It’s great to have technology back! After four nights camping at Thalkirchen and being at the Oktoberfest, I’m being brought to you on a train from Munich to Stuttgart to visit my aunty, uncle and cousin.
The train departed Munich (HBF) at 9:43 and a quick two hour ride north. I had to start and restart blogging when I realised after 5 minutes of organising my life that I was sitting in a reserved seat, apparently a no-no if you are just freeloading on a Eurail pass. So quickly had to find a seat that was not reserved.
Munich station was fairly easy to navigate when you’re in a rush… But those damn English-speaking tourists are still always in the way. I was lining up at the “English-speaking” counter to have my pass validated and make my inquiries as to if I could get the train that was due to depart in roughly 15 mins time.
In Sydney you can appreciate that the 15 minutes is actually a rough guide to when they might begin to think about leaving, but in Europe things run on time. But of course there had to be other tourists there needing to be explained that their train departing at 21:30 was leaving tonight and that there was no cheaper way to get from Munich to who-gives-damn. Showing my composure, I only had a whinge to the American mother-daughter traveling party that were just as anxious about getting a train in 20 minutes as their strained travelling relationship was. I cite the example of the daughter snapping at her mother that they had come from Venice and not Amsterdam (as she was saying) as if it was the intricate detail I was going to judge her story on. Moral of the scenario – don’t have kids.
Well backing up to a few days, I spent my time going to Munich on a camping weekend. Ok, that’s what I said to one person at passport control but it was easier to say I was at Oktoberfest.
So what is the Oktoberfest? As I was informed by a PP travel (they were who I was staying with) tour guide, it started when some prince through some big engagement party for his fiancé in the middle of the town and it was so enjoyable that they had to party every year. And on one occasion some brewery owner asked permission to sell beer and they’ve been drinking in large quantities ever since. And of course one year, some Australian thought this is great – a place to drink large quantities of beer, so he told his mate, who told his mate and eventually they all got drunk their too. And somewhere the kiwis and the Americans joined in… True story.
Other than a place for Australians to drink outside of their local, the Oktoberfest is a big Easter Show centred on Beer and not produce. It is amazing. And even better later in the night, if you started your day at opening (usually 9am).
German breweries like Hauf Brau and Lowenbrau that import to Australia are just as big at these festivals with their own large beer tents. A tent, isn’t like a market, it is much like a pavilion at the show, fitting in excess of 700 people at a time (maybe even more than a thousand – seated, walking around and dancing on tables – it’s what you do). Beers are delivered to your table by a Frauline (waitress) who can carry 7/8 steins of beer at a time and just as many plates of pork knuckle and half-chickens cooked in butter (both AMAZING delicacies) with a serving of potatoes or sauerkraut.
The beer hall is set up usually with rows of tables and benches organised in bays. At the centre of the hall a sort-of staged area for the band to play one song every 15 minute but lead a drinking toast every 10. Bays that sit in the middle of the tent are usually unreservedly while encompassing them are reserved areas for your more civilised eating their selection of hams and cheeses with their steins of beer. The beer is limited in selection.
It is just the brew, a Radler (a shandy or half lemonade half brew, for those that don’t like beer) and a non-alcoholic version (for those who want to appear to be drinking). A Frauline is allocated to a bench and all your orders are made through her. Tips is advised as you want them to come back. The beers are priced between €8.60 and €9.20 Euro, so you give them a €10 note. There isn’t a bar so drinks must be made through her. You get to know your waitress through the course of the day like we did. And we will be seeing if Maria follows through a drunken proposal (not me) on the first Tuesday in November next year at some location in Melbourne just before the running of the cup.
Outside the beer halls is like an amusement park. Rides, roller coasters, haunted houses and carnival games create a family friendly day out – and there are thousands of families that make a day of it. Of course a ride that flips you upside down and challenges the natural forces of gravity is what anyone that has consumed litres of grog needs. The festival usually winds down at 11pm but the drinking continued at the campsite. Just a short 15 minute shuttle bus ride just outside the city.
Other than the Oktoberfest, I made a day trip to the concentration camp in Dachau. I found out that I had been there before on my last trip to Contiki but walked around the site to places I had never been.
And from Dachau up to the Andechs beer monastery – where monks brew beer on a hill overlooking the countryside. Their dunkel (dark beer) was amazing, so was the pork belly I had there! On one other day I strolled into town, but of course it was a Sunday and things in Europe close on a Sunday. So for all the doubters, I did other things than sit in a beer hall.
Next leg of my trip is winging it around Europe on my 8 day Eurail pass. The weather in Munich was superb. No rain, sunny and t-shirt wearing hot days. Sun up quite early (around 6:30 and not setting until past 7). The only time it got cold was late at night… And to the American that was having a whinge about that, you’re camping!! It’s no ones fault that no one emailed you with a heads up might be a bit cold sleeping outside at night in a European autumn.
Until my next location. I’m out.