Obelix, Oktoberfest and the big 3-0

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 28, 2009

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 1 – Saturday September 19th – The train from Salzburg only took a couple of hours and Witek and I had a little cabin to ourselves for the journey. He slept and I blogged but we both had trouble understanding the announcements due to the heavy German accent of the conductor. We arrived at one stop and heard the word 'Munchen' which is the German pronunciation of Munich and we couldn’t work out if it was our stop or not! So I raced off the train and down the platform to the conductor to find out where on earth we were! Turned out we were in Munich East so just as well I asked!

When we arrived in Munich there were hundred and hundreds of people at the train station, it was the first day of Oktoberfest after all! We were amazed at all the people dressed in German costume! One of the girls on our Top Deck tour had told me to get a costume but I had no idea that I would be the odd one out if I didn’t!

We had to get a train and then a bus to our accommodation. We were staying a short bus ride out of the city as all decent clean accommodation in Munich doubles in price during Oktoberfest. We were only about 3km from the city but the difference in price for one night’s equivalent accommodation in the city centre was about 100 euro!

I was very keen on this place because of the two dogs they owned anyway, they have Obelix a Bernese Mountain Dog, and Terry a Newfoundland.

On the bus we were unsure which stop to get off at and while we were discussing whether to get off at a particular stop a voice from behind us told us we had the right stop. Turned out we had been sitting in front of their next door neighbour so that was fortunate!

Inside we met Jan, who is one of the owners, and he showed us to our room and invited us to come downstairs for a beer when we were settled. We had the attic room which was really big and comfortable.

Downstairs we sat with Jan at the outside table and he got us a beer each while we talked about Obelix. He had been for a knee operation which hadn’t worked, and they had determined at the end of it that he actually had a tumour. Jan and his wife Fatima had been doing everything they could for him, Fatima even went to Brazil to purchase a natural treatment that they hoped would help, but he was just getting worse.

I was heartbroken, I had read all about Obelix on Trip Advisor and how friendly and energetic he is, so to see him suffering like this was horrible. He just lay there looking miserable for most of the time we were there.

We sat and talked outside with Jan for a while until Witek and I decided that we should start thinking about dinner. It was getting close to 6:30pm so Jan gave us directions to a local restaurant and we went upstairs to change and we headed off. We briefly met Fatima on the way out too as she had gotten home from work. I had communicated quite a bit via email with her, but it was obvious tonight that her mind was completely on Obelix.

We found the place for dinner and it was as traditionally German as you could imagine. So traditional that they had no menu with an English translation! Witek and I looked blankly at all the items on the menu, recognizing only a few words such as ‘schnitzel’ and ‘bratwurst’. The rest was a mystery and we had a bit of a laugh making up our own ideas as to what the mystery items might be! Even thought we understood ‘schnitzel’, what type of schnitzel it might be was anyone’s guess!

The waitress knew a little bit of English so we managed to order some things that sounded relatively safe, but we weren’t too impressed. The food was like what you might get at a cheap counter meal at a pub, but this wasn’t cheap!

When we got back to our accommodation Jan and Fatima offered us another beer each, which we found difficult to say no to of course! We sat down to chat and probably spent an hour with them. I also had a chance to sit with Obelix and give him lots of pats while we were talking. I may have mentioned this before but we have fallen in love with the Bernese Mountain Dog while in Europe and we want to get one next time we get a dog.

Fatima is passionate about her animals as much as I am so we had a lot of stories to share. We genuinely like Fatima and Jan and it breaks my heart when I think of what they are going through. Such a hard situation. They don’t want  to put him down as he doesn’t seem to be in pain and they still have hope, but it is hard to watch him just lie there. Obviously this all had quite an effect on us while we were there, there were a few tears on my part, that’s for sure!

We also briefly met a couple of other guests at the house before bed, an Australian couple who I would guess were in their late 50’s and a Canadian couple probably in their late 40’s. Both seemed nice but we would get to speak with them more at breakfast.

Day 2 – Sunday 20th September – We were up for brekky this morning at 9am and made our way downstairs. I was apprehensive as I didn’t want to be met with bad news, so I was relieved to find Obelix lying awake on the mat in the lounge room.

The breakfast spread was awesome! Different breads and meats, fruits, cereals, yoghurt, tea, coffee, juice, Jan even made you scrambled eggs with bacon if you wanted them! Yum!

We really enjoyed breakfast as it gave us a chance to chat to the other guests as well as Jan. We liked the Australian couple, particularly when we discovered they were Bombers supporters!

