Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Roll Out the Barrel! - Oktoberfest - Munich Germany

Standing at our gate at the Minneapolis airport I still couldn't believe we were headed to Germany. We were going to be attending what I've come to think of as the worlds largest county fair, Oktoberfest! I still can't believe it. I heard our flight being called to board and this was it, we were on our way.

We arrived in Munich mid-week, a few days before the start of the festival. The main Oktoberfest events take place at the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), near Munich's center. The origin of the festivities were to mark the marriage of King Ludwig I to Therese of Bavaria.  During the 16 day long event, as it is celebrated now, millions of people will visit the fair grounds and millions of liters of beer will be consumed. Along with tons of roasted chicken, pretzels, potato dumplings and best of all roast pork.

After having a couple of days to explore and get the lay of the land, the first day of the festival was finally here. We headed out pretty early in the morning so we could stake out a great spot from which to enjoy the fun.  Some of the most coveted spots are in the huge beer tents that line the fair grounds. We walked around the extensive grounds taking in all of the sites, sounds and smells.

The midway is much like any county fair midway you've ever visited. There are food vendors, games of chance, souvineers. And people, lots and lots of families with kids, tourists, just a ton of folks milling around.

We finally settled on the Winzerer Fähndl tent (the one with the giant Paulaner beer on top of the tower) and headed that way. We walked into the tent and it was starting to fill up but not too crowded yet. There were a lot of reserved seats but still open spots for the taking. We noted as we came in that there was a huge deck on the front of the tent and decided to go back out there to check things out and decided to grab seats at a picnic table on the deck.

They we were, sitting at a picnic table on the deck of the Winzerer Fähndl tent looking around and having a pinch-me, can-you-believe- where-we-are moment.
Because we arrived early beer service hadn't yet started. We ordered a couple of half liter sodas and settled in for the day.

With the tapping of the first keg at noon and a cry of "O'zapft is!", Oktoberfest officially started. Let the beer drinking begin! So there we sat, at our picnic table, in the sunshine, drinking liter mugs of beer. As the afternoon wore on we were joined by 4 Italian guys and three local girls; from that moment on known as the Italians and the Heidis. They all spoke a little English and we all spoke beer so there was no communication barrier at all. Having happy birthday sung to you by a table full of VERY happy Italians and Germans is something you just can't adequately describe. It was amazing.

That was just day one, we would be back again.

Our time in Germany was amazing. We went to the famous Hofbräuhaus for yet more beer and schweinshaxe (crispy roasted knuckle of pork), we toured  the city by bus and train and enjoyed time at the viktualienmarkt.

We visited the Deutsches Museum and saw the Glockenspiel, it was all wonderful. Munich is an amazing city and very easy to get around in. We met a lot of nice people, ate wonderful food, drank awesome beer and just had an amazing time.
There's still so much more to see and do. We'll definitely be back.

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