As some of you know Wendy and I are love to travel. More specifically, we really enjoy traveling in Europe and seeing places we’ve never been but have always wanted to go. Well, over the last week and a half Wendy and I have been on another of our whirlwind European adventures, and now that we’re back home, we can’t wait to share some of our highlights with you by way of a few blog posts.

This year we were actually wracking our brains to figure out just where we wanted to go. We knew we wanted to visit a new place, and it’s long been a dream of Wendy’s to visit the country, Germany, where all of her ancestry is rooted. Based on lots of feedback from friends and family who all greatly enjoyed their visits to Germany, and our love of the styles and history of Germany, we decided on a nine day several city tour of southern Germany to give us a feel for the country as a whole.

Munich, or München as it’s known in Deutschland, was the first stop on our tour of southern Germany, and the biggest city we would visit on our vacation. Seeing as neither of us had ever been to Germany, we grabbed a copy of Rick Steves 2013 Germany guide (honestly, we’ve learned “don’t go to Europe without a Rick Steves guide for your destination”) and hoped for the best in a city and country simply dripping in history. But best of all, we were visiting during the first weekend of Oktoberfest!

We planned a two night stay in Munich but knew we’d need to really hit the ground running and do our best to keep our energy up after our long journey across the Atlantic and into the heart of Europe. Personally, the slog of getting from the airport to the hotel can easily set the tone for the first several days of travel. A difficult or uncomfortable journey can derail plans before they even begin. Luckily, all concerns were laid to rest as be exited the elevator of the S-Bahn (train) into the Marienplatz pedestrian square and we were greeted with a view that cemented exactly why we had chosen to visit and had a great chance to truly love Germany.

While in Munich we focused on the three primary aspects of touring in Germany:

  1. The Sights
  2. The Food
  3. The Beer

The Sights

Munich is amazing is so many ways. The architecture, history, local customs, and general sights in and around the city are spectacular. With nearly 1000 years of history, the majority of which were under a wealthy monarchy’s rule, there are quite the variety of impressive places. One of our first stops was back at the square that introduced us to Munich to watch the "event" of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel on the New Town Hall. The chimes at 11:00am reenact a 16th century tale through the use of large moving figures. Though it wasn't as cool as the astrological clock was in Prague, I'm still glad we stopped by to see it.

Our various walking tours of Munich took us all throughout the city streets of the central historic district where we visited everything from the impressive government buildings, churches, and monuments...

...to the famous gathering places of Munich locals and tourists.

The city as a whole is quite large, but at the same time, not overwhelming. There are no massive skyscrapers, the sidewalks are largely clean, and we felt completely safe and comfortable whether walking during the daytime or night. Because of the height and size of the city, it actually felt a lot like Washington,DC feels to us. Perhaps that's why we were pretty comfortable.

But one of the absolute coolest sights all throughout the city were the locals and tourists all dressed to celebrate the annual Oktoberfest tradition. I'll get to the beer drinking and actual event later, but the fact it was a festive time of year was apparent everywhere, as you could see people walking the streets in traditional garb at any time of the day.

We did a ton of walking around Munich and saw a numerous sights, but there was one thing that stood out as the most unique bizarre was the makeshift shrine to Michael Jackson that apparently popped up just days after his death in front of the hotel he frequented while in Munich.

The statue, intended for German musician Orlando di Lassois, is plastered with Jackson photos, notes, keepsakes, and even tastefully decorated with plants. But the thing that puts it over the top is the nearby parody shrine to Michael's monkey, Bubbles, just a few feet from the statue (though I'm sure many probably take it seriously). This statue's base is covered with monkey masks, drawings, notes, photos, and even...bananas. Yes, that's right.

Hysterical, that's all I have to say about that.

One final thing we stumbled across was something we often see around our neighborhood as well, yarn bombing. It seems some great traditions know no regional boundaries.

The Food

While Germany is well known for their brats, sausages, and various other pork based deliciousness...

...what happens when a pescatarian and non pork eater venture into the land of ham? Surprisingly enough, it's probably just as delicious of an endeavor as that of any full on meat eater.

The food of Germany is a giant social event, rather than simply a means for getting the nourishment necessary to both tour endlessly or allow you to drink more beer. Between the pretzels, cheese, fruit, and most importantly, spätzle, as well as a ton of other Italian, Asian, Indian, and other style restaurants, we had no issue finding non meat items at pretty much every turn.

Cheesy käsespätzle topped with onion rings!

In addition to normal lunch and dinner places, Wendy made sure we took a moment here and there to appreciate the café culture of Munich with some morning cappuccinos and tea.

We really didn't have a bad meal in Munich!