Both couples had been to Oktoberfest the day before and said it was a bit crazy and really hard to find a seat, so they recommended going the next day instead of today as it would be a Monday and a lot of locals would be going back to work.

We took their advice and decided to go watch the parade instead, Jan had told us about it and said that the Sunday parade was actually better than the opening one on the Saturday. We thought that afterwards we would just go for a wander around and see the sights of the city.

We got off the train in the city centre and exited right at the base of the Glockenspiel at 12pm! There were people everywhere, all looking up to watch the colourful musical display! I have never seen anything like it, it was very cute seeing all these little characters spinning around and dancing. Unfortunately I had forgotten to put my memory card back in my camera, so the only footage we have is courtesy of my mobile phone – not great!

We walked up to watch the parade after this and I think we missed the first half of it but we still enjoyed the floats and marchers that we saw. The entire parade was supposed to go for a couple of hours but we were happy with the hour that we saw.

We found a little place for lunch after this where we only needed something light after the huge breakfast!

After the early starts we had been having and both still not being 100% well we were both a bit tired at this stage, so we went back to our accommodation to have an afternoon nap and pick up my memory card! We both needed it, we were even struggling to stay awake on the train back! We decided to nap for a couple of hours and then go back into town to see the sights and have dinner.

The nap was lovely! It had been a while and it was just what we needed to refresh ourselves for a late afternoon sightseeing trek!

We decided to get off the train at Central Station as there was a tourist office there and we needed a new map. I also had heard a whisper that there might have been some shops open there on Sundays (everywhere else is shut) and I was hopeful of finally finding some Birkys!

At the station we struggled to find the tourist office and when we finally did there was a frowning woman guarding the door as they had just closed. We asked if we could just get a map to which she responded ‘stay outside’ quite sternly. We asked her again if we could just get a map and she kept repeating ‘say outside’ while looking at us like she wanted to push us over!

Witek was getting frustrated and quietly, so was I, and then she just walked off! I finally cottoned on that she was going to get us a map. I was a bit annoyed though, how hard is it to add the words ‘I will get you one’ to the end of ‘stay outside?’, so I made a point of telling her this. My patience with people who work in tourism is rather thin, if you don’t like it and can’t be nice then you shouldn’t be in the business. I am learning that most Europeans have not yet worked this out.

Map in hand we headed off for the English Garden which we had heard some good things about. On our way from the station we passed a shop at the exit selling Bavarian Costumes. We both paused and looked as they were selling full costumes for 79 euro. I thought it was a waste of money, but Witek thought it would be fun for me to have one for my birthday at Oktoberfest so I agreed to try one on.

We found a black and red one in my size and went and tried it on. I came out to show Witek and he thought I looked ‘cute’. Hmmm. The salesgirl came over and she didn’t speak much English but she decided I needed a different coloured apron and went about selecting a white one for me. It did look better and I was suddenly swept up in the fun of the idea, so next thing we knew we were exiting the shop with Bavarian costume in hand!

We slowly wandered through the city after this, admiring the sights and making our way gradually to the English Garden on the other side. It is apparently the largest public garden in Europe and the Australians at our accommodation had told us it was really pretty and that there was a restaurant in the middle of it. Seeing as it was technically already my birthday in Australia I thought that it would be a nice idea for dinner.

Next to the garden there is another smaller park with a rotunda in the middle. There was a lot of activity over there so we went to take a look and found about 30 or more couples dancing to 20’s style music in the middle of the rotunda! It was very cool! I think they were some sort of group as a lot of women had flowers in their hair, but there were some people there who had obviously just joined in when passing by.

We watched them for a while then made our way over to the big garden and started to make our way through. Somewhere we went off track (how unusual!) and we found ourselves at the main road again, but we were also at a river crossing. Here, there was a kind of rise in the river base and it was creating an artificial continuous wave and there were people surfing it! We were fascinated! They would take it in turns to jump in and ride the wave, do any tricks they wanted to and then jump off into the river behind. It looked very dangerous and we saw a couple of people nearly hit their head on the concrete side of the river, but they obviously loved it! We couldn’t believe it and found it hard to tear ourselves away.

We eventually continued our walk through the park just admiring our surroundings. It was really beautiful and reminded me a bit of home to have a park in the city like that.

