With heavy hearts we packed our bags, ate a fantastic breakfast and caught a cab out of Rothenburg, cursing our thorough but not thorough enough trip planning for the singular night in that magical little hamlet.
We got on the train and headed south-east to the suburban Bavarian town of Augsburg. Augsburg is about a 45 minute train ride outside of Munich, and we decided to stay there rather than in Munich proper because the largest outdoor festival in the world is happening – Oktoberfest. Going to Oktoberfest was a dilemma for me – I love beer and fun, but I hate crowds and getting jostled around. One of my managers at work had told me that Oktoberfest isn’t fun and it’s mostly drunk people peeing in the streets. Ma and Pa weren’t convinced either, but Argie piped up and said she just wanted to see what it was like, maybe have a beer and then we could leave. We decided that this wasn’t an opportunity that presented itself every day, so we checked into our hotel in Augsburg, dropped our things off and headed into Munich. We had a little chuckle when we boarded the train as we saw a group of young men in lederhosen, gingham shirts and tyrollean hats – cute!
First things first – the Munich train station is an incredible piece of engineering and algorithms. 36 tracks and trains, shops, restaurants, tour companies, all busy and bustling. Also, like a lot of the train stations we’ve been to, they are all very clean and don’t smell like pee and armpit, unlike some of the skytrain stations in Vancouver…
Anyhow, we got off the train at the Munich train station and discovered that group of men in lederhosen were in the majority and us in our civvies were in the minority. Most men were in some sort of suede shorts/gingham shirt combo and most women were in dirndls, every single one of them looking beautiful and rosy-cheeked. We followed the crowds of traditional dress and marked sidewalks to the fairgrounds, had our bags checked by the tiers of security and polizei and entered into a joyous, beer-soaked world where people from all over the globe convene to eat, drink and be merry:
14 beer tents, all holding about 7000 and bursting at the seams with merriment! Argie and I decided we wanted to try the Hofbrauhaus tent for a mass (1 litre) of beer, listen to the band and maybe have a pretzel as it is arguably the most famous brauhaus in Bayern. Ma and Pa followed suit and as we entered the tent, a huge smile spread across our faces – the oom pah pah of the band hit our ears and the yeasty smell of beer and roasted chicken and pork knuckle hit our senses. One of the waitress frauleins showed us a space at one of the long tables where we quickly made friends with some of our neighbours. Argie and I quickly became very popular with some of the more inebriated men.
We got our mass of beer (well, beer for me and Pa, radlers for Argie and Ma), ordered some food and just enjoyed all of the commotion around us – people trying to chug their beer, people swaying and ‘prost’-ing every time the band played “Ein Prosit” (apparently they are to play it every 15 minutes to keep people drinking).
Argie and I made friends with two of our table mates, Vroni from Hamburg and Maximillian from Dresden. They are both flight attendants with Lufthansa and Argie and I hope we get to fly with them some day.
It seemed to us that at Oktoberfest everyone is your friend and much more affectionate than when you are sober. These Dutch gents insisted I come visit the Netherlands soon.
I don’t know how the staff kept it together. These women must have the strongest forearms in the world and the sharpest memories (and I would imagine, the most bruised butt cheeks after these two weeks).
We finished our meals and beer and decided it was time to move on to explore the other parts of the fairgrounds, and Ma heard whispers of a dessert tent and wanted to ferret that out.
We found the fabled dessert tent and ordered coffee and cake and enjoyed the band, this time instead of playing traditional German music, played the hits including Queen and Suzie Quattro.
We finished our strudels and coffee and decided it was probably time to head towards the train station as we had surprisingly been at the fest for 5 1/2 hours and had an early morning the next day. As we were leaving we noticed the festival had gotten quite a bit busier and drunker, walking behind a poor over-served soul flanked by lederhosen-clad friends, giving him a good drag to the train station.