Home > Uncategorized > Oktoberfest in Munich: Back for a Visit Part 1

Oktoberfest in Munich: Back for a Visit Part 1

Almost exactly fourteen months after I had last departed, my plane landed with a soft thump at the Munich airport and I smiled to myself, glad to be back, if only for ten days. I had immensely enjoyed living in Munich for seven months in 2010 and it made sense to me to return for a trip a little over a year later, not only to see some friends but also to experience that quintessential Bavarian festival, Oktoberfest, which I had unfortunately missed last year.

Part of the fun I had in Munich was writing this blog about all of my experiences. When I left Munich last year I had originally intended to keep it up but the traveling and then general interference of daily life had done their work and I never really got back into keeping it up regularly like I wanted to, so this trip also offers a good opportunity to start fresh and really try to stick to writing here more often.

The plane ride was long but not too terrible thanks to my deliberate getting up very early that day so that I could sleep on the journey and be mostly adjusted to the time change by the time we landed. My friend Luisa was kind enough to not only offer me a place to sleep during my trip, but even trek out to the airport at 7:30 in the morning and pick me up. Now that is a good friend. We drove back to her apartment/dorm out near TUM (Technical University of Munich) and had some breakfast before driving to her brother’s place closer to downtown to drop off his car. Luisa’s brother Benedict is in a German fraternity although a German fraternity is enormously different from the American conception. More like a club that provides money for people to go to school and then when the students graduate and get older they in turn provide funding to future students. Also they have saber duels.

Benedict was fast asleep so Luisa arranged to come back in a while and have lunch with him and we walked to the English Garden to enjoy the nice weather and have a drink at the Chinese Tower while we caught up. When we returned to the fraternity house (passing a stuffed eagle, swords mounted on walls and other paraphernalia) her brother was still asleep so while we waited for him to get  ready we chatted with a couple of Spanish guys in town for the festival who complained that not even their Spanish accent and flawless German could get them girls at the bars the night before, a fact Luisa seemed shocked to hear. Once Benedict was ready the three of us proceeded to have a nice sushi lunch while people watching downtown. Amid Luisa’s unexpected reunion with an old friend and my brilliant idea for a pick-up line based on a chopsticks wrapper (it said that once you learned how to use them you could pick up anything), I had a very nice time.

Afterward, Benedict went home to catch up on more sleep while Luis and I wandered around town for a bit. We even entirely coincidentally and unexpectedly ran into Eva, who was on her way to go wedding dress shopping with her friends. We talked briefly before she had to be on her way but it was a nice surprise. Luisa and I headed back to her place after that and spent the rest of the day watching funny videos on the Internet, eating ice cream with her friend Marisa and then making lasagna with more of her dorm mates and her boyfriend and brother. By that point my jetlag was starting to hit me so after making early morning plans, I hit the hay.

Although I’d done my best to try and coordinate meeting up with people I knew at the festival, telephones and alcohol make fools of us all. Saturday morning I went with Luisa back to  her brother’s place where the fraternity members were having a pre-Oktoberfest breakfast of sausages and beer. Not my morning meal of choice I have to say. Luckily a political group was out handing out pretzels on the train so I wasn’t entirely hungry. Almost everyone was dressed in lederhosen and dirndls which was quite a sight to see, especially when on the train I heard English, Italian and other languages in addition to German.

Luisa was not up for going to the first day of the festival so instead I accompanied Benedict and one of his friends to the fairgrounds where a carnival and amusement park alongside the various beer tents was packed with people enjoying themselves. The mayor of Munich opens the festival officially at noon on the first day, hammering open the first barrel of beer himself in the Schottenhammel tent. Although the tent was already full and the line extended for maybe a quarter of a mile outside, Benedict and his friend had only to show their fraternity sashes for us to skip the line and go right inside and up onto the reserved tables. We were not more than a few feet from the stage where notable Germans that I had never heard of sat until the mayor arrived and gave a short speech and interview. Then, with just two mighty blows of the hammer, the barrel was opened and Oktoberfest had officially begun.

It took a while for the first mass to make its way to my hands but once it did, a prost and a sip brought back all the memories of the other beer festivals I’d been to, Starkbiefest and Fruhlingsfest in particular. Drinking with Benedict and his friends was fun, and I even felt like I was starting to understand some of their German. Along with the fraternity members there were many girls on the stage and I learned some interesting facts about how they managed to get their seats and the way they had traveled from all over the country it seemed to get to the festival. After a few drinks and several hours had passed, I eventually left the tent to try and meet up with some of the others but unfortunately coordinating it all was not working out. I didn’t really mind actually as by that point the beer and my lingering jetlag made me feel utterly exhausted. So I turned my sights to the U-Bahn and somehow made it back to Luisa’s place without too much trouble. I was too tired to do much so after chatting with Luisa and her friends for a little bit and drinking a lot of water, I fell asleep and slept quite well that night.

I woke on Sunday feeling refreshed, but unfortunately the weather did not reflect my mood as it was gray and raining and rather cold. Luisa said she had to spend the day studying and working, so I girded myself in my fleece jacket and ventured forth on my own to see what kind of things I could find to do on a rainy Munich Sunday. When I got downtown, the traditional Oktoberfest parade was under way, with people marching or riding horses in traditional outfits (along with the less traditional but definitely necessary addition of umbrellas) all around the center of the city. I watched for a while until it ended, then took shelter under a nearby awning while observing the amazingly rapid clean up. Really it took around ten minutes rather than the hour or more I would have assumed.

