Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Munich and Oktoberfest

The train to Munich didn't take too long on the train from Augsburg.  I had put on my trachten (traditional german clothing consisting of lederhosen and a plaid shirt) that morning so that I would be ready to head to Oktoberfest as soon as we got there.  We dropped our bags at the hotel and walked to the larger fairgrounds where it was taking place.  It was Sunday and so everywhere was choked with people.  It was overwhelming but in an exciting way.  I read before I left that about 7 to 8 million people were expected to attend Oktoberfest this year.  I could believe it.  After wandering around a few big tents that were completely packed and wondering how you get a table, we went to a small tent that was more of a restaurant and found an open table.  We eventually figured out that most of the tables will have someone's name and the times that they had it reserved.  Most of the tables weren't reserved until 5 or 6pm.  We found out on Monday that on weekdays, fewer tables are reserved so its better to go during a weekday and really crowded on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

It was 12:30 so we started off with some type of sausage with sauerkraut and some beer.

Lunch was delicious and now we were ready to spend the rest of the day in one of the big tents.  We went to the Lowenbrau tent and one of the waitresses found us a table that still had room for two people.  For about an hour or so we sat with this German family and talked with them for awhile.  Some of them spoke decent English too.  They left and a group of guys from northern Germany sat down.  We talked with them and they invited us to a table that they had reserved.  Doug and I hung out with them the rest of that day.  Here's some photos of the tent and some video of the whole tent singing.

About midway through this video you'll see a guy in a black shirt dancing funny.  We met them later in the day.  They were Australian and English.  Most of this tent were Germans.  The English speakers tend to go to the Hofbrau tent, which is why we avoided it.  Apparently, Americans, English, and Aussies overdo it and it gets disgusting over there.  We really enjoyed this tent and the Germans were so friendly and so much fun.

Doug and I learned some of the standard songs like "Ein Prosit" (a toast) and also became familiar with some of the German pop music, some of which was rather silly.  Some of the other popular songs were "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond and "Country Road" by John Denver.  We also heard some ACDC, Bon Jovi, Hey Jude by the Beatles and lots of other stuff you wouldn't expect to hear at Oktoberfest.  However, most of the music was German.

This is where they was all of the beer glasses.  I saw waiters and waitress carry out 14 mugs full of beer at once!

We sang with the Germans until the shut everything down around 11:30pm.  Doug had already wandered back to the hotel to check in and sleep since he was still jetlagged but I stayed till the bitter end.  Our hotel, Eurostars Grand Central near the Hackenbrucke train station was really nice and we had a good deal on it. Here is what it looked like.

This is the shower...

The hallway...

The next morning we headed out for some breakfast and wandered around Munich.  The big pedestrian area is the Marienplatz.  Here are some pictures that I took on our walk.  Keep in mind that this is a Monday and there were tons of people out because of Oktoberfest.

Munich's City Hall...

The courtyard inside City Hall...

We came upon this church and when I saw it I told Doug that it was probably going to be pretty cool inside.  It was.  This was another Rococo-style church with a very ornate interior.

After the church, we made our way back to Oktoberfest for another day of German-style fun.  It wasn't as packed and we wandered around the fairgrounds for awhile.  There were lots of traditional horse drawn beer wagons too...

We went to a different tent this time and a waitress found a table for us right away.  There were only four people sitting there and they were keeping to themselves.  We were just happy to have a table.  It was about 12:30pm so we ordered up some spaetzle (German noodles) and Doug had some sausages... and of course we ordered some beers.  Pretty soon, the people at our table left and four young Germans who had just finished their tests at one of the universities in the area sat with us.  They were very friendly and we hung out together the rest of the day.  One by one more of their friends came to the table until there were about ten to twelve of us.

The tent was pretty full by mid-afternoon.  It was completely packed by dinner time.

Usually as the night goes on, more and more people stand and sing on the tables.  Almost no one is sitting down at the end of the night.  There are a lot of factors that are key to enjoying Oktoberfest.  According to the older mayors that I met, the key is to eat lots of food and sing!  Doug felt that the key to enjoying German beer for 11 hours is to "drink slow enough that you can drink all day but fast enough that your beer doesn't get too warm."  While there are some Germans who will stand on top of their table and guzzle an entire liter while everyone cheers them on, we took our time so that we didn't overdo it.  Also, there are people walking around selling giant pretzels and its best to order your food before 5pm otherwise it can take a long time for it to come out because everyone is ordering around dinner time.  I ordered half of a roast chicken around 4:30 and it was the best chicken I had ever had!  Oktoberfest was great but many German's that I met actually prefer some of the smaller local festivals like Nuremberg's Altstadtfest or the festival that was starting in Ingolstadt before I left.  The beer is much less expensive and the festivals feel more traditional.  A beer at Oktoberfest is about 9.10 Euro (about $12) per liter and they don't fill it up all the way to the top.  At Altstadtfest, I bought a half-liter for 2.50 Euro or about $3.25.  I would like to go back to Oktoberfest someday.  It was a lot of fun and I met some great people.

We left when everything closed down that night at 11:30pm and went back to the hotel.  I caught a train to Erlangen at 8:30 the next morning.  Despite all of the beer, each morning, I actually felt pretty good.  I did have to change trains because of some construction on one of the lines but I made it to Erlangen.  I'll talk about Erlangen as my next and final post for the German trip.  Hope you enjoyed Oktoberfest too!  Thanks for reading!