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Oktoberfest in Munich: Back for a Visit Part 1

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

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 Read more…

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