The Beer!

Though the size of the city, its architecture, food, or the various other amazing things we discovered and learned along the way were all wonderful, each decidedly played second fiddle to the fact that we were visiting München during the first weekend of the 2013 incarnation of Oktoberfest, the raucous German celebration of beer and tradition.

Oktoberfest is one of those bucket list items for many, and if you’ve never been we can now tell you that it’s really an experience like no other! Rooted in a marriage celebration for Germany’s King Ludwig I in 1810, the one time event has grown into an annual tradition that now represents the single largest fair in the world.

During the two week event millions of visitors roam the walkways of the Oktoberfest grounds, and frequent the various rides, food, and shopping options.

But the main reason people arrive by the millions is for the 14 large tents that are more beer hall than simple gathering place. From the outside they are large advertisements for their own brewery.

While on the inside it looks like something along the lines of the Hogwarts style caffeteria mixed with lederhosen, a central oompah band, and a massive amount of beer and German food. 

It's loud, crazy, and absolutely drunken fun that I'm so happy we had the chance to experience at least once in our lives. By comparison, here's a photo from Cincinnati's Oktoberfest, the second largest Oktoberfest in the world...second to Munich. See the difference?

Cincinnati, OH Oktoberfest, 2002

Awkward...

Speaking of Harry Potter, doesn't this hat for sale in Munich look like the Hogwarts sorting hat, but for beer?

I'm not positive, but I think this hat is responsible for determining which beer tent you belong in. But don't worry, it takes your preference into account so you won't end up in the Hippodrome if you really want to be in the Löwenbräu tent.

I did find it very funny that the massive roller coaster rides that dot the park are most likely "enjoyed" all too often by people who have tied on one or five too many in the massive beer tents. If there's one place in Oktoberfest I'd absolutely not want to be, it's probably a car or two behind the overly drunk on one of the many loop roller coasters.

The number of fall down drunk people in the walkways was simply hysterical. I lost track of how many clumsily stumbling people we saw. It’s hard to describe just what they looked like. Think about someone wearing traditional lederhosen complete with festive hat and suspenders, trying to both walk in a straight line and keep up with their own group so intently, that they were able to no neither with any level of success, like this guys in matching yellow shirts with the rest of his group. I wish it was appropriate to take a video of him, but my description will have to do.

These extremely inebriated revelers stumbled around with their head down, one eye closed (to help with the balance), taking short steps on the balls of their feet all in an attempt to increase stability, but all that was really happening was a complete meltdown of their basic motor skills. Try as they might to be cool and coordinated, they were usually bouncing off every other person like an alcohol filled pinball as they walk through the crowd, each collision resulting in a larger ricochet and greater deviation from their intended course. Undeterred and unaware of their gross inabilities, they kept moving in the sea of people as if it’s an everyday affair. Who knows, maybe it was.

In addition to the routinely drunk, we also saw at least three and possibly four people who tripped, fell, or opted to sit on the ground and decided their location was the perfect place for that nap to sleep off their beverages. Again, wish video and even photos were appropriate in this situation, but I digress.

Wendy and I didn't have tickets to one of the beer tents, and we felt rather out of place without lederhosen nd drindl. But we still stopped by one of the smaller outdoor areas and had a few half pints of Paulaner along with an obligatory Oktoberfest selfie or two.

While Oktoberfest's primary grounds are the site of the actual carnival, there's definitely an air of celebration throughout Munich. It seemed everywhere we went the beer was flowing and the various indoor and outdoor places for food and beer related fun were always buzzing.

To embrace this aspect of German life we decided to stop by the world famous Hofbräuhaus, Munich's most identifiable beer hall, founded in 1598. And it was here that we had beers as big as our heads.

If there's one thing you need to know about us, it's that I'm a lightweight, but Wendy can hold her own. During our Hofbräuhaus adventure I got to a point where I couldn't quite finish the giant beer I had, yet I noticed Wendy's beer was almost gone. I had a very poor form but brilliant idea to take care of the dilemma I was faced with. No problem!

The Hofbräuhaus itself is filled with cool items and lore, such as the saying painted on the wall above the band.

Which translates to "Thirst is worse than homesickness."

Regulars have their steins locked in stein lockers, ready and waiting for their next visit and pint.

And there's always a good chance you'll be able to sneak a photo of a surely looking German dude with a flower in his hat kicking back and enjoying a pint or two.

Needless to say, we had an absolutely amazing time in Munich and can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys history, architecture, and good food. And if you like beer, well, then it's a no brainer! 

We'll fill you in on more of our adventures next week. Munich was only the start to an amazing trip that made us absolutely fall in love with Germany, and we can't wait to share more of our photos and experiences. 

