with stars from the international rock and jazz scene and performances by local and regional bands and artists. In the theatrical area, Tollwood Festival is renowned for presentations of physical theatre, performance and nouveau cirque.
As its website explains, Tollwood Ltd. is a private company for cultural and environmental activities, operating both a profit and a non-profit branch. The ‘Market of Ideas’ finances the majority of cultural activities and ecological projects by renting and leasing out market stalls, a financial structure that allows the organisers to offer free admission to more than 70 per cent of all events.
The first Tollwood Festival took place in the summer of 1983 at Munich Olympiapark. In 1991, the first Winter Festival followed. Organisers highlight that ‘tolerance, internationality and openness are the keystones of the festival’.
The reason of my trip to Munich
I was so intrigued by the idea of a modern-day hippie festival that I decided for the first time ever to travel to Munich to have a look. Of course, Munich offers many attractions, but for me Tollwood Festival was the main drawcard. So I selected some dates for travel and booked a hotel next to the tram route which leads close to the Olympia Park.
When I walked to the Olympia Park, I realized this was a huge thing, with a lot of people everywhere, art installations and a certain hippie feeling. The cultural programme is designed to suit everyone, but mostly it attracted families and slightly older folks. I chose to see a few musical acts. In particular, Glam Band, playing in one of the bigger tents, had a hilarious 1970s sound.
The mixture of village market, beer garden and hippie festival
Luckily, the weather during my visit was beautiful and even quite hot. From time to time, a strong wind stirred up dust clouds and there was almost a Burning Man feeling. Everyone seemed to be carrying a pint of beer, but at I didn’t see any drunks in the area. Although I was too young to live through the original hippie time of the early 1970s, I could see that the Woodstock ethos of peace, love and understanding was still breathing strongly, only in its new form.