Marcus was there waiting when I arrived, and in we climbed to his Mercedes CLK 200 Kompressor. Well, it’s not actually Marcus’s car; his father insisted we use “a proper car” to get around. No complaints from me. We drove about 300km from Weeze to Frankfurt Airport, where we picked up Prashna. Who’s Prashna? Click here to find out.
From Frankfurt Airport, we drove further South to Munich, about 400km. The plan? Oktoberfest of course! First celebrated in 1810 on the occasion of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen getting married, with a number of years since then being skipped for war, disease, etc, this year was the 175th Oktoberfest.
Although everyone has told me in the past that Oktoberfest is just thousands and thousands of drunk tourists, I was surprised to find that the vast majority of people we saw and met in the various Oktoberfest tents were German. Apparently it’s about 72% German, but the foreigners all end up concentrated together in one or two tents. At the campsite where we stayed, everyone was foreign, but in the festival beer tents we met only a small number of non-Germans. I’d been to Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) in April 2003, which is a smaller festival and almost 100% German attendees, and really enjoyed it so it was nice to revisit the same festival grounds (Theresienwiese) again. Marcus’s friend Daniel joined us at the festival grounds and we set out to find ourselves a party.
Outside, as we entered the festival grounds:
Once inside a tent, it can be difficult to find a table to sit/stand at. If you’re not actually sitting or standing on a bench around a table, you don’t get served beer or food, so it’s important to actually physically join a table of friends or strangers. As we walked through the first tent we entered, all of a sudden some girl jumped out and grabbed Marcus. Turns out her name is Natalie and they met at a huge music festival in Budapest, Hungary in the Summer! So we got to join the table where Natalie and her friends were standing on the benches.
Daniel, me, Natalie, and Prashna:
At Oktoberfest, there are a limited number of food items for sale: large pretzels being the most common inside the tents. Here, Natalie demonstrates the correct way to eat your pretzel:
After much merriment and song, we went home to the campsite outside town and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning we headed back into town to look around a bit, as this was Prashna’s first time in Europe, and Munich is a really nice city with plenty of fancy buildings. For instance, we were just walking down the street looking for a bank machine after our morning coffee when we spotted a ridiculously ornate building. So we went inside.
The plaque on the outside says it’s the Church of St Johann Nepomuk, built by two brothers named Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam, a very long time ago and named after St John of Nepomuk, a Bohemian monk who became a saint after being drowned in the River Danube. It’s not huge, but it’s the fanciest church I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of churches (I even once slept on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City). I’ve only been in a handful of Russian Orthodox churches, and those were very ornate, but I think this one is more so by far:
This is the outside:
This is the inside:
This is the ceiling. I was using my point-and-shoot, so the quality is quite low, but I’ve put three copies below so you don’t have to twist your head. In real life this looks amazing and three dimensional. Note the church spire coming out of the bottom left corner.
Looking at the same photo upside down, I *think* the dude on the left with the umbrella over him is Pontius Pilate. On the bottom right are some Crusaders it seems, and outside the photo somewhere were some Middle Eastern men with swords drawn.
Like I said it looks way better in person, so if you’re in Munich I highly recommend visiting and seeing how much effort (and money) was put into this place.
Some neat building, though only 100 years old, in centre of the city:
We took a quick walk to Marienplatz, a very tourist-filled location in Munich. According to Wikipedia, with no citation, “Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule, a Marian column erected in its centre in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation.” Yep, little old Sweden way up North was once an imperial force and a warring nation all this distance to the South!
‘Altes Rathaus’ or ‘Old City Hall’ Clocktower in Marienplatz:
Prashna was super excited to try German sausages, so she and I went into a sausage shop.
We wanted to order the cheap special from the board outside: “Zwei Weißwurst mit Breze und Senf.” When I asked her “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” the lady answered “Nein” so I had to order it in German. I don’t actually speak German, but she understood and everyone was happy. “Two white sausages with pretzel and mustard.” Sometimes maybe pointing is better, then we don’t run the risk of being served fermented fish guts (no, I don’t think this is actually served in Germany) by using the wrong words, but we got what we wanted:
This is the ‘Neues Rathaus‘ or ‘New city Hall’ which is only a century old.
We then returned to the festival grounds to have one more go at Oktoberfest. We passed this very slow-moving merry-go-round serving Franziskaner Weißbier as we walked along, and thought it quite a strange idea. Later, we ended up there for a couple hours!
We eventually found a tent with some space at a table, and joined two pairs of guys who were already there. When we were kicked out of the tent (no, not for misbehaving – the tables are reserved for supper from 5pm onward) these two came with us, as did Rudy (the young guy in the back) and Alex, the girl on the front right. I don’t think I caught the names of these other two guys. All German, all loads of fun, and they stayed with us as we went to the merry-go-round and other fun places.
The inside of one of the beer tents:
The next day, time to pack up and leave town for us three. This is one small section of the campsite. The uniformity of the tents is due to the fact that they’re all from one tour company. Different tour companies organise big groups of young tourists to come to Oktoberfest and they set all the tents up for them.
We set up our own tent, beside our car: