I’ve just returned from a MAGNIFICENT (and that’s putting it lightly) trip around Germany. I’ve been to Germany before but the reason for going this time was a little more special than just a regular ‘ol sight-seeing trip around Europe. Have you heard of Oktoberfest? Lemme tell you a little something about Oktoberfest. It is one of my most FAVOURITE times of the year. Better than birthday time, better than New Year’s, and definitely better than Valentine’s Day! Why? Because it’s a period of no expectations (i.e. no presents and reasons to make the day “special” like you need to do for the aforementioned days). It’s just a period in October where you get together with friends, wear whatever the heck you wanna wear (God knows I can’t be bothered to dress up and do the whole make-up bit) and dance, sing, and eat to your heart’s desire. It’s the one time of the year I can stand drinking beer (something I’m working on since this appears to be a problem with the Brits) and my love for frankfurters and schnitzels grows to overwhelming heights.
So you may be asking why someone like me enjoys this German festival so much. Even if you’re not I’ll tell you why. You see, I come from a small(ish) town called Waterloo. Conjoined with our neighbouring city, Kitchener, we make up the KW twin cities. Due to the large German settlement in KW we celebrate Oktoberfest like none other. None other than the actual Germans themselves, that is. According to Wikipedia, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany is Canada. And not just Canada, but KW!!! So just picture the excitement that electrified my body when I found out I’d be able to attend the REAL thing. After 10 years of Oktoberfesting in KW I’d finally be able to hit up the real thing, bier stein in one hand, frankfurter in the other, in Bavaria.
So off to Munich I went and let me tell ya, my expectations DID NOT disappoint! The weather wasn’t too cooperative but did that dampen our spirits? Of course bloody not! Back in Canada the only way you can get into Oktoberfest events is if you purchase a ticket beforehand. At the real Oktoberfest it’s every man for themself and entrance works on a first-come-first-serve basis. I was with my ex-roommate, an experienced Oktoberfester, and her efficient German ways got me out of bed at 8AM and into the beer tents by 10AM. In Munich Oktoberfest takes place on fair grounds and there are 10 tents you can choose from, each offering their own kind of beer (e.g. Paulaner, Augustiner, Löwenbrau). Even at 10AM the tents were already packed with Oktoberfesters and I looked around, awed and wide-eyed, at the scene that lay before me. Fortunately for us, we were two cute girls, adorning darling dirndls so grabbing two seats at a table didn’t prove to be TOO problematic 😉
I had my first “maß” (pronounced by combining mass and moss together), a 1 litre beer stein, in hand by 10:30AM. My roommate taught me how to hold my stein properly to avoid looking like a tourist (in case my lack of German didn’t already give that away) and I sipped that baby for a good 2.5 hrs to avoid getting the rosy cheeks I’ve become notorious for and to also avoid passing out on the table in fatigue. Good plan, no?
It wasn’t just about the beer though. We explored the fair grounds and I made sure to try all the specialty Oktoberfest foods as well.
Some of my favourites include:
Kartoffelknödel- German potato dumplings
Weißwurst- Traditional Bavarian white sausage that tastes amazing with sweet mustard and pretzel
Spätzle – Traditional noodles/pasta that’s usually eaten with meat
I think I had bratwurst every single day I was in Munich and I’ve gotta admit, nothing beats a good German sausage. But I think I’m all sausaged out until…next October.
You’d think that with the huge international attendance I would’ve wanted to meet travellers from all over the globe, but as the day went on I found myself craving North Americans! More specifically, Canadians, but they were so far and few that I was even willing to settle for Americans. I discovered that Europeans really aren’t that friendly! I met Germans, Swiss, Italians and they were so exclusive and into themselves. I mean…it’s Oktoberfest! I’m used to cheer and open-arms, dancing and switching partners but I didn’t get any of that with them. I made it my mission to find some friendly drinking companions and we finally accomplished our mission by the time we hit up the last tent. A table filled with Americans, Canadians, South Africans, and Australians. *sigh* it was marvelous 😀 My day started at 10:30AM. 12 hrs and 3.5 litres of beer later, I found my life slightly more complete. I took out my notepad and crossed off item 36 – Oktoberfesting in Munich – off my bucket list.
But you’ll be happy to hear that there was more to the trip than just beer drinking. Munich, in case you’ve never been, is a beautiful city, rich with history and culture. It’s one of my favourite European cities (I think I say that about every place I visit, but I really mean it this time) because it has maintained its feel of authenticity. I took a tour around Munich and learned everything you need to know about Munich in just 3 hrs 😉 Here are some highlights…
Frauenkirche cathedral– The tallest structure in Old City Munich. No other building can surpass the towers of the cathedral, making it a beautiful landmark and symbol of the Bavarian capital city.
this is the central square in Munich and where you can find the gorgeous New Town Hall, complete with the Glockenspiel, a carillon that chimes at 11AM and noon, everyday. Well, it’s supposed to…I think the clock’s a little out of whack and is a few minutes off so don’t count on it on being a reliable source of telling time. Just around the corner from Marienplatz is the AWESOME…
Viktualienmarkt – I went to this market every single day to eat…drumroll…yup, that’s right, bratwurst!!! This market is amazing for getting yummy fresh Bavarian food. I bought cheese, chocolate, and different kinds of sausage. Going there just to browse proved to be very difficult and temptation got the best of me. I ended up buying something each time I went L The vendors there are very persuasive and they did a good job luring me in with samples and guilting me into buying their products. I’m a vendor’s dream come true…damn me and my inability to resist samples!
