Timeline: September 19th – 21st
The plan for the Saturday of Fest was to venture to Marienplatz at 10:00 am for a two hour guided tour of Munich (through the TI), then meet up with Marcus (Marty’s distributor in Munich) and Jeff (Marty’s business partner) back at the hotel around 3:00pm in order to make our way as a group to Oktoberfest.
We made it with time to spare to Marienplatz, enough so that we could stop at Woerner’s for a few treats.
The weather forecast was bleak; indeed we would pay back the good days we had experienced earlier in the week. It started to drizzle slightly as we met up with the tour guide, then started to come down in earnest as we stood huddled with the rest of the tour group to listen to her introduction and a nice description of the New City Hall’s famous Glockenspiel, which goes at 11:00 am (one of three times each day).
From Marienplatz we walked by the Frauenkirche (to be described in a later post) and a few blocks over to the Michael Jackson Memorial, which is situated across from the Hotel Bayerischer Hof where he would stay while in town. When he died in 2009, devotees created this memorial below a statue of composer Orlando di Lasso.
After a number of other stops (my description of this tour is abbreviated to get us to the heart of the day, Oktoberfest. Rest assured that the center of Munich has many other sights to see), we came to the end of our tour at the Residenz, the winter palace of the Wittelsbach royal family. In front of one of the entrances stand two lion statues. Legend has it that if you rub the nose of one of the lions while kissing your sweetheart, you will be ensured good luck. A couple of members of the party gave it a go. We’ll report back later if the legend panned out or not.
We finished the tour by walking over to the Englischer Garden once more to check out the surf spot at the canal. As with the other days we’d visited it was crowded and the surfing was good. All the space needed to make it California was a loudspeaker playing the Beach Boys. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, providing us with glorious views.
Finished with the tour we walked back to Marienplatz and then to Odeonsplatz to pick up the metro. On the way we stopped for lunch at Café Maleu, a recommendation from Marcus. Ostensibly a pastry and desert house, we had a couple of the lunch specials of the day, one a Thai Curry Chicken soup that was hearty, yet delicate, a refreshing change from our steady diet of German food.
We returned to the Sheraton, cleaned up and relaxed in anticipation of our evening ahead, and then gathered in the lobby to make our way to Fest. The U4 was crowded with folks in typical fest garb; Lederhosen, felt hats, and vests for the men and Bavarian Dirndl style dresses for the women. This was the first day of fest and there was a keen sense of anticipation in the air, both in car and as we entered the fest grounds (Theresienwiese).
Marcus had done us a huge favor by securing a reserved table in the one tent (Marstall) that takes reservations. With a group of our size, ten people, it would have been impossible for us all to sit at the same table in any of the other tents, particularly on opening night of fest.
As our reservation wasn’t until 7pm we made our way through the grounds to a small Hofbrauhaus beer garden for our first drinks of the day, half liters of a special fest weisbier.
Joanna walked over to a wurst stand and brought back two long sausages that we shared around the table and we passed an hour or so in the warm sun. As the time for our reservation approached we made our way to the Marstall Tent, where we joined a huge crowd of people waiting to get in. There were to be two seating’s that day, ours the second and so the crowd waited, packed together like sardines for the doors to open while the staff prepared the hall.
We finally made it in and to our tables (a friend also had one next to us) and upon arrival discovered that Marcus had arranged for two large appetizer trays and a magnum of champagne. We started in on the food; an assortment of German meats, soft cheese spread, infamous large sliced salted radish, pretzels and bread. A waitress came by and we ordered our first round of what would be many liters (Mass) of Spaten Oktoberfest beer.
The tents close at 11:00pm and we all feared that we wouldn’t have enough time to drink to excess and just generally carry on, but we were wrong. As the evening progressed even more food would come to the table, first an entrée plate apiece of roast pork and wurst, followed up by three tiered desert trays with various German sweets. And more beer, much more beer; one’s stein was never empty. We were seated upstairs and as the evening wore on it got progressively warmer, particularly so as we migrated from sitting at the tables to standing nearby, conversing, singing, and drinking more beer.
This would be my fifth trip, Joanna’s fourth, to Oktoberfest, but our first in a tent of this nature. To reserve a table means you pretty much have to be a local and so we were all treated to witnessing German’s enjoying fest as opposed to our other experiences where we shared it with other tourists. In the other tents the bands tend to play polka infused versions of classic rock songs. Here there was a smattering of that, but mostly it was the types of songs you’d sing if you grew up in a German town and frequented a local gasthaus or bierstube.
This idea of singing aloud in public is lost in America. Many other cultures still actively engage in it, singing songs tied to one’s culture, one’s history. Thus we witnessed a bit of what it might be like to be German, celebrating this great festival and just generally letting loose.
Thanks to all of the food we ate and the short duration of our stay, we all left the tent in much better shape than I had anticipated. It took us a while to navigate back to the metro stop and then make our way to the Sheraton, but we did so safely and unlike 1984 without breaking any tent poles.
We were all very grateful for the hospitality shown to us by Marcus and for his having given us the opportunity to spend an evening with a few thousand of his fellow country men (and women), doing what we all like to do, that is drink beer, sing songs and eat a lot of food. It was an experience I will never forget and it will forever make Oktoberfest a special place for me.
New Town Hall Glockenspiel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rathaus-Glockenspiel
Café Maleu: http://www.maelu.de/