Germany, Day 12: They Say It’s Your Birthday

Today was my birthday and I decided that for our last day in Southern Bavaria, I would like to have lunch at the real Hofbrauhaus in Munich’s old town.  Again we commuted into the giant Munich train station and took the subway to the Marienplatz, the heart of Munich’s old town.


In the middle of the platz is a statue honouring Catholic saints fighting symbols of the evil protestants.  Also in the main tower is a glockenspiel that plays at 1100hrs and 1200hrs every day.  As it was 1155hrs, we decided to take a good spot and watch.


The glockenspiel shows a royal wedding reception followed by a jousting match with the Bavarian in blue and white defeating the Frenchman in red and white, and finally courtly dancers.  At noon the church bells sounded and the mass of people in the square all craned their necks and eagerly stared at the glockenspiel.  About 3 minutes later the music started and the crowd went silent, only making noise again when the Bavarian out-jousted the Frenchman (hooray!).  After another 7 minutes the show wrapped up and we were on our way.


We made our down the more main streets and to the famous Hofbrauhaus.  The house band was blasting their oom pah pah and the crowd was almost as jolly as those at Oktoberfest.  We found a table next to some friendly guys from Bologna, got our mass of beers (Ma ordered a mini mass) and ordered our food.  I don’t know how it’s possible, but the rowdies behind us got kicked out for being too rowdy.  In a beer hall.


After another walk around the town we decided we were done with Munich and wanted to spend the rest of our day in the town we’d been staying in, Augsburg.  Our tour guide for Neuschwanstein Carlota had told us that Augsburg’s old town was beautiful and was a smaller, less crowded Munich.  Pa had also read that the old city hall houses a beautiful golden room (goldener seal) and wanted to check that out.  We arrived back into Augsburg and headed to the old town.  The old town hall faces an enormous square with a fountain and many shops and patios.  We learned that Augsburg is actually a very affluent city and made its money in the textiles trade back in the day.  It was destroyed in the War but rebuilt with generous donations from the community.  Also, playwright Bertolt Brecht was born here.

We went into the city hall, bought our tickets and headed up to the golden room.


It really is a thing of beauty.  Gold leaf covering the wooden statues and ceiling sculptures, wood parkay flooring and tall windows made it a totally enchanting space.  We read the handout on the history, spent some time just looking around and were on our way.

Ma and Pa wanted to walk around but I just wanted a beer, so I grabbed a table in the square, ordered a beer and watched what was going on around me.  There were several security guards at the square but they didn’t bother anyone.  There were a lot of youths hanging out, minding their business, having a sit and chatting and security didn’t bother them.  Everyone there was just being peaceful, doing their own thing.  Ma and Pa then joined me and we people watched and decided what we would do for my birthday dinner.  Carlota had recommended a popular restaurant in the basement of the old town hall, so we found the Rathskeller and decided to check it out.  We were not disappointed.  Ma and Pa had pork medallions and I had Bavarian sausage, beer and some raspberry schnapps for dessert.  It was a delicious meal in a very cool setting.  It was also surprisingly reasonable – 3 entrees, 3 desserts, 2 beers and a liqueur in a really posh restaurant came to $45 euros.  We wandered back to our hotel, peaking into the many fine fashion shops and ogled the beautiful boots, bags, watches and hats, then turned in for the night.


Germany, Day 10: Oom Pah Pah

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.