It started to get dark and nature was calling so unfortunately we didn’t make it the whole way to the middle of the park and that restaurant, but we managed to find one a couple of streets away that seemed really nice. It was on one of the main traffic streets going into the city and it had their version of the Arc de Triumph at the end of it. Very pretty! They had lots of tables out the front all with little candles too.

We sat and ate dinner there and we had a few drinks to celebrate my birthday, finished with an Irish Coffee for me and some sort of rum tea for Witek! Weird. This guy came up to try and promote a German magazine to us and we got chatting. When he learned we were from Australia he wondered why Witek was there drinking tea instead of drinking beer at Oktoberfest, so I pointed the rum out. Obviously not common in Germany either!

From here we caught the train home, we were feeling a bit tipsy after our celebrations so catching the train was fun. I was singing Missy Higgins the whole way home and we also were able to grab a beer to take on the train with us at our first station. Only in Munich!

When we arrived home we stayed up for a short while to chat with Jan and Fatima. Obelix still wasn’t much better but he had eaten some meatballs. When we came home he had meatballs in front of him that he hadn’t eaten yet, but as soon as he saw us he ate them because he was scared that we would steal them from him!

Day 3 – Monday 21st September – 30 years old for me today! – We awoke early to a knock on our door. I groggily awoke and answered the door to Jan holding his phone out to me. Turned out Donna had called their phone to wish me a happy birthday! I thought this was very nice of her, a lovely surprise!

It was a beautiful day, which I was happy about of course. I was glad to be away from Adelaide on my birthday for only one reason, and that was that they had absolutely rubbish weather by the sounds of it!

Downstairs we joined the diminished crowd at breakfast, it was only the Australian couple left and they were leaving that day. I was all dressed up in my Bavarian costume and Jan bought out an improvised birthday cake for me – a muffin on top of a cheesecake. Very cute! So everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and I was a little embarrassed but flattered at the same time. I may have cried a little.

We had a lovely breakfast talking football with the Australian couple (I wish I could remember their names!) and it was a great start to the day. I made sure I had scrambled eggs today as I knew I needed my sustenance!

When we went out to the bus stop later there were the Australians! They were leaving for Salzburg that day, so we ended up riding the public transport system most of the way with them. I really did like them so I may try and look them up when we go to Melbourne to watch the Bombers next.

I had been really worried about dressing up and finding I was the only one to do so, I thought maybe people only dressed up on the weekend! I needn’t have worried though, there were plenty of costumes everywhere, Witek was left out without one! But I looked really cute (Witek has insisted I add that into my blog).

When we arrived it was kind of overwhelming. It is an amazing place! There are the huge beer tents obviously, but then there are rides and food stalls as well. It’s kind of like the Adelaide Show but with a dozen or so beer tents added on to the back of it. These beer tents are huge, they hold thousands of people in each one, the biggest one, the Haufbrau, holds about 12,000. Imagine the Adelaide Show with 12 extra pavilions full of drunk Germans and tourists and you start to get the idea.

We walked about for a bit investigating a few tents. I had seen photos of the Hippodrom on the internet and it looked very bright and colourful so I wanted to go there. We had also heard that a lot of Aussies go to the Haufbrau House so we wanted to check that out at some stage too.

You can reserve tables at Oktoberfest in the tents, but you have to have a group. So when you go in as just a couple, you have to pick your spot carefully. All the tables have signs on them to say what time they are reserved from, so you try to find a table that is reserved for a time long after you plan on being there.

We went in to the Hippodrom about 11am and found a table upstairs that wasn’t reserved until 3pm and sat down. We had a good spot where we could see everything happening down below, and we were close to the bar so we wouldn’t be forgotten!

We were surprised to find it is table service there. I knew you couldn’t get served unless you had a table, but I thought that they would have some other system in place. I didn’t think they would have enough staff to cater to table service for 10,000 people – evidently they did! The waiting staff would carry up to 10 or more 1 litre steins at a time and they moved very quickly.

We had two pretty cool waiters, very chatty and friendly and very attentive. They checked on us quite regularly to make sure we didn’t need anything. Witek and I enjoyed sitting there soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying our 1 litre beers and eating from our German anti pasto platter. Very interesting!

After about an hour four people came and sat at our table. They were a young girl called Verena, her dad Peter and a couple who were friends of Peter’s. None of them spoke English except Verena but we had a ball drinking and chatting with them. Verena translated where necessary, but we got the message across that it was my birthday so they all sang for me. Happy Birthday must be pretty universal! The only other word that we really needed to know was ‘Prost!’ which is German for ‘cheers’! I think we said ‘prost’ at a rate of once every two minutes practically!

