OKTOBERFEST! Munich, Germany

Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We've been waiting for this day for a long time now. We found a place to stay...for free (when even the cheapest hostel in town is 99 Euros per person). We made it Munich for OKTOBERFEST!!!! Getting off at the train station it hit us...this was going to be great. We were probably the 0.01% of people not wearing traditional Bavarian clothing. We found an awesome person, Sonja, to Couchsurf with and were so lucky she said we could stay with her. She was getting 15-20 requests per DAY. It was like we were back in college, sleeping on the floor and loving it. She met us at the train station and took us back to her apartment. We chatted for awhile and she showed us how to get around Munich. We were going to save Oktoberfest for the next day because we were tired and it was already late afternoon. Instead, we saw some of the city. We were really surprised by what we saw. We didn't know Munich had so much to offer the traveler, even if there was no Oktoberfest.

First we saw the regular stuff: palaces, churches, river, parks, etc. We were walking into the huge English Garden Park in the center of town and saw a group of people watching something in the trees so we went over to see what it was. There was an underground canal that flowed out into the park there, but there was so much force behind it that it formed some major waves, prefect for surfing.     So the locals take advantage of it. There were about 15 young guys in wet suits and holding their surf boards. Really cool to watch. Later Sonja told us that one or two of them die every year because of the under toe. Luckily no one was hurt while we were watching. The park itself was huge. Tons of people out laying in the sun and by the water. In the summer everyone lays out naked. People go there on their lunch breaks, strip down and get their vitamin D. I wonder how many go with co-workers? There is a big lake in the center and 3 different beer gardens around the park. We enjoyed our first Munich beer at the beer garden on the lake.

Also, while downtown the first night we checked out the famous Hofbrauhaus!. It is one of the biggest and oldest breweries in all the world. It was a royal brewery back in the day and was also a favorite of the Nazi party. It is about the size of a city block and holds hundreds and hundreds of people, a live band and dancing - everything Bavarian. They had a huge beer garden as well. We got our first Hofbrauhaus liters that night to get us ready. So good. 

The next morning Sonja made us a traditional Bavarian breakfast of white sausages and pretzel bread. She was leaving that morning to go up north to visit her boyfriend 7 hours away, but planned it so her friend Niklas would stay at her place. So we said our goodbyes and Brian and I got on the train to Oktoberfest. We walked into the fest about 1:30pm and were surprised it wasn't too busy - for Oktoberfest standards. We did a huge loop around the area. Its set up just like a carnival with lots of rides and food, etc but there are these HUGE tents that look like permanent buildings. One for each different kind of beer. Some beer had 2 tents. In each tent there is a big band in the middle on a stage and it is surrounded by tables all the way around. The entire place is completely decorated inside and out. They each have a big beer garden as well. We wanted to experience being in the tents with the music. That day we went to 4 or 5 different tents and got a liter at each one, we split them to save time and our blood/alcohol levels. This way we also got into a lot of tents and got to see the different German bands.

The beer was good and the atmosphere was even better. It was great sitting with all these people dressed to the 9's in Bavarian clothing, singing and drinking. It was amazing to see the waitresses (some little old ladies) carrying up to 7 glass liter steins. No wonder a lot of them had to wear wrist guards. About 5pm the tents really started to fill up and we no longer could find a table. If we had found a table, people would be dancing on it. Once the sun is about to go down, the dancing begins. We walked around some more but decided we needed one more day here and would stay another night (if it was cool with Sonja). We left the fest and went back to the Hofbrauhaus again! One last beer and some amazing German food (well, I should say some "interesting" meat loaf and awesome potato dumplings). After that we went to see the Olympic grounds from the 1972 games. Very cool architecture and stadiums. We went to the top of the tower and got a birds eye view over Munich. It was night and we could see Oktoberfest reflecting off the sky.

The next morning we went straight to Oktoberfest after breakfast. It was Friday so we wanted to see the tents we didn't get into yesterday before they filled up. We arrived at 11:30am and all the tents were full!!! But, lucky for us, the beer gardens had space. You could still hear the music outside too. We weren't getting any service at first, then the waiter walked by with a really confused look on his face and holding a liter. He looked at us, shrugged his shoulders and put the beer in front of us and walked away. Could it be? A free 8.60 Euro worth of beer? No...5 minutes later another waitress came over looking for her money. She may have bitten our heads off it we were any slower paying her. Yikes. After a few minutes a group of three guys asked to sit at our table. There are huge picnic tables that can hold 10-12 people so the more, the merrier. So these guys sat across from us and said hello...and 7 hours later we all got up to leave. That was our day, but one of the best. 

The next day we got up and quickly got ready to leave. We still needed to find a place to stay in Bamberg, our next stop. We couldn't find anything online, so when Niklas woke up he called some places for us. About an hour later we had gotten nowhere, nothing was available. So the three of us went to the train station to try and get a refund on our train ticket that we already had bought. When that didn't work, I just started asking people that were standing by the ticket booth if they wanted to buy our ticket and on the 5th try, someone took it!!! Yippee. So that was a long and stressful morning, but it met we had one more day in Munich. Niklas took us downtown with him and showed us a few things around town that we hadn't seen yet. He even bought us ice cream. What nice guy, to spend his weekend helping us out. 

So that day we walked along the riverfront for awhile and saw some more sites. We went out again that night and stopped in at our favorite place (Hofbrauhaus) for one last liter before we left town the next morning. But before we did that we went back to Oktoberfest to walk through it one more time, mainly to see what its like on a Saturday night. We are so glad we went that Thursday and Friday. For one, all the tents were closed and just packed with people. And two, it was unbelievable how many drunk people were wondering about. I knew it would be a lot but not this many! I can say, the ambulance was busy. We either had to watch where we were walking because of all the broken glass or look up and make sure no one would run into us. I did have one run-in though. We didn't stay long, but interesting to see what it is like at night.

I would have to say, everyone should experience Oktoberfest at least once, but there is an awful lot more to see in Munich than just that. I would go during the week only, as all the tents fill up in the mornings on the weekends. You cannot get a beer if you are not sitting down (except for in one tent). You must have a table and they only take cash - which we couldn't believe they didn't have a ticket system. Those waitresses carrying around all that money. They say during Oktoberfest, they go through 6 MILLION liters of beer. I cant even imagine. That is almost 52 million Euros!  
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