Flying south from Oslo to Munich changes came fast and swift. Gone was small town Oslo with its airport only minutes away from downtown. Flying into the Munich airport you are immediately dwarfed by its size. After landing we jumped on a train for an hour ride to our hotel in downtown Munich. Once at the hotel we met up with our friends Matt & Kim who were the reason that we were in Europe in the first place. They were super excited having just been married and it was Kim’s first trip to Europe. As none of us had eaten lunch we walked down our street finding a traditional German restaurant/beer garden called Atzinger. We split a sausage platter, fries, pretzels and steins of beer. It was here that we planned our Bavarian schedule.
Month’s prior we had booked a bus tour that goes to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle that was the inspiration for the Disney castle). We booked the tour for Sunday and were going to go to Oktoberfest on Monday (it was currently Friday). We planned it that way because you are not able to simply buy 1 ticket for a seat in one of the tents for Oktoberfest. Here is how it works. Entrance to the festival grounds is free. It is somewhat family friendly with carnival games, rides, trinket and food stands. There are 14 beer tents that hold around 3000 people each. In the tents there are 3 seatings per day. In order to get a seating at a table you must pay for the entire table which seats 8 and costs roughly $500 Euro or $575 USD. This prepayment goes towards your food and drink and anything you spend over $500 Euro you owe at the end of the day. You are able to enter the tents after the last seating but there is no set table for you (you must find an open seat to be served) and its only 1 person out, 1 person in for the tents so it could take a while to get in. Because of all of this we had decided to go to the festival on Monday where we figured that it would be easier (and cheaper) to gain entrance to one of the tents.
After our late lunch we walked around the city for a bit going to two of the main squares called Odeonsplatz and Marienplatz. At this time we were getting a bit thirsty and wanted to find a small bar to have a beer and to continue to catch up with each other. We found the Jodlerwirt Bar and settled in. Here we ended up sitting next to brother and sister Jen & Chris originally from Long Island, NY. In talking with Jen & Chris we found out that they had just run the Berlin marathon and had come to Munich to take part in Oktoberfest. After a bit more of conversation they said that they had actually bought a table for the next day in one of the tents and as it was just them so they invited us to join them. This blew our minds, as we were not expecting to go to opening day and 1st seating of the whole festival. We jumped at the chance and agreed to go with them. After a few beers we headed back to the hotel stopping for a doner kabab (aka German fast food) excited for the next day.
We woke up the next morning excited for Oktoberfest. Julie had gone to school and lived in Munich during college and still had friends in the city. As it was the opening day of Oktoberfest there were special events happening. At 8:45am four of us put on our lederhosen and dirndl’s (traditional German apparel) and hopped in an Uber and headed over to the main Hofbräukeller restaurant at Wiener Platz. Here we met up with Julie’s friend Toby and his family. Shortly after we arrived large horse drawn carriages arrived. A few of them were carrying the first barrels of beer for the Hofbräuhaus Brewery tent at Oktoberfest and the rest were carrying the president and others of the company. It was really neat seeing the Clydesdale horses and taking part in this aspect of Oktoberfest as Toby had told us that we were pretty much the only tourists seeing this. Shortly after 9:30 a marching band appeared, started to play and walked towards the festival. The horses followed and within a few minutes they were gone. At this point it was time to go to Oktobefest for us!
We hopped into the Wiener Platz U-Bahn (subway) and headed over to the festival grounds. Once there we met Jen & Chris and headed over to our tent, Marstall. As it was opening morning for Oktoberfest and it was a gorgeous day the festival grounds were packed. It was one of those crowds where you did not chose where to go, you would just have to go the direction that the crowd was going. We eventually made it to our tent and after having our tickets checked found our table, #500 located on the 2nd floor of the tent. Laid out on the table was a huge appetizer spread consisting of meats, cheeses, pretzels, mustards and for some reason radishes. We talked for a bit chowing down on the appetizers. It was then the president of the brewery tapped the first keg in a ceremony and Oktoberfest had started! Almost immediately the army of waiters and waitresses started walking out with armfuls of beer steins dropping them off at tables. Soon after this our main courses came out consisting of half roasted chicken with potato salad….8 portions for the 6 of us. We all chowed down stuffing ourselves with food and beer. It was awesome! Almost as soon as it started though our seating time was over. It lasted from 11am-2pm. All 3000 people in the tent had to leave so they could clean and get ready for the next 3000 to come in.
After leaving the Marstall tent we walked around taking pictures of the other massive tents before finding a small outdoor beer garden next to the Hacker-Pschorr tent. We eventually got into this tent (it took roughly 45 minutes). After being here for an untold number of hours (the beer was starting to take over) we took another walk trying to find another tent to get into but unfortunately no luck. As it was closing in on 10pm and we had been out and about since 8:45am we decided to call it a night. We said goodbye to Jen & Chris and thanked them for letting us join them at their table and headed back to our hotel stopping by at a Thai restaurant for some take out before falling into bed for the night.
