OKTOBERFEST!! The overnight train from Amsterdam was brutal. I kept waking up thinking the guy across the aisle from me was choking on a steak or something as his snores were so violent. It was a long night but, we made it and exited the train into Munich's Hbf train station to find our friend Jason waiting to whisk us away to his and Jess' sweet ass apartment where there waited a hot shower, laundry machine and a bed (not to mention a fridge full of German suds) which is surely a form of Heaven to a pair of weary travelers. After a quick freshen up we jumped on their bikes and headed out for a quick tour of the city. We stopped for a coffee at a nice looking cafe and while G and Jason ordered I waited outside to keep an eye on the bikes. While sitting I noticed a sign on the wall that listed a number of names including: "Maximilian Müller LL.M". Turns out we had in fact chosen, by total accident, the cafe beneath the office of our German friend; Max "the Axt". After a quick hello with Max and a guzzle of our coffee we headed into the main square where we stumbled apon a huge crowd waiting for the 11am performance by the little dancing figurines which spin around as music plays from the bell tower. Gina thought it was magical. From there we hit the original Hofbrauhaus to see the famous upstairs ballroom where Hitler held some of his first rallies. (Plenty other perfectly nice and joyful events have been held in this room, but, you know...) Next we headed to the English Garden park; Munich's version of Golden Gate or Central Park. I am always struck by how nice city parks are in Europe. They are, pretty much without exception from what I can tell, clean, well kept, safe and gorgeous. A famous part of this park is the man-made wave that is in the river on which wetsuit clad surfers try to squeak out a few turns on their surfboards before wiping out. We saw a few dudes do OK, and several barely last a single turn. Still gotta give props for getting after it and working with what they've got here, a long, long way from a legit surf beach.
We continued on to one of the largest beer gardens in the city which is inside the park, and had what would be our first of many large glasses of German brew for the day. We rode home along the river and met with Jess and their friend CoCo and headed out to the Fest, or Weizen as it is called locally.
Holy s***, can I just say that the place is absolutely MASSIVE. There are 35 tents which hold up to maybe 10,000 people each. In addition, there are countless rides, carnival booths, and other assorted festival-like stands. In all, apprx. 7.1 million people attended Oktoberfest in 2010 and it definitely felt like it. We strolled for a bit taking photos of some of the horse drawn keg wagons and the massive tents themselves before heading in to the Hippodrom tent where we had a reserved table waiting for us. We met the rest of the group there and sat down to a couple of huge platters of meats, cheese, radishes and hands down the largest pretzels I have ever had. I'm talking way bigger then your head. Next came the masses (pronounced "mosses") of beer. These are the big boys; 1 liter each of fine, golden, German bier. And so the afternoon went! Plenty of singing (they sing the same song every 15 minutes, and throw in some non traditional numbers every here and there to keep it interesting). At one point, we and 7,000 other intoxicated Germans were screaming the lyrics for the ever epic drunken anthem "Sweet Caroline". Hilarious!
Later we headed out into the chaos and aimed ourselves towards the Schottenhammel tent where Max had a table. In the mean time we found some Aussies in the beer garden and discussed the finer points of AFL; namely that Collingwood sucks!
To be honest with you the rest of the evening was a bit blurry; but included in no particular order some and/or all of the following: searching for Max's table for what seemed like hours, finding Max's table and celebrating emphatically, standing on tables, spilling beer everywhere, leaving Max's table, going on several spinning rides in the festival, trying to take on the "toboggan" ride which involved jumping onto a fast moving conveyer belt, failing epically at this task (see soon to be uploaded video of this), having an impromptu dance party at a pizza place, borrowing 4 beer masses from the pizza place, and Gina kicking (playfully, sort of) a sassy English girl in the butt. A fun filled evening indeed!
Needless to say, the next morning was rough, more so for me then G who managed to keep her wits about her.
For our dose of culture/history of the day we headed not far out of the city to Dachau; the first of Hitler's concentration camps and the one which all the others were modeled after. Not a "fun" day out even without the remnance of a HUGE night at Oktoberfest lurking in my head and stomach. It was an eery and extremely powerful experience; something, like our tour earlier in the summer of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, that I think should be required viewing for each and everyone of us just to be reminded of the absolutle insane cruelty human beings are capable of. Nuff said...
Still got several days left in Munich and a few more Oktoberfest sessions planned so: more to come, stay tuned!!!