Dirndls and Dachau

Trip Start Aug 31, 2009
Trip End Jan 08, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This weekend Alex and I were lucky enough to head to southern Germany to Munich for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest. We took the German Rail train Friday morning (an experience in itself) and after checking in to our apartment Friday afternoon decided to head to the Augustiner Brewery for dinner, a restaurant that came highly recommended by Fodor's. Although it was a bit of a walk it was completely worth it. Al and I shared a plate of pigs knuckle, suckling pig, breast of duck, cabbage, and some sort of potato dumpling. I had none of the pigs knuckle (it sounds and looks icky!) But apparently it was fabulous, I LOVED the suckling pig until I realized that baby suckling pig is a pig: (, and the duck was delicious. I am not a huge fan of traditional German food but this was amazing. Of course we tried a few of the beers on tap all brewed on the premises, my favorite was the Weissbeir (white beer), Alex's favorite beer was whatever came in the huge one beer steins plus liter. Finally we enjoyed some apple strudel (you guessed it, apple strudel), I had a religious experience with the custard cream it came floating in. Mmmmm. We also may have stolen two of the corn liter beer steins ... maybe. Arguably the most interesting part of our experience at Augustine was the fact that smaller parties (four people or less) were sat together at one of the many tables with bench seating. We had the chance to share our meal with a very interesting woman named Annie who currently lives in London but is originally from Texas. At the end of the meal she offered Alex and I a place to stay in London, should we ever want to visit. Amazing. I think the friendliness and hospitality of the people of Europe tends to throw off Americans We were initially skeptical of our landlord who offered to pick us up from the airport and subsequently gave us more help than we could have ever asked for, but I'm learning that's just the way Europeans are. It's a pity more Americans are not like this, it's even more of a shame that we were leery of this help at first.
On Saturday we woke up and took the Metro to the Marienplatz, which is Munich's bustling city center. I almost fell off the escalator coming up from the Metro station gawking at the beautiful, enormous Rathaus (town hall) that was slowly coming into view. We had arrived in the city center just in time to see the Oktoberfest parade going through. I had goosebumps town being in the presence of a festival that is such a big deal for the people of Bavaria. I thought Berlin had some amazing architecture but it is nothing compared to Munich. My jaw dropped as we wandered through the city center in search of breakfast, every building is just so beautiful. After breakfast at a little market we headed to Oktoberfest which did not officially start until noon Saturday. I anticipated seeing some 14 beer tents and food vendors, but Oktoberfest was not at all what I expected. Not only does everyone dress up in lederhosen and dirndl (I felt a little under dressed, in fact) but it is a huge festival appropriate for all ages. There were amazing carnival rides as far as the eye could see, all the varieties of food you could imagine, souvenir shops on every corner, it seemed like the beer tents were just on afterthought. At noon when the mayor tapped the first keg and declared the official start of Oktoberfest all came alive, started rides, beer tents opened, of the fairgrounds and the population doubled in size. We decided to scope out only Oktoberfest now and come back later in the day, we had something else we wanted to experience today.
In the early afternoon we decided to take a guided tour of Dachau Concentration Camp, which is about 30 minutes outside of Munich. Even though it added a somber element to our trip we both felt it was important to see. I learned so much about this dark part of history, and even though at times I felt like I would be sick, I'm glad we went. I learned that Dachau was the first "model" camp opened during the Nazi regime and was open all 12 years that Hitler was in power. I learned that the prisoners received special patches on their uniforms, not necessarily for identification, but to create such Infighting among prisoners that they would never all gang up on the guards and revolt. I learned that by the time American soldiers liberated the camp so many prisoners had been murdered there were just piles of dead bodies everywhere because their crematorium could not keep up It is hard to believe atrocities like this happened a few decades ago ... it's hard to believe atrocities like this are STILL happening in other parts of the world. Check out our pictures from Dachau for more info.
At the end of the day Saturday we felt like we should go back to Oktoberfest and at least ride the giant ferris wheel and maybe get a chocolate-covered strawberry and banana skewer (oh yes, it WAS delicious). "Oktoberfest was a little rowdier at night and I was so glad we chose to wear closed-toed shoes as broken beer glasses covered the walkways. We did not even attempt to get into a beer tent, we knew they were all full, but we did find a beer garden so we could officially say we had a beer at Oktoberfest. I do not feel like we experienced Oktoberfest to it's fullest (particularly since we did not go on the giant swings - Alex was being a baby:) I ' d love to go back again someday.
On Sunday we decided to take a little later train so we could have a few extra hours in Munich. We chose to have breakfast at an outdoor restaurant in the middle of the Marienplatz, the menu was all in German so I just randomly ordered one of the breakfasts and hoped for the best (do not worry, it turned out to be fruit, bread, and meat, it was yummy). Then we went to The Hunting and Fishing Museum (my choice, obviously:) for a few hours. After that it was off to the train station and headed back to Berlin. I am so glad we took the train, we got to see the smaller towns in Germany. It seemed like every town had a beautiful cathedral in its center and of course the most aesthetically pleasing architecture you could ask for. I also noticed lots of farmland, pumpkin patches, corn fields and, at times I had a hard time telling the difference between Canada and Montana.
Overall we absolutely loved Munich, the people were friendly, The sights were beautiful, and it left us wanting more which can only mean one thing - we'll have to make another trip to Munich before we come home to the U.S. :)
P.S. Alex got a job as a freelance English Educator, hooray! He will expand on this in his next blog entry.
 P.P.S. Our blog doesn't let us decide what order our pictures appear in, we apologize for the inappropriate order.
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