My goodness, what time is it? Where am I? What am I wearing? Why is everything so quiet?
The air is still, clean and clear, yet conveying a feeling of motionlessness. Dim light dapples the ceiling while laced curtains stand stock still and eerily indistinct in the periphery.
Holy shit, it’s 3am! When did we get home? Why do my jeans smell like beer? Oh jeez, please let that be beer…
Hmm, seems as though I don’t have a hangover. That’s new. How much did we drink?
Better yet, how the heck did we get home? I recall vague images of Oktoberfest shenanigans … sights, midways, food stalls … then nothing. Not even a haze of jumbled images aboard trams, taxis, bicycles, or horseback.
At least without some of the above I can assume that some modicum of control was maintained. I’m reasonably certain no lines were crossed nor embarrassing texts unleashed.
What do I know for sure?
Well, we made it home. I still have my wallet. My camera bag is on the floor, that’s comforting. My phone is also plugged in. Past Adam was uncharacteristically thoughtful in that regard.
Lemme see if I can piece this together. To do that, I’m going to have to work backwards from what I know through to the last things I definitely remember.
Monday is easy and territory we’ve already covered. Via bus from Prague, Kat and I arrived at the Munich train station, where we united with the rest of our party: one of my oldest friends, his wife, and one of their closest friends, all natives of my homeland.
What do 3 Canadians and 2 expats get up to on their first crazy night in Germany?
Why, they hop on a trolley, find their BnB, and raid a local petrol station for beverage and microwaveable foodstuffs. We may not be royalty, but we certainly know how to live like kings!
Ah Tuesday, a time of blissful ignorance. Sleep was adequate, the sun was shining, scents of coffee fuelled our early movements through the streets of Munich while the morning mist slowly released its grip on the city.
The air was brisk, our tails bushy, and our heads full of fairytale castles and Bohemian rhapsodies.
See what I did there, future me? Subtly implying both our environs and inevitably thematic road trip playlist? You can thank me later.
With that, the Bavarian landscape and rolling hills slipped by to the tune of Sweet Caroline and several renditions of Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit. Thus would begin our deep-seated hatred for beer fest music. For the moment, though, we were lost in … I wouldn’t call it fantasy … or enjoyment … let’s call it a shared amusement. The music was ridiculous, spirits were high, and Germany was showing us some of its best.
Before long, our small party would find itself safely parked at our destination. Amidst manufactured Bohemian gift shops and the press of touristy flesh we stood within a stone’s throw of one of Germany’s best known castles; Neuschwanstein, and its neighbouring palace of Hohenschwangau.
Fantastical architecture and history together exert a powerful draw on the tourist psyche in all of us. I call it the Aw-Lookit-That-Pretty-Thing-There-Karen Singularity. Or The Singularity, for short. No studies have adequately concluded as to what comprises one, nor what factors are required to dependably create one, but it’s undeniable to pinpoint when one exists. Neuschwanstein certainly contains at least one.
As much as touristy crowds grate on my composure, forcing me to plumb the depths of foreign accents to avoid being accidentally mistaken for an American tourist, it’s impossible not to get caught up in it all when there is legitimate spectacle around you.
The day went as one would expect. Tours lead to queues lead to adjoining rooms of opulence and finery that I’m sure have inspired fantasy makers for generations. Gilded interior decorations were interspersed with incredible views over the neighbouring valleys, villages, and treed gullies.
In spite of the constant push of tourists, it was one of the most magical places I’ve visited.
I’m also quite happy that we decided to venture out prior to our deep dive into Oktoberfest shenanigans. Especially from the perspective of hindsight.
Tuesday closed out without a hitch. Where the morning found us set out of Munich with Ein Prosit on the radio and a spring in our steps, the evening saw us returning with blisters on our feet and somewhat less energetic tunes on the stereo.
Wednesday, that would be our day. Today we’d experience the fest for which some of us had travelled halfway around the world. The fest for which several of us had even purchased festive attire. As one does when in Munich. We would also discover just how quickly a litre of fine German beer can disappear, as well as how quickly said beer can also be replenished.
We spent the beginning of the day scoping out the festival, finding the tents we intended to favour with our patronage later, taking in the selection of local foods, and enjoying the general atmosphere of the festival. While there were plenty of tourists, it was really exciting to realise that the majority of fest-goers appeared to be German, if not local Bavarians.
They were a jovial lot and, aside from a few cases of tomfuckery, most folks were quite well behaved. It was a high standard that I’d hoped we could maintain. For the most part, I’m reasonably sure that we did.
