When you live in Germany, Oktoberfests are EVERYWHERE. Starting in mid-to late-September, the beer taps flow, oompah bands flourish and if you haven’t dusted off your dirndl or lederhosen, well, you best step to it. Seriously. Even the little obscure village around the corner has Oktoberfest for one weekend. However, there is one festival to rule them all. THE Oktoberfest. Munich or bust, buddy.
Sparky and Brain made Oktoberfest their grand finale of sorts. Sure, they still had 24 hours in Paris, but this was the last long haul before they started their westward trek back to the States. Since I hate driving in large cities, and let’s face it — ever since living on an island, driving anywhere longer than an hour is enough to make me stabby —we figured taking the train would be our best bet. Famous. Last. Words.
Trip win/fail #1: Kickin’ Chicken Taco Pringles. I kid you not, these truly exist and really do taste like a kickin’ chicken taco. For about the first 30 minutes. Total win if you constantly crave Mexican food. Then after those first 30 minutes, they start kickin’ back.
Trip win #2: Public transportation in Munich. When we arrived in Munich, we weren’t quite sure where we were going. The hotel we were staying at was north of the city center, so we were going to have to take the U-bahn and a tram to get there. Let me tell ya…public transportation is an art form in Munich. It is incredibly easy to get around. We made it to our hotel (Star Inn Premium), changed into our lederhosen and dirndls, and headed to the fest.
Trip win #3: Security. In light of all of the recent craziness plaguing Europe, local authorities ramped up security. For the first time in the history of Oktoberfest, they fenced in the festival and limited the entry points. The closest U-bahn station was closed and there was security in the main stations. They would check for suspicious packages before anyone headed into the city center. Once you arrived to the festival grounds, security guards greeted you as you crossed the street, and then another line of them as you walked inside. Each beer tent also had its own security, so to be honest, I don’t think I could have been anywhere safer at that point in time.
The fest itself is massive. It truly is the fest to end all fests. Rides, games, awesome German carnie food and beer tents. I don’t even think the word “tent” should be associated with these structures. Architecturally, they’re amazing. It’s hard to imagine that during the other 50 weeks in the year, it’s nothing but flat and barren land. Dirndls and lederhosen are the uniform du jour; if you’re not wearing one, you kind of stick out. We weren’t quite sure where to start, so we headed for the first tent we saw.
Tip o’the day #1: If you don’t have reservations in a tent (which are hard to come by, unless you have a party of 10 or more), split up into smaller groups. We were a party of three, so we didn’t have trouble finding a table sans reservations. If we had been a larger group, I think we would have had difficulty.
The first tent we went into was Löwenbrau. We asked a waitress if there were any seats available. She told us that she could seat us at a table, but we would need to leave by 5:45 p.m., as it was reserved beginning at 6 p.m. We told her no problem and she sat us a table in the corner with a few other people.
Tip o’the day #2: Get to know your neighbors. You will be seated with strangers, so you’ll become friends fast. We were the token Americans at the table, but our new beer buddies were pretty awesome. They knew enough English and we knew *just* enough German to get by.
Once we finished our liter (yes, friends, I said “liter”) of beer each, we needed to get some food in our stomachs. We walked outside and found a place that sold the cheesy deliciousness known as käsespatzel. Käsespatzel is essentially the German version of macaroni and cheese, only with buttery spatzel noodles instead of macaroni and topped off with fried onion goodness. I have to say … German fest food is pretty legit. Portions are bigger than your head and the options are ridiculously awesome.
Tip o’the day #3: If you’re drinking with me, you’re eating with me. I eat when I drink. Who cares if I just snarfed half a bowl of cheesy spatzel goodness? Roasted chicken? Yes, thanks. Sugary pretzel? Duh. It’s no wonder I weigh more here than I have in a while. Because food. And beer.
Tip o’the day #4: The biergartens are pretty awesome. Every beer tent has a biergarten outside. They serve the same beer, the same food and even funnel the music from inside to the outside via speakers. The best part? Not nearly as many people and you don’t have to worry about reservations. Win! For me, my favorite was the Spaten biergarten. Not crowded at all and service was excellent.
After an evening of festing, we all woke up a little groggy and foggy. We changed and made our way back to the fest grounds. We grabbed some coffee at train station and pretzels at the fest for a late breakfast. We kicked off our tent hopping at Hacker-Pschorr. We sat at a table with this ridiculously cute older German couple. About every five minutes or so, the oompah band would rally up the toast and the poor gentleman across from us would roll his eyes, heave a deep sigh and grudgingly lift his glass. After about the eighth toast, he finally let his rant go. Since it was all in German (and we’d had too much at this point to understand what he was saying), we toasted him, finished our drinks, and headed over to the next tent.
Trip Fail #2: Hofbrau. The second tent of the day we hit was Hofbrau. This was by far our least favorite tent. Between the gaggle of Chinese tourists that kept hitting Sparky in the back, and the waitress that demanded a tip from us, Hofbrau left a bad taste. The tables were crammed together, which meant that we were crammed together. The food was okay, but the potato dumpling was a definite miss. It tasted almost like a weird potato mochi. I LOVE mochi, but this was just bleh.
After we made it to our third and final tent of the day (yes, we managed to hit up all of the breweries that were represented at the fest), we decided to get a better view of Oktoberfest. We got in line and jumped on the giant Ferris wheel. It was amazing to see the sea of people, the rides and the bustling beer tents. Just knowing that it’s not a permanent fixture is totally amazing.
When made our way back to the hotel and decided that a nap was in order. After about two hours, we woke up and made our way to Marienplatz. I thought that I had an idea of where I was going, but honestly, I suck when it comes to directions. We finally managed to find a place — ironically, it was Paulaner — to grab some dinner. We all had some delicious Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup) and then topped it off with Apfelkuchen.
By the time our third day rolled around, we were pretty fested out. We hit train station a little early and wandered around a bit. We grabbed some döner before hopping on the train, which was quite tasty.
Trip fail #3: Deutsche Bahn. We jumped on the RE (regional express) and were one stop from Kaiserslautern when it happened. The train remained stopped. I checked the Deutsche Bahn app and it showed a 35-minute delay. No big deal. I texted Girl Child to let her know that we were going to be a little late. Then came the announcement over the loudspeaker. All of a sudden, everyone got up, grabbed their belongings, and stepped off the train. We were trying to figure out what was going on, and since the announcements were all in German, we were getting a little frustrated. After we got off the train, the doors closed and it headed back toward Mannheim.
I finally broke down and called Husband for a ride. Thankfully, we were only about 20 minutes from our original destination, and he was already getting ready to leave for the day. After checking online and digging around, we discovered that there had been an incident at the Kaiserslautern station and trains were being diverted. At least now we can cross “getting kicked off of a train” off of our to-do lists.
If you happen to be in Germany for an extended period of time (especially during the fall), I would highly recommend hitting up *the* Oktoberfest. At least once. If nothing else, to say that you’ve been there, done that. Although the festival was awesome, the company I kept was even better.
If you head to Oktoberfest, here are some great resources to check out: