OUR Munchen Beer Festival

Trip Start Mar 22, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Had been in touch with our friends Kat and Henning about possibly joining us at the beer festival since it was close-ish to where they are. Kat contacted us and let us know that due to renovations, they would have to work late into the afternoon and probably wouldn’t make it (we know how that is, renovations never respect time boundaries or plans). Since they weren’t coming, and we were all the way in Munich, and the weather was looking a bit dicey after some overnight rain, we decided to possibly give the beer festival in Hallertau a go tomorrow, and do some Munchen site seeing today (with of course the inclusion of Munchen beer halls - the reason Munchen is so famous. Its not for the art, the dark Nazi history or being a centre of cultural excellence - its Oktoberfest and beer related festivals! Come on, admit it -  everyone thinks of Oktoberfest first when someone mentions Munich).

Got on the metro which was only about 10 minute walk from our campingplatz and it was quick and easy 5 or 6 stops to the centre of town. Started off on the Lonely Planet walking tour. We got off the train at Marienplatz, and started at the first stop on the tour - Michaelskirche. There were thousands and thousands of people out today (Saturday), and it took a bit of negotiating space through the crowd. The church would have been magnificent I imagine - unfortunately it was completely covered by scaffolding and hessian. There seems to be so much building, restoration or repairs going on around all of these major international attractions - you have to give them credit that they have put the image of Michaelskirche on the material covering the church but it really does take away an awful lot of the magic that would otherwise accompany being there. It was a beautiful sunny day, which was different to how it looked as though it would turn out this morning (we packed jumpers and raincoats). Deciding that I needed to remove a long-sleeved layer, we went to the next spot on the walking tour which was, conveniently the Augustiner-Grossgaststatte. We sat at a table after wandering through the sprawling expanse of rooms and gardens trying to find a table which wasn’t set (apparently it is a cardinal sin to sit at a set table if you aren’t intending on eating). Ordered a couple of brews and I went to get rid of a layer. On the way, a couple of very delectable looking pork knuckles and sausage platters went past held high up on dirndl-wearing waitresses shoulders, and the wafting smell from the kitchens was all a bit much to bear. We ended up ordering a wurst platter and a pork knuckle (which was delicious, but disappointingly only a part of pork knuckle, not the whole thing - we‘ve become pork knuckle snobs). It was actually a brilliant place for people watching - watching the food that local people were eating, and the big family gatherings that were happening on the long bench seated tables. The tourists are also funny to watch - kids obviously straight off the Contiki buses pulling in, quickly downing 3 of the biggest beers they can get (but with no previous tolerance - I have no problem with people that can hold their alcohol), and then stumbling out making big gooses of themselves. The beer hall is full of huge wooden tables, some antlers and hunting trophies on the walls, and enormous bars with walls just full of different types of huge beer glasses.

It was appearing all too easy to just stay here in such a comfy, beery, place, but we knew we had to keep on going - trying to maintain the turbo charged momentum and fit in as much as we can in our short time left. Off then to the open air Viktualienmarkt food markets back past St. Michael’s. There was a whole row of butchers / delis along the main thoroughfare, and the smoky delicious aromas that were coming out of them was getting too much for me. Seano kept reminding me that we knew they were here and we could come back later - until a girl working in one of them shoved a piece of delicious smoke ham into my hand - it would have been rude not to eat it (!) since for once I wasn’t hungry! I had to buy some - so yum! The ladies in the shop were so sweet and charming, that I also had to buy some Bavarian salami sticks for the hard walking tour that we had planned on doing (and so far, hadn’t got very far through). My other favourite stands were huge mixed berry stands - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries; as well as whole delis dedicated to Turkish or Italian nibbles. Walked out through the markets stopping here and there for vital supplies, and made our way to the next stop on the walking tour (which was rapidly turning into a pub crawl) - The Hoffbrau Haus (the royal brew house). This is the biggest and most celebrated of the Munchen beer halls, although there were so many people (mostly tourists) that the vibe wasn’t really what we were expecting. We ordered a couple of dunkels from a very hassled looking waiter, who struggled with anybody, including German speaking people from what we could see. While we were waiting, we were approached by an older fellow who asked (in German) if we were Australian. It turns out that he has a grandson and partner in Australia, and they have been travelling from the top of Rockhampton down the east coast and across to Perth. It was a delightful conversation, another of those where he knew no English, and we only knew the basics of German, but between us all and with a lot of gestures, we got through it. He very proudly told us that he was 82, and his wife (who was with him, both having litres of beer) was 78! (They looked a lot younger than that). He had a photo taken with Seano which he was quite excited about, as well as a photo of the two of us which he is going to send to his grandson. I asked them if I could have a photo of them, and they both held up their beers in a big “Prost!”.

Finished up at the Hofbrauhaus and went out past an oompah band dressed all in lederhosen, and through the Alter Hof, an early palace of the Bavarian royals, which you could have walked through and had no idea about - a little underwhelming as it was all plain concrete and some painted on features. Then we walked around to the Resedenz, large parts of which were again in painted concrete. It turns out that many of the buildings were destroyed in the war and rebuilt in concrete. We had expected it to be a Dresden style reconstruction, where all the original fittings and ornamentations were rebuilt on the outside, but instead it looked as if it had been built in concrete sheets, and then had the ornamentation painted on! It really looked very ordinary, but there does appear to be a lot of restoration work going on. We went back out onto the street and found ourselves in the middle of a Latin Street festival in Odeonsplatz. Apparently, Odeonsplatz was the sight of the Nazi‘s infamous ‘Beer Hall Putch‘ in 1923, but there is nothing left today but a wide boulevarde flanked by very samey looking painted concrete buildings, even Starbuck and McDonalds must conform to the painted yellow concrete style. The Latin Festival was quite cool, with dance classes (in German of course) and some very funky latino music. Oh, and what seemed like every Munichiner. The place was packed. We very slowly made our way down the street, past various activist groups, like Amnesty, Greenpeace etc (and quite a few we hadn‘t heard of). We were approached by one girl who started into her spiel in German. We said we are from Australia and only speak a little German. She said that’s a good one and left us alone. We finally extricated ourselves from the crowds and made our way to the Englischer Garten (they are nothing like an English garden). It’s a huge space, partly forested, partly open grounds with lakes etc set out in the middle of Munich. It supposedly bigger than Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York. We headed through some of the forested paths, enjoying ourselves and came upon the Chinesischer Turm Beer Garden. This is truly a contradiction in terms, style and culture. it’s a huge Chinese pagoda tower in the middle of a beer garden with hundreds of people spread out on tables around this pagoda. Inside the pagoda is an Oompa Band pumping out the hits on the first floor behind a wire cage, ala Blues Brothers style. We laughed and wondered if they played both kinds of music, Oompa and Loompa…..

After a couple of beers (and people watching the various bucks shows and hens shows doing the rounds) the heavens opened up in a storm that sent everyone scurrying. We managed to get a spot under the pagoda with a few hundred other hearty souls. The rest of the beer garden was a barren expanse of green tables. Seano went off to get some more beers through the pouring rain and I met a Munchiner named Tommy, with whom I proceeded to have a great chat. He was telling me about what the folk songs meant that all the drunken Munchiners were singing - he said not to worry about the words! He was there with his brother Martin and Martin‘s wife Panni (Andrea). We all got talking while Seano got completely hijacked by a table of lederhosen clad drunk boys who were wanting to hug him - it always seems to happen that drunk boys want to hug poor Seano! They were rather fascinated by his height and the fact that he was Australian (he had a Socceroos shirt on) - since we are playing Germany in the first round of the football (soccer) world cup, most Germans are pretty keen to tell him that they will beat us when he is wearing the shirt.

Panni, Martin and Tommy were planning on going to a little pub they knew of about 20 minutes away from the beer garden; they said it was just as busy, but there would be less folk singing! We all had a wander through the Englishiner gardens, while the rain had settled to just a sprinkle. Got to the pub, which was a tiny hole in the wall place that you would have no clue was there unless a local told you! They were shut, due to open at 9:00, so we stood outside chatting about work, travel, Munchen etc. Tommy works in a material company, and organises interior decorating; Martin drives a truck for the same company Tommy works for, and Panni is an astrologer - I’ve never met an astrologer before! The doors eventually opened, and in we went - Panni said they had never been here at opening before, and usually it was an elbow to elbow type place. We started to get beers, but someone (I’m not sure who) decided it would be a better idea to have G+Ts! A couple of G+Ts down, there was lots of hugging! The place was absolutely packed, and it had a rather interesting bathroom, where there was only a toilet and a urinal - I thought I had gone into the wrong toilet, and excused myself profusely when I walked in and Tommy was there - he said not to worry, there was only the one toilet, and that is just what happens!!! We all swapped email addresses and finally (when Martin started falling asleep at the table) we decided to call it a night - I have no idea what time it was. Thankfully, the U-Bahn on our home line was only a few steps away, and we jumped on the train for home. At some ungodly hour, the two of us sat in Hans Bubi eating a TIN of kartoffel salat that I had bought as a bit of a joke, swilling water, and wondering what happened to our quiet lifestyle! We had a brilliant night though, just worried about our heads in the morning…
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