Oktoberfest in München

You guys! This is the last post about our big road trip and I’m going to keep it short. After a quick stop in Salzburg, we made it to München for the celebrated and highly anticipated Oktoberfest. So what’s the verdict?

(You might need to click the pic to see the movement, I’ll look into it later.)

Yep! It was awesome! I had no idea what to expect, not one clue. All I knew is that you drink beer. So what happened? We arrived at a very “Oktoberfest friendly” campground that made me feel like we were back at a college dorm. Lots of young people (most wearing lederhosen and barmaid outfits), and most of them drunk at 11am. Tents were practically on top of each other in a huge open space. We secured a spot and split. Took the bus and metro into the city like everyone else and were told to just “follow the drunks.” Not kidding! We get there and can see the massive stream of people heading in the same direction, so we jammed ourselves in it.

Arriving at “Oktoberfest” was weirdly familiar. It was exactly like a state fair. (Is that just a Midwest thing?) Huge fairgrounds filled with arcades, food stalls, carnival rides, the works. The only difference was that every few meters there was a giant beer tent, filled with hundreds (thousands?) of screaming, chanting, chugging, glass-clinking revelers.

We tried to play it smart. Ate some sausages to prepare our bodies, then headed toward the mecca tent – Hofbräuhaus. Feeling like we needed a warm up before going inside the roaring tent, we sat in the beer garden and each slammed our first liter of beer and, of course, German bread (aka: a pretzel, duh). Feeling pretty darn great after that, we headed into the tent.

Inside is massive. There is a elevated stage with live music at one end and there had to be thousands of people filling every corner. There are areas for people with reservations and areas for those without (aka: us). We slid into some vacant spots at a stand-up table and ordered our second liters…

The rest is kind of a blur.  We were in there for hours, cheering people on as they tried to chug entire liters, booing them when they didn’t. Shared even more beers. Had a giant plate of wiener schnitzel. More giant pretzels. Stumbled out of the tent to see what else there was. Rode two carnival rides that spin you around and whirl you upside down… Somehow didn’t get sick (or die). Ate pizza, more sausage, and frites covered in sauerkraut.

The best thing about Oktoberfest? Everyone you see is from all over the world and just there to have a good time. We met everyone at our table; some from the States, the rest from Australia. Everyone was happy, relaxed and having fun. What could be better? Check out my video (starting at the 2:44 mark) to see the evidence. We had a great time.

We somehow managed to find our way back to the campsite that night and I even… tried to READ. We bring our iPads along for such time passage. Well, I passed out fell asleep with it next to me. Of course it rained that night. Of course it got in the tent. And that’s the little story of how I’m on my third iPad is just over a year. So there’s that.

Bonus: We earned ourselves a hearty McDonald’s breakfast the next morning. Americans: McDonald’s breakfast over here is not to be taken lightly. The McCafe is where it’s at.


Cologne tastes as good as it smells

Cologne, Germany, that is. I had read a few weeks ago that Cologne hosts the absolute best Christmas markets in Europe, so why not kick off the holidays by taking a mini-vacation there? We just spent the weekend in this awesome little city. It was a glorious, gluttonous frenzy for us as 1) We love food and 2) the markets were full of it. Oh, and we love the holidays! It definitely got us into the spirit.

We started it off right by taking the Bahn train from Amsterdam to Köln (as it’s properly spelled) on Friday morning (after a glorious Thanksgiving, see previous post). In about two and a half relaxing hours, we were there. For about half the price and half the hassle of flying, it was a nice change from all our previous airborne trips within Europe. Over the next couple of days, we did a ton of eating, drinking and sight-seeing. Here is a quick recap:

Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral: This is the big, famous market on the Dom Square. It was so festive! With the famous cathedral as the backdrop and adorable red tents, it was impossible not to be excited for the holidays. Great food and gift ideas, but also HUGE crowds. Like, people breathing on your food everywhere you turn. However, it made for good people watching. Here are some samples of what we ate:

Angels Market: Our favorite. We accidentally stumbled upon this one while roaming the streets the first night. It was the most beautiful by far; at night the trees were lit up with paper stars. So magical! Here we had our fair share of Glühwein, a hot spiced wine that we occasionally enhanced with rum. Delicious. This is also the location of best food of the weekend: smoked salmon sandwiches got a unanimous vote (from all 2 of us) as top food. I honestly could have eaten this a dozen more times throughout the weekend.

Home of the Gnomes: This one was cute, but definitely geared toward the kiddies. We didn’t mind strolling past all the intricately decorated gnome huts or ice-skating rink with hot Glühwein or spiked apple cider in our hands though.

Cologne Harbor Christmas Market: Our least favorite. Hah. How could I say that about a Christmas market? Where is my Christmas cheer? Oh that’s right, I left it at the other three where I had already consumed my weight in Glühwein and bratwurst. Also, it was the least scenic and the least crowded. Not surprisingly, this led to a mediocre visit. I think our opinion was also influenced by the fact that we had not sat down all day and were already full from all the other 1,000 vendors we had hit up at other markets. Is there such a thing as Christmas market overload? I’m starting to think so.

Museum Ludwig: A great art museum right next to the Dom. Decent galleries of Andy Warhol and Picasso. The best exhibit was a temporary photo collection of Picasso throughout his life. He seemed like a cool dude!

My favorite piece:

Documentation Centre and Gestapo Prison: Whenever I travel, I try to do at least one historical site and this was high up there on the Lonely Planet suggestions for Cologne. I had no idea how sad and horrifying it would be. The prison in the basement is still intact and you can see the inmates’ scrawlings on the walls. You also learn about the rise of National Socialism, how the movement swept Germany, and the German side of World War Two. Wow. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my life of freedom and comfort. Seriously, being in a place like this makes you stop and think – Wow, I have it so good. I suppose that is the intention in preserving a site like this though. We left with renewed gratitude for our lives.

That’s all, folks! We did a lot with a little, no? In three days, we did not sit for one meal. Or drink. Or anything. Even breakfast was grabbed from a bakery on the go. It. Was. Exhausting. I highly recommend being more prepared than I was and bring very, very, very, VERY comfortable shoes. Even if you think stacked heel boots are usually pretty comfortable, even if you have multiple Dr. Scholl’s inserts, don’t risk it unless you know you can walk for miles. Don’t ask Jaro how much I whined complained calmly discussed my aching feet every night. “Sore” subject for both of us. Ba-dump-ching! Yeah, that’s right, pun intended. I am my father’s daughter.