Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oktobefest in Munich

We couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience Oktoberfest since we were passing through Germany at just the right time. The way it worked out, we were actually in Munich the day the two week celebration began!

It felt a lot like going to the Minnesota State Fair (which is the only State Fair I've ever been to actually). There were carnival games to ride or play, fun foods to try, and everyone was in a great mood. The big difference is everyone came to enjoy a beer (or more) and a lot of people were dressed up in the traditional Bavarian costumes!

It rained for most of the morning and early afternoon but that didn't deter us from trying to get into one of the giant beer tents. We stood in a line with our umbrellas hoping we'd be let in; the people in line soon started pushing and shoving hoping to get closer so it looked more like a huge crowd of umbrellas rather than an actual line! It was pretty miserable actually--being wet, cold and huddled in a crowd of strangers. After two hours, we decided to give up and check out the rest of the grounds.  After walking around for a bit we decided to seek refuge in a coffee shop. It didn't take us too long to find one that had vacant chairs and soon enough we started warm up. We ended up meeting three other Americans in the cafe and had a great time.

After the rain had subsided we decided to give it another go. Rather than try to get into the beer tents, we ended up going into one of the beer gardens. We ended up sitting at a table near a Canadian group and a fellow Californian as well as a few local German men who taught us a few phrases that must be chimed loudly at Oktoberfest!

Everyone was very friendly and enjoying themselves. The rain seemed to hinder no one from enjoying the celebration. But after a while, I was getting tired and could feel a cold coming on (being outside in the rain was probably a big contributor).

After dark, we decided to head to the train station and await our next train headed to Amsterdam. We had booked an overnight train with beds! We had our own room (cabin?) with bunk beds complete with sink, towels, and breakfast in the morning. The bathroom down the hall even had a shower! It was a really great experience--if you ever get a chance to take an overnight train (with your own cabin) I would highly recommend it! This was one of our favorite traveling experiences of our trip.

See more photos here!

How long we were there: 1 1/2 days

What we did: Wandered around the city center and spent the day at Oktoberfest

What we ate: We had some great food in Munich. Dinner our first night there was amazing. We found our way to Haxnbauer thanks to the Lonely Planet guide book which highly recommended it. When we arrived there were people leaving after hearing the wait would be 30 minutes, but when we got to the front, they seated us right away! Everyone around us had large liter mugs of bear and plates filled with great looking food--sausages, potatoes, sauerkraut,etc. The large room was really warm and cozy, which was wonderful because it was getting a little colder outside. We ordered a sampler plate of sorts with thick bacon, sausage, roasted pork and potatoes. We also ordered a bottle of water which was more than the price of beer. (We didn't get a beer because we were both feeling a bit sick). The food was so delicious, it was another opportunity to over-eat and we did not disappoint!

The next day we stopped at a grocery store for breakfast - bread, yogurt, a banana and orange juice, which had been our staples ever since Rome (our other hosts didn't provide breakfast). Our lunch and dinner was a hodge-podge of things offered at Oktoberfest. We had brats, a soft pretzel, a baked potato, fry-bread pizza (of sorts) and a huge donut. We also had one large liter of beer.

Where we stayed: Here comes another story. We waited to go to the apartment we had booked until after we had dinner (yes, we wandered around the city with our huge packs on our backs). To get there, we took the metro and walked for about 20 minutes before we found someone we could ask for directions (just to verify that we were getting close). After getting more clear directions from them, we headed to the building they directed us to. It was a tall apartment complex surrounded by other apartment buildings. Someone else was headed into the same building so we followed them right in, without buzzing our host. Our host had given us the floor number, but not her apartment number, which we didn't realize until we got to the 8th floor.  After failing to make out which apartment could be hers, we decided to try knocking on one. But there was no answer so we knocked on another one. Again, no answer. We actually knocked on every single door on that floor before the last one finally opened their door (poor girl in her PJs) and told us we were in the wrong building!

We then scurried over to the building next door where we found our host's name/apartment number and buzzer. She swiftly let us in and we took a breathe of relief. (I had been growing anxious that we weren't going to find it and have to find somewhere to stay at the last minute.) Our host was an elderly lady who spoke little to no English. Her place was set up very cute, she even had chocolates on our pillows and bottled water set out for us. She couldn't remember my name so she called me "the lady." We slept really well thanks to the German brand of NyQuil we had found at a pharmacy! (Shopping for drugs in other languages is harder than I thought it would be, thankfully, the pharmacist spoke perfect English!)

How we got around: We had taken a train from Venice (via Verona) to Munich which was really lovely. Northern Italy seemed very green and flat until we went through the alps which were absolutely beautiful. In Munich we took the Metro.

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