Having established from the campsite in Munich (another from our trusty Magic Europe guide) that they were likely to have space for us, we said “so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye” to Austria. We’re not sure exactly what we were expecting, but when we arrived and saw row upon row of matching tents for Contiki and other such party tours, we realised we were in for a few loud nights! We arrived on the Thursday, with the festival due to start on Saturday, and were reliably informed that they were expecting at least 4,000 more people the following night. It was a big campsite, but this seemed like an awful lot to squeeze in. However, the way the tents were packed together did remind us of the likes of a music festival or perhaps a deportation camp, so anything was possible!
We decided only to unpack the essentials, so went down to the bar for a bratwurst and a beer that evening. We’d certainly had a change in temperature in recent days, but had put this down to being in the mountains, but even in Munich once the sun had gone down it was feeling pretty bitter. So it wasn’t long until we left the Brits and Aussies to their steins and headed for the relative warmth of the tent. We found it hard to believe that not even two weeks ago we were basking in the sun on a beach and now we were getting out the thick socks, gloves and beanies. So much for a nine month plus summer! (We can hear the violins playing …) Seriously though, much as we can’t complain, it was a bit of a shock to the system. We’re just glad that we brought a down duvet with us, as once it has warmed up it’s pretty warm under there – we just have to start out in said socks, gloves and beanies!
The next day we got the underground into the City to see what else Munich had to offer other than Oktoberfest. One thing that struck us was how trusting the Munchens are with their public transport system. Not only are the group tickets really reasonable (up to five adults on one ticket), there aren’t any ticket barriers or checks in the underground stations. It certainly keeps the crowds moving, but we can’t imagine this system being possible in the UK.
We arrived in Marienplatz, the main square and hub of Munich. The impressive town hall dominates one side and houses the Glokenspeil, which at 11am, 12pm and 5pm attracts hundreds of tourists watching the rotating figurines do their thing. We also had a wander around the wonderful market there, which has everything from fruit and veg to pretty festive decorations. We reckon it would be a fantastic market to visit leading up to Christmas.
In the afternoon after yet another nice traditional meal, we went to St Peter’s church where the alter reminded us somewhat of the alter in St Peter’s at the Vatican. Then from here we went to see something completely different … we’d read about a point in the Eisbach river near the English Gardens where a standing wave has been created and is a popular surfing spot. It was very cool watching the surfers line up and take their turn in the wave: it must take a bit of getting used to seeing as the water would be coming at you rather than you riding with it.
And then it was Oktoberfest. From early in the morning the crowds at the campsite were getting dressed up – the girls carefully applying their make-up and doing their hair (only for the majority of them to be looking a tad worse for wear just a few hours later!). Rather than follow the masses to queue up for the biergartens, we headed in to watch the opening procession. After a long wait in the rain to secure our vantage point, we were rewarded with a parade of decorated carts of barrels and traditionally dressed people, flowers, horses in all their finery, bands, whip cracking and two massive cows! It was great watching everyone young and old keeping up the traditions of many years before with broad smiles on their faces (perhaps that was the beer).
After a spot of lunch whilst escaping the worst of the rain we went over to the festival site. It’s essentially a large carnival, but with larger beer tents than usual. We hadn’t pre-booked any tickets for any of the biergartens and didn’t like the look of the queues to try and get into one, so we satisfied our curiosity by just wandering around taking it all in. It’s fair to say it’s dominated by Brits and Aussies there to get drunk and generally be rowdy and it was pretty sad seeing a girl passed out cold at just 4pm. However we didn’t see the atmosphere inside the biergartens and we understand it’s pretty good fun. Definitely somewhere to come again with a group of people and make the effort to get tickets.
There is another side to it that was nice to see though: local families all getting dressed up together and coming to enjoy the funfair rides. And of course we didn’t leave without drinking a glass of the good stuff, getting a beer in one of the smaller open-air bars. We also tried some of the food on offer: we had recommended to us and can also recommend the chicken, which was roasted to perfection, and couldn’t leave without trying the Lebkuchen (gingerbread).
We headed back to the campsite before things got too messy at the festival (yup, we’re getting old!). However we did join the growing crowd at the bar for an obligatory stein, retiring to bed once the inevitable fight broke out.
We mustn’t forget to give a shout out to the Namibian guys who were working at the camp and have been for years – it was nice to meet you. Thank you for your help and giving us the quietest spot available. We sure do admire your patience with the masses!