European Adventure: Munich and Oktoberfest

Munich has more to offer than you could ever imagine

About three weeks ago now I set off on a trip that was really special to me for a bunch of different reasons. Firstly, I would be taking my first ever solo international flight. And on top of that I would be spending a good day a 1/2 in Munich all by my lonesome, and I was a bit nervous, to say the least. I wasn’t sure how I would end up reacting to that. Here in the city I never go out to dinner by myself. I never see movies by myself or get a drink all alone. Would I be able to pull myself out of my comfort zone and actually leave the room, by myself, in Munich?

Turns out, I learned a lot on this trip about myself. Firstly, taking an international flight all by your lonesome is totally easy—if not pleasant. When you’re with someone on a flight, depending on who said person is, you’re always left wondering how much of a conversation you’re going to have to make. Can you sleep when you want to? What if I just want to listen to my music or read my book or watch the same show on the free in-flight television over and over again? The only time that you can truly do all of this without any worry is when you’re by yourself.

And then, when you actually get to your destination, you alone are in charge of your itinerary. Feeling a big jet lagged and want to take a nap, even though you just arrived in this fantastic new place? No worries. Want to take a shower to wash off the plane before you head out into the bright new world you’re about to discover? No worries, take your time.

All of that was fantastic. The thing that I did miss, however, was the ability to share in the fantasticness with someone. When I arrived at the airport in Munich and heard the German announcements and saw the lederhosen and dirndls (yup, even in the airport), I was ecstatic. I was in MUNICH! And yet, there was no one to share in the excitement with. I remembered arriving in Heathrow with Stephanie back in May and how excited we had been. It’s great to be able to take in a new surrounding with someone. That part I really missed.

For the rest of it, though, there wasn’t a single thing negative I can say about it. In the end I totally made it out of my gorgeous hotel (after the jet lag nap and shower), and ended up discovering quite a bit on my own that first day:

Heading to Marienplatz, or the town center

The fantastic open air markets in the town center
Advertising in Munich=lots of pretzels and beer
Beer garden haven

After a Friday afternoon and evening discovering bits of Munich by myself, I headed over to the Deutsche Museum on a rainy Saturday morning. Thanks to my handy-dandy Foder’s Munich travel book I know that if you were to spend just 1 minute checking out every single exhibit in this amazing museum, it would take you over 300 days to get through everything. Anything you can think of—physics, automobiles, flight, kites, shipping, planets, animals…you name it, there was something in the Deutsches Museum pertaining to that subject. I even took in a planetarium show—in German. Can’t say I learned a lot from that, but it was pretty amazing.

After spending a good 6 hours in the museum I headed over to my first hotel, Hotel Advokat, (I seriously recommend this hotel, absolutely everything about it was great. The rooms were tiny, but super clean and very nice—and the breakfast, which is included in your hotel fee, is absolutely on par with any restaurant breakfast you’ll get) to pick up my stuff and make the walk to our second hotel, Novotel Munchen City, where Carla would be meeting me in the afternoon.

I’d like to take some credit (any credit, really) for the hotel bookings, because both hotels were pretty great. Perfect locations, perfect prices, nice people, the whole shebang—but really, that was all Carla. Luckily this friend of mine does a lot of traveling in Europe and had been to Munich many a time before, so she was a bit aware of what we would need and want out of a hotel, and she did a great job picking them. (Also, we booked in February. Prices were drastically more expensive the closer it got to Oktoberfest, so who knows if we could have afforded the same hotels had we booked at a later month).

So Saturday night Carla and I met up and took a walk through the town center again to find a place for dinner. Being that Germans aren’t exactly known for their vegetarian fare, we ended up at an Italian restaurant, which was just as fab. It was also the site of my first ever “mass” beer:

Just trust me my friends when I tell you—it was nowhere near as delicious as it looks. I honestly don’t even know what type of beer it was, but let’s just say I had much better at later times in the trip, thank God.