After more journeying around town, I remembered that my friend Eva worked at a Starbucks right next to where Mauritz lives (and where Fraser used to live) so I decided to see if she was in. She was coming to the end of her shift so I had a drink while I waited for her to finish and then we sat and caught up on life which was really nice. I hadn’t known that she was leaving Munich soon to go back to Sweden at for a while but it did sound like she’d had a pretty good year even if she didn’t much like her job (maybe something about the transplant of the American work ethic to Europe). Mauritz came by while we were chatting, which was a nice chance to also catch up with him. Even with various high tech communications methods it’s usually a lot more fun to talk in person. We made tentative plans for later in the week and then they headed to their place while I made my way back to Luisia’s.

Luisa, her boyfriend and Marisa were in the midst of making pumpkin soup when I got back. I joined in the chopping and so on until it was complete. Another of Luisa’s dorm mates, Sophia joined us and we all had quite a nice meal. It was entertaining discussing various assumptions about foreign countries that people may have, and how Sophia, an Austrian, had never heard of “The Sound of Music” despite it being perhaps one of the most famous images of Austria to the average American. It was also fun to demonstrate the many, many cheesy pick-up lines popular in America that simply wouldn’t play in Europe except perhaps as a comedy routine judging from the riotous laughter they evoked in everyone there. Eventually it was time for bed because they all had trips or work to get to in the morning. After doing some writing, I went to bed myself.

Monday was another rainy day unfortunately but I still found ways to entertain myself. I headed over to Oktoberfest again, this time on my own but in that fortuitous way that seems so common in Munich, I happened to meet some nice German people who invited me to join them and we spent most of the day sitting in the Lowenbrau tent and riding rollercoasters until I pleaded fatigue and headed back to the dorm. On the way I heard from Olivier, one of the people I used to work with at ESO, who invited me out for a beer with him and one of the newer interns, Mathieu, so I joined them for a drink at a nice and very Bavarian restaurant before going back and hanging out with Luisa and her friends and eventually falling asleep.

Tuesday I woke up and went to straight to the festival to start buying the souvenirs I wanted to get for people. My plan was to just get them and leave again, but I ended up staying awhile and having a mass when a Finnish girl and a couple of her friends got pushed into me and we struck up a conversation. It was fun but they had to leave only a couple of hours later. I went to the Starbucks where Eva worked to sit and write postcards during the afternoon before going back to Luisa’s for the night and hanging out with her friends again.

Also on Tuesday I heard from Aleksandra, a Polish Au Pair I had been good friends with last year. She was in town for a few days visiting her former host family and some of her friends for Oktoberfest. She had some free time on Wednesday and wanted to go to the Neue Pinakothek, the art museum with paintings from the end of the Renaissance until the early twentieth century. So on Wednesday, after letting myself sleep in a bit, I rode the train into town and met up with her. It was nice looking at the art and catching up on each other’s lives. Aleks always has interesting stories and is a lot of fun to hang out with so I was quite pleased to get to see her. After she had to go back to the family she was staying with, I had dinner in town with Luisa, her brother, boyfriend, and dormmate. We went to a cool little Asian place and then to a nice little bar/coffee house called Soda before calling it a night and heading back.

I spent most of Thursday being kind of lazy, just writing and working on various ongoing projects along with a casual stroll around town. That evening though I went to Toytown for the first time in over a year so I had plenty to look forward to. The current crop had voted to meet at Flaschenbar, which I had been to a couple of time last year but remembered as being sort of small. I arrived around nine and immediately heard English being spoken by a group in the corner. I didn’t see anyone I recognized so I got a beer and took a seat. Barely had I sat down however then the Scotsmen walked in. Not only Fraser and Jamie, but their visitors from home Ally whom I had met and even briefly seen during my visit to Scotland, and Keith whom I had not met before. Amid all the hellos and beer acquisitions, Mauritz, Eva, and Aleks also joined us and I met a new colleague of Jamie and Fraser’s named Dan.

It was wonderful to catch up with everyone and shoot the breeze the way we used to, even if it also made me think about all the other people who didn’t live in Munich anymore that weren’t there. This being a Toytown event though, there were plenty of new faces too. I spent some time talking with a former Colorado sorority girl and her Munchener friend before getting bored and wandering back over to the Scots, just in time to hear Jamie ask a wildly inappropriate question that really brought back some memories, especially the look of half-amusement and half-incredulity on Fraser’s face. Aleks and the others gamely answered as did another new face, an American girl who, while funny, kept making me think there was something I should notice about her. Only by someone else’s comment did I realize what it was that was making me so confused, she was just seventeen. That didn’t stop her from being rather flirtatious with Dan, who wasn’t much older apparently. The disconnect in my head between that age and the acts of drinking and smoking is enormous though. I can’t seem to notice until it is pointed out to me, I’m only aware that something seems a little unusual. Her friend Brit wasn’t shy about commenting on the flirtation, much to the amusement of everyone at the table. Time passed far too quickly as it tends to in these situations and before long people were exiting the bar. I left with my friends and caught the train back to the dorm, the bittersweet memory of one more fun night passing away, but with a great weekend to look forward to at least.

That weekend deserves it’s own post to say the least. To be continued…

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