Have you ever been to Munich? What about Munich during Oktoberfest? If so, what did you think of your time there? If not, is it on you list of places to see at some point in your life?

Comments 17

Comments

Heather
10/2/2013 at 2:40 PM
So excited that you went to Munich! I studied there during college, went back again a year later, and took my husband there recently. I am so in love with the city; I would move there in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose.

Oktoberfest is a great thing to experience at least once in your life, and you really can feel the energy and excitement throughout the city during those two weeks.

Can't wait to hear about your other adventures!
Wendy
10/3/2013
That's so cool that you lived and studied there! We absolutely fell in love with the city, and being there during Oktoberfest really added an extra layer of excitement to that leg of the trip!
10/2/2013 at 5:51 PM
Oktoberfest is definitely on our radar for a future trip. I'm thinking maybe in 2016. (Gosh that seems so far away.) A former co-worker went for her honeymoon and dressed in liederhosen for the entire event.

I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip.
Wendy
10/3/2013
Definitely go! And I agree, 2016 sure does sound like a long time from now. After reading about your recent trip, I think we'll have to put Scotland at the top of our list. :-)
10/2/2013 at 6:05 PM
I was at the Oktoberfest grounds last year. Didn't see Munich though, it was a stopover on our way to Salzburg. If you come back, FYI, the beer halls are usually reserved after 2 p.m. So before then, they usually have space set aside for people without reservations to come in and sit.

Did you drive the Romantic Road? That's what I did last year.
Wendy
10/4/2013
Thanks for the tip on the beer halls. We had such limited time in Munich that unfortunately we weren't able to come back for a daytime visit, but hope to return again sometime in the future!

Yes, we drove the Romantic Road and absolutely loved it! Rothenburg was probably our favorite stop along the way, but it was beautiful.
10/2/2013 at 6:31 PM
I loooooved Oktoberfest! I went in 2011 and we managed to sneak into one of the beer tents- it was CRAZY. We also went to Hofbrauhaus and I ended up conducting the polka band in there and the waiter let me steal a glass. Everyone there is SO nice!!
Wendy
10/4/2013
It sounds like you had a amazing time and you would have been a fun Oktoberfest companion! :-)
10/2/2013 at 9:38 PM
Which tent did the beer sorting hat place you in?
Wendy
10/4/2013
It was so weird. The beer sorting hat couldn't make a decision, and instructed me to try them all. ;-)
KarinK
10/3/2013 at 8:54 AM
Best place EVER! Sadly, last time I was there I was three months pregnant and still nauseous the entire time. How terrible is it to be in Munich when you can't throw down all the beer you want and most food makes you queasy? Great pictures as usual, and I wish I'd known you were going because I totally would have recommended this restaurant (maybe you went?) www.ratskeller.com/ If you didn't go, go next time! I love living vicariously through your travels.
Wendy
10/4/2013
Oh no! What a bummer that you were there when you were queasy and pregnant. That just means someday you'll have to go back, Karin, and make up for it! :-)

I seem to remember walking by Ratskeller but unfortunately we didn't dine there. The photos online are great, and we'll have to put it on the list for next time. Thanks for the suggestion!
Jan
10/3/2013 at 1:25 PM
In heaven there is no beer ... that's why we drink it here! lol

Haven't been to Munich, but have been to Germany (probably before you two were born, ha!). Visited Cologne, Bonn, Beethoven's birthplace, a short cruise down the Rhine, Trier. Have a lot of German ancestry myself, so it was fun. But all too brief, as vacations always are. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures! And an advantage of going in the fall is that you won't be bothered by Schnake!
Wendy
10/4/2013
Ha! Love it.

Sounds like you had a great trip, and you're due for another one! I had to look up Schnake...and I'm glad we missed them. :-)
10/4/2013 at 5:11 PM
Cool idea with steins :) I haven’t been to Germany yet but I’d certainly like to follow your route… I’ll definitely choose Munich for my next trip because of Oktoberfest in some way. I’ve been in St. Petersburg and the lion on your third photo looks just the same as those in Russia. In case you are eager to visit good place in Eastern Europe (which personally I find so exciting and inscrutable) I’d recommend you Russia – St. Petersburg.
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks for the travel tip, Maria! We'll have to look into St. Petersburg!
maggie
11/1/2013 at 10:59 PM

I was at Oktoberfest this year!! What an awesome time!
How crazy would it have been to run into you two over there. Speaking of, I passed by an Asian restaurant (New Asia maybe?) on King Street a few months ago and saw you eating dinner by the window!

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