Not long after they sat down the German band started up. They were set up on the second level on a podium practically in the middle of the room. They all marched down the stairs to their podium and stood in a line, 1 litre stein each in their hands. There was a drum roll and they all commenced throwing back their beers – I swear they each knocked off a litre of beer within 30 seconds, maybe faster! I couldn’t believe it! Then they played!

The mood was great, the songs were all in German and we couldn’t understand most of them, but we still got into the swing. It was hard not to! The place started to fill up and the atmosphere was great. The tent was really colourful, the staff friendly, music fun and the company great!

About 2pm our group said they were going to go to another tent, when all of a sudden there was a change in the band. This large man in a cheesy outfit came out on stage with two blond girls in silver sequined dresses. Verena stopped and said that this guy was apparently a big pop star and so they decided to stay and watch him for a while instead. It made no difference to us, if I shut my eyes he sounded just like the German band that had been on earlier!

We decided to go down to the Hofbrau tent at about 2:30pm, I was getting pretty tipsy and thought I needed some air. I also wanted to meet some Aussies to celebrate my birthday with. So we said goodbye to our new German friends and made our way down there.

The ground level was pretty busy but we could see lots of room upstairs so we made our way up there. We found a table unreserved until 5pm and took a seat, it was a similar spot to where we were in the Hippodrom. We watched the crowd below us and I think most of them were Aussies.

The way the Hofbrau Tent is set up there are tables in the middle section which are surrounded by other tables in the outer section. The outer tables are reserved and I think the tables in the middle are a free-for-all.

At 3pm we heard these whistles start blowing and all of a sudden the outer area filled with security guards clearing people off of the tables. Again, I think most of the people were Aussies based on the number of AFL gurnseys and shirts I saw down there. The guards were very abrupt, waving their hands and blowing their whistles, is was a bizarre sight. I think it took them about 10 minutes to clear everyone out of there.

We stayed for a couple of drinks at the Hofbrau Tent and then we decided to go. I had had enough and wanted to get out and see more of the city – and maybe find some Birkenstocks! I also didn’t want to stay there all day and get completely written off.

We walked through the city and in to a few shops looking for Birkies, and finally I found the ones I had been looking for! Only to realize that they weren’t right for me, they didn’t stay on my feet properly. Turned out that now I was after the ones with the backstrap that we had been able to find plenty of before, but could find any of them now that I wanted them! Nevermind. I didn’t want to spend too much time looking for them today and I wanted to do fun stuff!

Keep in mind this whole time I was still walking around in my Baavarian costume – never thought I would see the day when I went shopping looking like that!

It was getting close to dinnertime now and of course I wanted to go somewhere nice. I had heard there was a restaurant opposite the Glockenspiel which overlooked it and the square below, so we checked it out.

It was really nice and had a good menu but it didn’t open until 7pm and it was only about 6:15pm so we went next door to their bar and had a couple of cocktails first. Yum!

Dinner was really nice, we ordered three courses but ended up cancelling dessert as we were both so full! It was ‘normal’ food not fatty German rubbish and we really enjoyed it.

After dinner we went back to Oktoberfest to check out the night scene. We both had big bottles of water which we would have to throw out if we wanted to go in, so we took it in turns to go in to the Hippodrom and check it out and see if we wanted to stay.

I went in first and it was CRAZY!! There were people everywhere!! I don’t know how anyone was getting a drink as there were people on chairs, people on tables and people like me just standing around watching all the commotion. 80% of people we singing and swaying and it blew me away. So many drunk people! It was a completely different energy from earlier in the day, it was much messier! I didn’t want to stay, I don’t think we could have got a seat anyway! But I went out and gave Witek a turn to go in and have a look.

While he was inside I noticed a guy in a Hawks t-shirt who I had seen first thing that morning. This morning he was walking around normally and now he was taking 3 steps in each sideways direction before he took one forwards. I was glad we had left before I had gotten like that!

Witek came out of the tent and he was as amazed as I was.  Neither of us wanted to stay so we went and got the train home. It was almost 11pm and was exhausted after our early start anyway.

Back at our accommodation Jan was still up though Fatima was out working. We got an update on Obelix and Jan told us they had a vet coming the next day for a second opinion. We were hopeful that he would bring some good news for them.

All in all I had a very enjoyable 30th birthday, though nothing would have beat the celebration I had at the Palais with my friends and family before we left. The costume was pretty cool tho!
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