Munich. Was. A. BLAST! My mom’s side of the family, the Lichtenauers, are from Bavaria, the southern region of Germany of which Munich is the capital, so I was excited to finally visit my “homeland,” so to speak. We arrived on Saturday, September 19. Why is this important? Because it just so happened to be the first day of Oktoberfest 2009! As a result, we canceled the bierhaus dinner we had scheduled in favor of spending the evening at the festival. It was our only day/night in Munich, so I do want to go back someday and explore more of the city itself, but I’m so glad it worked out this way!
Greg, Andrew, and I took a brief walk through the old town before hopping the train to the fairgrounds. During that hour or so, we saw the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel, in the Marienplatz (Mary’s Plaza)…
…and the Hofbräuhaus, a well-known beer hall. The Nazi party used to hold functions there.
I also spotted a couple bakery windows full of mouthwatering Bavarian sweet treats.
We strolled down the main shopping drag, where I made a fun purchase at a department store (you’ll see), and then boarded the train. It was still light out when we arrived at Oktoberfest.
I’m not exactly sure what I imagined it would be like (I’m not sure I ever imagined it at all, actually), but the setup came as a surprise to me. There were the massive beer halls, yes, but it was also an amusement park! It was like Worlds of Fun (which is our park in Kansas City) or Six Flags, but on crack. The picture above was taken at the entrance, but once inside, the whole entire park was practically standing room only. I’ve never seen that many people packed into a place like that, where everyone’s on the move but it’s half-impossible to move at all!
We walked around for 30 minutes or so before meeting our group at the Augustiner beerhouse, where they had thankfully secured a hard-to-come-by table on the patio. Ah, seeing this make me miss these people so much!
Just before that, I had gone to the restroom and (after a 20+ minute wait) changed into my new…dirndl! A dirndl is a traditional alpine-peasant-style dress worn in south Germany and Austria, consisting of a bodice, blouse, skirt, and apron. It’s the outfit you’d picture on a stereotypical German beer wench. After considering a black-white-and-red one, I’d selected a super-girly purple-pink-and-white one. I love it! Once I was properly attired, I fulfilled a promise I’d made both to friends back home and to my traveling companions—I drank some beer. See, I don’t like beer, but I’d always vowed to try it in Germany someday. Wouldn’t you know, you could only order it by the liter. Some of those Amazonian waitresses could carry six of these huge glasses at a time!
Oy! It was definitely better than beer in the U.S.; it’s preservative-free by law, was less carbonated, and didn’t have a nasty aftertaste. But even though I put forth my best effort, I could only get through half a liter. I’m still a liquor girl in the end. Isis and Rhi, however, were each able to drink quite a bit more than me!
Greg and I decided to take a break from the packed patio…
…and the oceans of beer being consumed. I have to give a shout-out to Jason here and mention that he drank NINE of these monsters!
I bought an apple fritter for a snack—a circular apple slice that was battered, fried, and dusted in cinnamon sugar. Mmm!
Greg and I took two shots of Jaegermeister apiece, then went exploring.
There were innumerable merchandise booths where you could buy snacks and souvenirs such as steins, glassware, Oktoberfest gear, clothing, jewelry, pretzels, candied nuts, and these popular gingerbread cookie necklaces. Greg bought me one with frosting that matched my dirndl.
We stopped twice more for two more shots of Jaeger apiece before reaching the far corner of the grounds. There, we rode an awesome mini roller coaster (twice!). Here we are before the first ride, pretending to be scared.
Then we rode the Ferris Wheel, since I’d never been on one. It was more boring/slow than I’d thought, but the view from the top made it totally worth it.
This guy is awesome. That is all.
We turned around and took a different route back, stopping twice more for two more shots of Jaeger apiece. Upon returning to the Augustiner, we discovered our group had gone. Uh-oh! Things were wrapping up all over the park, in fact. This gave us the opportunity to finally get a look inside one of the beer halls. They’d been so packed throughout that they wouldn’t allow any more people in. The interior was more impressive than I’d thought, with extravagant chandeliers hanging over dozens and dozens of long tables.
We walked out the other side and allowed the swell of the crowd to guide us to the exit. Along the way, I had one more snack—a cup of sliced bananas studded with chunks of white chocolate, drizzled with chocolate syrup, and topped with a dollop of thickly whipped cream. Oh man, it was so good.
One thing I’d noticed throughout was that despite how completely plastered many of the people were, everyone was friendly, jolly, and affable. I didn’t see anyone acting aggressive, belligerent, or destructive (though I did see a few people fall over or pass out drunk!). All the way out of the park, down the escalators, and into the trains (which were free all evening), whole hordes of people would spontaneously break out in song, and everyone (excluding the poor girl sitting across from us who threw up in a plastic baggie) was smiling, laughing, and chatting like old friends.
After riding the train to the bus station and finally finding the right bus back to the hotel, I went to bed with a big grin on my face, and slept as soundly as could be. I love Oktoberfest! I love Munich! I love Germany!
Next, we do a little more sightseeing in Bavaria, then weave in and out of Germany on our way to Switzerland.