Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On to Munich – Oktoberfest or Bust!

Germany trip 537
Classic tourist entry shot.

The distraction in Romanshorn had us about three hours behind schedule. Still, we wanted to see the Schloss Neuschwanstein, which inspired Disney’s Cinderella castle and others. It was on the way to Munich, sort of.

We entered our destination in the navigation system, and followed the spoken directions. The skies were overcast; it was “trying to rain,” in the words of the German-Swiss writer, Hermann Hesse. We wondered how much we would be able to see, if we even made it to the castle.

We exited the main highway, winding through a couple of small villages. Then we were told, “Take the second exit at the roundabout.” But the roundabout was closed, under construction. Nothing to do but turn away. Looking at a map we could see that there was no other way to get there. We wouldn’t be seeing the castle, not this trip. Then it started to rain, hard.

As I drove through the late afternoon traffic, with Mark still recovering and dozing, I reflected on the trip so far. We had had our issues. Traveling is stressful and unpredictable; you can’t expect to keep a strict schedule. We were doing a lot of driving, and it wasn’t easy. It was OK to not see everything we wanted to see. But we had two more things that were must-do’s: Marienplatz in the heart of Munich was one. And Oktoberfest or Bust!

Germany trip 479
Sometimes a nice spacious room
is just what you need.

Mark had booked a room at Glasl’s Landhotel in Zorneding, a rural town nestled among cornfields about a 15 minute drive east of Munich. When we got there it was pouring rain. We were glad to see that the hotel was big, new and modern. We were ready to relax with a bottle of wine.

The woman at the desk recommended the Neuwirt Hotel across the street for dinner, telling us it was very good. I wondered about that because it also looked like the only place in town. But she was right – Mark says it was the best German food he has ever eaten. It was also very classy. I think that the very expensive watch worn by a guy sitting at the table across from us helped grow Mark’s appetite.
Thebucolic view from our room in Zorneding.
Cornfields and grass instead of sand.

Seeing the sunny fields through our window the next morning gladdened my heart, even though it made me a little homesick for the wide open pastures back home in Carson Valley, Nevada. But we had a sunny day for Munich and Oktoberfest!

Germany trip 493
Going to the office in business lederhosen.

Arriving in Munich, I was struck by the festival scene in the downtown area, miles away from Oktoberfest. At least half of the crowd were wearing lederhosen and dirndls, even those who were obviously locals on their way to the office.


Germany trip 531

And do the Germans know how to eat and drink! It was only 10 a.m. but people everywhere were drinking beer. I began to feel my German blood rising, craving a pretzel and a beer.

Germany trip 502 (3)

First we did some window shopping, then gathered with the rest of the crowd at  Marienplatz to watch the Glockenspiel, with its dancing figures in the upper section telling the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm to Renata of Lorraine, followed by the Cooper’s Dance in the lower section.
The whole spectacle was about 12 minutes long, but this video captures the highlights in less than 2 minutes.

Germany trip 518
I wanted to buy some mushrooms.

The large outdoor Viktualien Markt farmers’ market was the perfect place to grab our pretzel and beer lunch before heading to the Oktoberfest. What a feast for the eyes – stands with all variety of fresh mushrooms, cheeses, breads, meats, vegetables … and tourist trinkets, too.

Germany trip 526
Pretzels are boiled, not fried.
So they're good for you. Right?

… Not to mention the beer concessions where you just get in line and they hand over a mug – your choice of two sizes: Huge and Gigantic. The pretzels were all Huge.

Germany trip 535
We drove through Munich's Arab
 neighborhood to get to the Oktoberfest.

Finally, we found our way to the Oktoberfest. Mark’s plan was to hit the Hofbrau tent, one of the largest tents and the one most popular with foreigners. I wanted to visit the Schottenhammel tent, because my German friend Samina, who now lives in Abu Dhabi, has a cousin who is married to a member of that family. “You must go there,” Sam said in her classy European accent. She had filled me in on everything to see in Munich.

We only had a couple of hours to spend, since we needed to be near Frankfurt in the morning to catch our flight. So we only hit one tent – Hofbrau. Maybe it was better that way. Most tents require that you have a seat at a table to be served, and they fill up. Hofbrau allows you to stand around at high-top tables and be served.

Germany trip 538
These heart shaped confections are everywhere.

Oktoberfest is a combination carnival and huge drinking party. As we neared the festival grounds, we saw people walking toward it from every direction, wearing their lederhosen and dirndl costumes. It was an amazing sight.
We found the Hofbrau tent quickly, and wormed our way inside. Noisy and beery pretty much describes it. How to get a beer? We found ourselves standing around a table, and before long a server brought a fistfull of beers. And so it began.

We struck up a conversation with a really cute, petite woman from the U.S. named Meg. She was there by herself – her husband and kids were back in New York and her sister, who she was traveling with (I think I have this right) was in Belgium. Why did she stay in Belgium instead of coming to Oktoberfest with Meg? She is pregnant. Good reason! But that didn’t stop Meg, and I loved her independence and spunky spirit.

Germany trip 591
Mark was reading her name tag.
You believe?

The beer maids kept coming – I guess they work on commission. There was one that Mark thought was cute, so we got a picture of them together. You decide who is cuter – or maybe younger – her or me? And, how would I look in her dirndl? Just sayin’ …

Germany trip 611
I fell in love with Meg.
I already loved pickles.

After a while we saw huge platters of food coming out. You could buy hot dishes, sandwiches, pretzels, even pickles. I had to have a pickle. But I could see that for many others, the food was coming a bit too late. I do not envy the people who clean the place up.

I couldn’t stop thinking that it reminded me of some of the sailing regatta parties I’ve been to.

Two hours flew by, but we caught some of it on video – can’t you just smell the beer?

You might think the photos are even better. Some were taken by me and some by Mark. You can probably tell which is which.

Too soon, it was time to leave. I was the driver while Mark … took a nap.

Our destination for the night was Heidelberg. It was Friday night, so the traffic was stop and go. When we finally got away from the city, and the speed limit signs were turned off, Mark woke up. “You might want to slow down,” he said. “I think those are cameras.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I answered. “There is no speed limit.” How fast was I driving? About as fast as our VW 5-speed would go.

I love Germany!
Here is a map of our entire trip. We drove 865 miles. Next time, we will stay longer – rent a place for a month or two, shop and cook local food, and make side trips. And bicycle!

Thanks for reading. And cheers!
Germany Trip 3


Anonymous said...

Love your posts, Anne. It makes Carson Valley seem quite dull. First snow expected today. Thanks for sharing. Jean Murray Hay

Anne Schreiber Thomas said...

Thank you Jean, it means a lot to me to know you are enjoying the stories and photos. I think of you and of Bill often, and look forward to coming back to hike the new trails. I will be making a donation to the memorial fund. Take care and be well. Anne