Day 1: Munich and Oktoberfest

We arrived in Munich just before 9 a.m. on Wednesday. At this point, we’ve endured a long flight, jumped our watches ahead 6 hours, and managed to get very little sleep. Combine that with my usual first day travel disorientation, and we managed to walk five circles around the airport just trying to find where to catch our hotel transfer.

Stepping outside, we found a crisp, clear morning, which was just chilly enough to see our breath. Perfect. The bus took us on the bustling drive to downtown Muenchen and then left us to our own devices in the central train station (Hauptbahnhof). We quickly made our way to our hotel, dropped our gear (too early to check in), and set afoot in the city. Before long, we found ourselves exactly where we needed to be:  a lederhosen shoppe.

Having found a suitable pair of the traditional, German-made leather trousers, the shopkeeper was so kind to refer and then walk us to a (tiny) shop down the road, where I selected my Dirndl (traditional dress). Shopping bags still in hand, our confused appetites led us to our first biergarten, Viktualienmarkt, located outside of the Oktoberfest grounds. The tables were crowded with both locals and tourists, nearly all of whom were partaking in lunch-sized mugs of beer or glasses of wine.

While I secured a table, Aaron secured to bieres and a giant pretzel for our lunchtime enjoyment. I couldn’t help but think that this space is filled year-long, as weather allows. And our sightseeing and reading located numerous others, some massive in size, that operate with and without the 2+ weeks of Oktoberfest.  And they’re filled with families, coworkers, tourists, and anyone else who wants to sit under the chestnut trees and enjoy good company. 

(Maybe I should write in half-day increments – sorry) ….

Our wandering then led us to the Marienplatz and the surrounding area. This is considered the city center, a place that feels both old and new at the same time. Having married a history buff, I learned that the city was bombed to oblivionduring WWII, and afterwards the city chose to rebuild it to its original appearance. Hence the old and new, yah? 🙂 Onward – Marienplatz is entirely built of brick/stone-line streets, and much of it is closed to vehicles. Ditch the car and explore the many shops, restaurants, churches and other sites instead.

 We explored our way to the original Hofbrauhaus, a massive establishment with two huge indoor floors filled with tables, and a courtyard filled with even more tables – and revelers. The tables have these spectacular wooden chairs – in this case with the “HB” carved into the backs – and I may look into buying such a style should I ever own a proper dining table. From here, we ventured up 306 steps to the St. Peter’s Church, where we were treated with a tower view of Munich’s orange rooftops.

Having wandered the city center streets within and viewed them from above, it was now time to wander over to the city’s main event: Oktoberfest.  Dressed in our new gear, we knew we were heading in the right direction when we switched trains; the amount of people wearing similar outfits quadrupled. Exiting the station upon arrival, we found that the escalator spills directly into the festive Oktoberfest grounds.

Here, we had basically walked into the largest carnival we had ever seen, and the mood was amazingly festive. Ferris wheels and other rides that made me ill just watching surrounded us, and wurst, schnitzel and other stands were aplenty as well. The main event, though, involved the giant tents lining the main area. Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, Augustiner, Hippodrome, Paulaner – each housed in giant “tents” that look like solid buildings. They are put together and torn apart every year, and many of them hold thousands upon thousands of partiers. Each one was also surrouned by outdoor biergartens.

We made are way through several, and being somewhat late, could not find a spot indoors. We eventually settled on sharing an outdoor table at Lowenbrau. The biergarten wasn’t as jam-packed as the indoor area, and it was a beautiful evening worth spending outside. We ordered our Festbier and famous half-chickens, and found out the chicken was famous for a reason. It is fantastic; roasted, a little crispy, but still perfectly moist.

But at some point, the one or two hours of sleep (and not the beer) caught up with us. Just before dark, the – day had to come to an end, and we made our way back to the hotel for much-needed sleep to prepare for the next day of festivities…

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