I must say, I’ve had blackouts in the past. However, they’ve usually involved the consumption of a quantity of booze that would fell a bull, followed by painfully regaining consciousness on a fire-escape and regretting my choices for several days.
On this day, we settled ourselves into the Augustiner tent, grabbed a couple rounds of steins, and it’s at this point that things become … unclear.
While my memory of the evening to follow is hazy – non-existent in spots – it was surprisingly not accompanied with the expected headache, rash of embarrassing texts, or ridiculous photos of karaoke sessions that past-Me has been known for.
There are several photos on my phone that I’m not entirely sure I recall, and accounts of proclamations that certainly don’t sound like they came from me, but all-in-all, I think the night rounded out without hitches – either embarrassing or regretful.
We had fun. Drank a few too many steins. Made it home AND out again for dinner at a reputable establishment, with only a few hazy stretches that lead us right in to …
Every lesson I thought we’d learned, every plan I thought we’d made, flew right out the window in fantastic fashion before the day was through.
Rather than hit the tents early, leaving us to shamefully stagger out of the fest before the evening hours had begun to set in, we decided to pace ourselves.
The day began with games. Lots of midway games. And rides. While I don’t go in for motion-sickness inducing fun before I’m expected to eat and drink, others jumped at the chance, with a decent amount of success, to boot!
Arrows were loosed. Rings tossed. Rifles fired. Gingerbread hearts were earned and, I think, other hearts won, as well (Dale, I’m looking at you, you sly brownie-point-earning fella, you!).
Before long we found ourselves in the traditional portion of Oktoberfest. It’s a place we’d briefly touched on the previous day … yet everything seemed quite new this time around. Methinks the drink had, perchance, begun to take hold sometime around this point the previous day.
While Augustiner was a fantastic hall, the trad portion of the fest is by far my favourite. The hall itself was gilt with bare wood and garlands. Beer sloshed cooly out of clay steins while old school regional music pumped out of a bandstand that dominated the centre of the building. Pacing ourselves today, I certainly recall kicking back with a stein, some local eats, and letting the live music wash over us.
At its peak, the hall ushered in a marching band, complete with dancers and whip-cracking accompaniment. I think we all decided – then and there – should we ever return, this is where we want to spend our festing time.
This time, however, we opted to move on.
More games were played, more food found and, eventually, we settled in the hall where we would close out the night.
And what a night! I’m not a big drinker, but I think we outdid ourselves. Rounds were purchased by all. Beer was spilled. Tempers flared and were quelled with, you might guess, steins. Apology beer passed to and fro, shoulders were hugger, ditties were belted, and a fine time was had by all.
I think I recall a stirring rendition of Sweet Caroline, at which point my recollection is not to be trusted.
I have no idea when we left. Only the vaguest of ideas as to the number of steins we had. Annnnd … not the foggiest of how we got home. Apparently past-Me was jovial and capable, if not entirely coherent.
And that’s where I find myself now: sat in a giant bed, feeling much less worse for wear than I have any right to.
I’d consider the Oktoberfest experience as one that should be jumped in to at least once. I’m not a partier, and certainly not a heavy drinker, yet I found the entire thing to be a blast. A few things of note …
… it’s packed with tourists. It’s packed with locals. It’s just absolutely packed! If you don’t reserve a table you’re at the whim of luck and chance … both of which are in short supply by the time the evening rolls in. Most of those tourists and locals are among the happiest and most welcoming people on the planet. However, many are incredibly drunk. Some of which do manage to lose a little of their composure as the night wears on.
More surprising, though, is just how many people really get in to the festivities. Lederhosen and Dirndls are coveted by locals, many keep theirs for years. Don’t be the idiot in the printed lederhosen t-shirt and shorts … unless you’re also among a group of idiots on a stag or hen do. You’ll stand out, painfully.
Munich is a beautiful city and definitely worth exploring. Even though we spend the better part of a week there, we spent little time actually exploring the city.
After parting from our friends, Kat and I set off to get a taste of it all before our flight. I’d highly recommend finding an excuse to explore the English Garden. This absolutely massive park dominates the map of Munich and houses enough natural beauty to begin to rival London’s parks.
While it’s undeniably manufactured and cultivated, it’s been done so with such expertise and attention to detail that you’ll probably not care. Rivers drift through wooded hollows, separating sporting grounds from grassy fields, cycle paths, running routes, and herds of walkers and dogs alike. It would be easy to spend an entire day within the park itself.
It was a lovely and relaxing end to a hectic trip. One which lead us to unexpected urban surfing and a perfect lasting impression of the city itself.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever make it back to the liver-punishing spectacle of Oktoberfest, but I’d certainly be keen to spend more time in Munich.