BMW Police cars – Policemen get to drive around in BMWs in Munich! The BMW HQ is located in Munich and apparently they’ve struck up some kind of deal or partnership. Pretty sweet deal huh? I mean, the Ford Taurus the Canadian police get to drive around is obviously pretty swanky too, but it ain’t no BMW…
Hofbräuhaus (pronounced Hofbroyhouse) –
Ok every tourist gets told to come here, but there’s a reason why! It’s one of Munich’s oldest beer halls and was originally founded as the brewery to the old Royal Residence. Just to give you a glimpse of just how important beer is to Bavarian history, let me share a story with you. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria during the thirty years’ war in 1632 and threatened to burn the entire city of Munich. The citizens of Munich tried to bargain with the King and offered gold, but that wasn’t good enough. You know what type of bribery worked? Yup, beer! The King agreed to leave the city in peace in exchange for 600 000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus beer. The hall is now used for massive, massive, MASSIVE feasting and I guarantee you will indulge in some fine Bavarian bevies and munchies upon entrance.
Englischer Garten (English Garden) – This park is located in Munich and apparently it’s even bigger than Central Park! It’s so pretty and serene and a perfect place to jog, read, hit up a beer tent or even surf on the Eisbach. The Eisbach (meaning “ice brook”) is a man-made river located in the park and a man-made wave was created in one section where surfers can go for a quick thrill. Bring your board, bring your wetsuit, and bring your skills because it’s in a pretty public area and you’ll definitely have people gawking at you as you do your thang.
The Nazi movement initially started in Bavaria so I learned a lot about the rise of Hitler, a truly eye-opening experience. Viscardigasse is a little alley behind a big square called Odeonsplatz. In the square is a monument called “Feldherrnhalle”. During the rise of Hitler, he ordered that everyone passing the Feldherrnhalle had to give the Nazi salute as they walked by. Many people practiced a passive resistance by avoiding the walk past the monument and taking a detour through Viscardigasse instead. Needless to say, Nazi officials were not happy with this and anyone who took the detour without a legitimate excuse had their names recorded and would be punished accordingly. In the mid-90’s a gold wavy strip of pavement stones was placed in Viscardigasse to commemorate the civil resistance. Pretty cool huh?
There’s soooo much more to talk about but I’m an avid believer in maintaining reader interest so for your benefit I shall stop.
I did manage a few days in Frankfurt but truth be told, after seeing such nice sights in Munich it’s hard to find anything nice to say about Frankfurt. My time there was spent catching up with the old French crew and it was more of a hangout session than a sight-seeing tour. So instead, I leave you with some travel tips!
- If you need to get from Munich to Frankfurt I highly recommend taking the bus. Deinbus is great for those looking for a economical (aka cheap) way of travelling from one city to another, as long as you’re not too tight on time. You’ll be on a large comfortable coach bus, but prepare yourself for a 5.5 hr journey (or more if there’s traffic).
- When you get to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) you can count on getting lost. Very lost. You can also count on no one helping you out. You’d think people at the information desk would be willing to assist a young damsel in distress but the people I encountered were less than eager to give me any information or point me in the right direction. They were downright assholes. Maybe I should’ve offered them a pretzel. Anyway, if you need to get anywhere in the city go DOWNSTAIRS for the U-Bahn. All the trains upstairs are to take you to other national destinations and it’s downstairs you need to go to for the local metro. I bought a ticket but anyone can get on the train and ticket checkers are far and few …just sayin…
- PROST needs to be part of your everyday lingo. If you’re only capable of memorizing one German word let it be PROST!
- RyanAir offers great flight deals but be aware that their airports are often extremely far from the city centre and you’ll need to allow yourself a good 2 hrs of travel time to get into the city. i.e. I flew into “Memmingen (Munich West) Airport”. This is nowhere near Munich and the tiny airport is located in a small village about 110 km away (1.5 hrs by train). I flew out of “Frankfurt Hahn” which again, is nowhere near Frankfurt. 150 km away and a 1h 45 min bus ride away. Take the Bohr bus from Hauptbahnhof for €14 (you have to pay the driver, you can’t buy your ticket in advance) but make sure you get there at least a half an hour early to ensure a seat on the bus. I got there 10 minutes before the bus was due to depart and the bus was packed. Fortunately, there were enough of us waiting to warrant them calling in another bus, otherwise I would’ve had to wait 2 hrs for the next one!
- Food and drinks in Germany is dirt cheap. If you’re anything like me you will look at everything with greedy eyes and buy everything in sight without a second thought. So here’s my last tip to you – bring baggy clothes. You may not need it at first but you can bet a maß you’ll be wearing the baggy clothing in relief as you see the first signs of a beer belly starting to protrude.
That’s all folks! So until my next travel adventure…CIAO! (Germans stole it from the Italians and say it all the time)
Ah wait, one more thing…I just tweeted this little piece of advice and should probably share it with you as well: FYI “double fisting” means something different in the UK than it does in Canada. Don’t use it to answer how you spent your week in Germany.
Check out Urban Dictionary for the meaning in case you don’t already know. I meant definition #1. Definition #3 is what’s used in the UK.