We woke up early the next morning a little worse for the wear. The previous day had taken a toll on all of us but we had a tour to go on. We called an Uber and were dropped off at our bus. We had booked a tour called “Small Group Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Castle Luxury Coach Day Trip Tour”. The drive from downtown Munich to the castle located just north of the Austrian border was about 2 hours. 2 hours of sleep that we all desperately needed. Only Julie had been to the Neuschwanstein castle before but even she said its still just amazingly beautiful. All four of us were blown away by how beautiful it actually was. The castle is located on the northern foothills of the Alps so driving up to it you see spectacular mountain views. After parking in the little town of Hohenschwangau we decided to walk up to the castle instead of taking the $5 Euro horse drawn carriage. The walk up the mountain to the castle was not only beautiful but it really helped cure our hangovers. Soon enough we reached the castle and it was time for our tour. As the castle is an extremely popular tourist attraction tour times are signed up for way in advance. You go in with a group and are all given audio guides. The guide tells you all about each room that you wander through and tells you when to go on to the next one. There is also a security guard with every group to make sure no one tries to touch or vandalize any part of the castle. We learned that even though the castle looks like something built hundreds of years ago it’s actually quite new for castles. It was built in the late 1800’s being finished in 1882 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria so it did have many modern amenities of its time. The castle and its location were spectacular and truly looked like something out of a fairy tale.
Next on the tour was the small town of Oberammergau. Oberammergau is famous for two things, its intricate wood carved buildings and its 385-year-old tradition of its passion play. Driving to this town was just incredible. Small, rolling hills with farms in the foreground and the craggy mountain peaks of the Alps behind the town with its charming buildings; this was a place that Rick Steves Europe show should come to if it hasn’t been already. We walked through the town stopping in a few of its small souvenir shops before hopping back on the bus.
Next and last stop for the day was the Linderhof Palace, the personal residence of King Ludwig II. While much smaller than Neuschwanstein this was where the majority of the money was spent. This little palace oozed in opulence. Inside and outside there were items encrusted in gold. No expense was spared in the making of this residence. One of the most unique features of the property was its main fountain. The water for the fountain came from the mountains surrounding the property and was non-mechanical. The water pressure coming down from the mountain behind the palace powered the whole fountain. Every 15 minutes or so the pressure would be so great that it would cause the fountain to go off creating a 25 meter high surge of water that would last for 5 minutes or so. After getting back to the bus we were greeted with some German beer for the ride home. All in all the tour was great and we would recommend this to anyone going to Munich and wanting to see King Ludwig’s southern Bavarian castles.
After getting back we headed over to the Hofbräuhaus for dinner, drinks and traditional German music before calling it a night. When you think of the traditional German beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus is it. Big wooden picnic style tables that you share with others, Oktoberfest music, big plates of sausage and pork products and of course, steins of beer. Getting the stein is so common here when they ask if you want beer all you need to say is yes. They will then get you 1 stein (1 liter) of their lager beer. If you want any other kind of their beer or a half liter you must ask, if not you get a liter of lager. This was a great end to our Bavarian sight seeing day.
The next two days were full of Munich sightseeing. While Matt & Kim went to see the Dachau Concentration Camp (Julie and I had both been before. It’s something that everyone should see but also something that seeing it once is enough), Julie and I went to see the main park in Munich, the English Garden. In the English Garden there is a pretty unique feature, surfers! There is a large fast moving stream running through the park and at one point a large pipe goes under the water creating a wave of sorts which allows people to surf the water. Its very neat to watch as surfers jump on their boards right from the bank, surf for a minute or so then jump off so that the next person can go. Who would have thought, surfing in central Europe! From the English Garden we wandered past the US Consulate before going to the farmers market, The Viktualienmarkt, where we ate currywurst for lunch. It was delicious. From that market we wandered through a brand new Italian market before meeting back up with Matt & Kim for a small mid afternoon snack. We wandered the city for the rest of the day stopping in and out of shops before having our final dinner together that night at the Franziskaner Brewery.
The next morning we woke up and headed to the Munich train station with Matt & Kim. They were continuing on with their honeymoon in Switzerland and we were sending them off. It almost felt as one of those send offs that you see in the movies in the large European train station, people walking every direction, trains moving and a voice over the loudspeaker in a language that you don’t understand. Nonetheless the right train was reached and they were off. It was great to be able to experience part of their trip and our trip with each other and have experiences together that we will never forget.
The rest of the day was spent exploring Julie’s past in Munich. We went to the famous Marienplatz to see the noontime glockenspiel show which Julie loved seeing. She had gone to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (aka University of Munich). We then went to her student housing at Studentenstadt. This was neat for her to see as when we got there she said that almost nothing had changed in terms of the buildings and surroundings from when she lived there back in 2006 through 2007. We then walked the main streets in the area trying to find places where she used to go. She really liked this area as it had all different kinds of foods. It’s hard to eat just German sausages for days on end and you need a little variety so this is where she would come. We spent the rest of the day visiting places that Julie used to visit seeing how some things had changed and some had not. It brought back a lot of memories for her and she loved being able to share it with me.
The next day we woke up, packed and set out once again. We headed to the touristy area of Munich to pick up a few last minute souvenirs before heading to Julie’s favorite student bar for lunch, Kilian’s Irish Pub (she needed to hear English spoken every now and then). Its safe to say you can go anywhere in the world and you will always find an Irish pub. After a good meal we walked around Munich a little more before heading back to the hotel, grabbing our bags and getting on the U-Bahn to go back to the Munich Airport.
Next up…Fun in the sun! We head to Lisbon, Portugal!