After dinner Carla decided she could navigate our way to the Oktoberfest grounds, which she did very well (despite my teasing her whenever we would take a wrong turn here or there). What we found at the Oktoberfest grounds around 9:30 on that Saturday night was not for the faint of heart:

It had been raining for the majority of the day on Saturday, and the tents open around 11 a.m., so you can only imagine what thousands of drunken people can do to a campground by 9:30 at night. Still, despite the fact that it was muddy and we couldn’t get into a beer tent because they were all full and we were being groped by drunken men, I’d still say that Carla and I were happy to have at least seen the place lit up (neither of us knew that Oktoberfest is basically one big, huge fair ground with food and rides and games, and interspersed with 20 or so humongous beer tents).

So we stayed for a while and then headed back to the hotel, intent on starting over early in the morning and making it into a tent and having a fabulous time at Oktoberfest on Sunday before we headed off into the night on our train to Salzburg for our day trip. And that’s what we did:

Lowenbrau tent

Kiss, Yes! Cigarettes? No!
Prost! Drink! Yes! Cigarettes? No!
The first group we sat next to—the Italians

Part of the second group we sat next to—13 British boys on a bachelor party
The beloved pretzel lady who passed out the biggest pretzels you’ve ever seen in your life
the band

Oktoberfest is, in a nutshell, unlike anything else I’ve experienced anywhere. After our experience on Saturday night I was a little worried that it would just be one big drunken madhouse (which, to some extent, it was), and that Carla and I would have to be worried and on edge the entire time we were there—but it wasn’t one bit like that. At all. We met the most amazing and friendly people. We sang German drinking songs and danced in the aisles in between beer and pretzels. We screamed “Prost!” with thousands of others in our tent and cheered to everyone and everything. No one fought. No one was gross. The boys were all lovely (no, really!). I have decided that Munich is a place I could find myself living some day. And although my trip in Munich was short (only two and 1/2 days), I long for more of Munich, and I hope to get back there some day very soon.

But Sunday night found me pulling Carla away from the adoring Brits as we made our way back to the hotel (the second hotel in as many nights for me), to get our bags, grab a cab and head to our train to Salzburg.

But I’ll do Salzburg in another entry, because it certainly deserves that.

Until then, bis bald friends!

In Honor of Oktoberfest…

Oh Oktoberfest—here I come!

Well, my friends, tomorrow is the day of all days—the day that I’m heading off to Munich for Oktoberfest. So, in honor of the big trip, let’s do a little bit of research on the history of the festive event:

  • Oktoberfest is a 16-to-18-day festival held every year in Munich. It runs from late September to the first weekend in October, and it is one of the most famous events in Germany, and the world’s largest fair, with approximately six million people attending every year.
  • The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese, often called Wiesn for short, which is located near Munich’s centre South East of the main train station.
  • At the festival, participants eat Hendi (chicken), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (pork knuckle), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Wursti (sausage), Brezn (pretzels), Knodel (potato or bread pancakes), Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage), among other (a bit odd) things.
  • The original Oktoberfest occurred in Munich on October 12, 1810. It was part of a public horse race commemorating the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hidburghausen. It was so successful it was renewed in 1811.
  • Since 1950 there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry “o’ zapft is!” meaning “It’s tapped!”. The Mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria.
  • Horse races ended in 196o (that’s a shame!)
  • By 1960, the Oktoberfest festival had turned into an enormous world-famous festival. Since then, foreigners (such as myself) began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl (which, by the way, I wore when I was born in Germany).

Bis bald, friends!

Munich Subway Madness

In anticipation of my first ever solo trip to another country [yes, I know. Technically I can’t really consider it solo if I will only be alone for a little over 24 hours, but still…], I’ve spent the past two hours studying my Fodor’s ‘Munich’s 25 Best’ book, its maps, the subway…everything. And seriously—I’m getting pretty excited about it all. I’ve mapped out the route from the airport to the hotel, and then from the hotel to where I will start my walking tour for the day. And in honor of my new-found independence, let’s all marvel at the subway map that I figured out all on my lonesome:

It's not so scary when you stare at it for two hours

Bis bald, my friends!