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Monthly Archive: September 2017

Tips and Tricks for Surviving Oktoberfest in Munich

History of Oktoberfest
You can thank Prince Ludwig for the annual party that hosts more than 6 million visitors a year. It all started when Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”. (http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/events/oktoberfest/history.html)

Oktoberfest sign

If you have any doubt about where to go, these signs are posted in the U-bahn and S-bahn and along the streets. Follow the signs to Oktoberfest.

grounds welcome sign

Welcome to Oktoberfest!

Afternoon vs. Evening Session
If you have “Ein Prosit” or “Sweet Caroline” running through your head for a few days, that means you attended the afternoon session (Ein Prosit) or the evening session (Sweet Caroline) at Oktoberfest. If you have both running through your head, you probably had too much to drink at Oktoberfest. BTW, the bands don’t play “Ein Prosit” because they like it; they are required to play it every 15-20 minutes to increase the drinking of beer and, hence, the sale of beer. It works!

German band playing at Pschorr Braurosl

The German band playing at Pschorr Braurosl all afternoon.

tent in evening

Evening session in a tent. This is the floor of the tent as seen from a balcony.

Evening in a tent

Another tent toward the end of the evening in the middle of the week.

What is the difference between afternoon session and evening session ?
You could say night and day. 😊 The afternoon session is what you would expect – calmer, quieter, and plenty of German music. The afternoon session starts at 11:30 a.m. and last until 4:45 p.m. During the afternoon session, it is easier to find a table, especially if you have a large group and no reservation (I will talk about table reservations later). You will see people of all ages in the tent from school children to senior citizens. If you worried that the afternoon session will be like watching paint dry, don’t worry. By 2 PM or so, most people are feeling no pain and singing to the songs regardless whether they know the words or not. We saw one guy toss his lunch at 2 p.m. inside the Lowenbrau tent … sweet!
The evening session is a complete flip from the afternoon. The session starts at 5:00 and last until 10:30 p.m. The tents close at 10:30 p.m. You will hear very few traditional German songs sang during the evening session. You will hear “Ein Prosit” once in a while, but no need to play it, everyone is drinking!!!
Evening sessions can be very difficult to even get into the tent and these tents seat 6,000 – 10,000 people in EACH tent. There are 14 tents in total. They will “close” a tent when it hits capacity. As people leave, others can enter. Trying to find seating for a large group (i.e. >5) is tough. Did I tell that you need a seat to drink a beer? Yep, no seat, no beer. No self-service either.
Tip: Get to the evening session early (e.g. 5) or late (9:00). If the main floor is packed, go upstairs and look for a table. If the weather is good, head outside to the tent’s beer garden. They seat another 3,000 – 5,000 people outside at each tent.  Note: the evening sessions are VERY loud!

A tent in the afternoon

A tent in the afternoon – not crowded yet

Lowenbrau tent panorama

A panorama of the Pshorr-Braurosl tent on Thursday afternoon

Saturday night crowd

The opening night crowd in a tent – more noise and people than one can imagine!

Do I need to pay to go to Oktoberfest or to get into a tent?
No, admission is free for both.

Are there just beer tents on the Oktoberfest grounds?
No, Oktoberfest grounds look like a State Fair. There are food vendors, games of chances, haunted houses and several rides that we termed “vomit inducing rides”. Think spinning around and upside down at high rates of speed.

Can I only get beer at Oktoberfest?
It depends. In a beer tent, only beer is served. There are 2 wine tents located at Oktoberfest where you can get wine and beer. Besides beer or wine, you can get food. Food varies by the tent.

Full liters of beer (1 mas each)

Full liters of beer (1 mas each)

empty glasses

Where did all the beer go?

Is there only one size of beer? What kind of beer can I get?
The beer is only served in a one liter mug. There’s only one kind of beer per tent, a fest beer. Each tent has their own beer.

Can I eat at the tents?
Yes, there are full menus at each tent. You better bone up on your German or have someone in your group who knows German. We never saw an English menu.

What’s about reservations?
Reservations are very hard to get, afternoon or evening session, especially if you are in a large group like us (30 people). Reservations are handled differently by each tent. Requests are submitted via letter, e-mail, etc. The tent(s) will let you know if you got a reservation sometime around May; again, this varies. Check individual tents for specific information. A reservation gets you an assigned table for a specific time and day. When you walk into the tent, you find the row number on your reservation, walk up the row and look for the name of your group at the end of the table.
Tip: Reservations are made by the table size, most common is a table of 8 or 10. You MUST book an entire table.

Does a reservation cost anything?
No. But, you are required to buy a voucher for each person that includes 2 – 1-liters of beer and a chicken.
Tip: If you speak enough German, we understand you can change out the chicken. We don’t, so chicken it was!

Keep reading!

A Thursday of Oktoberfest Fun – and beer!

Oktoberfest seemed to be a success for our gaggle of 21 people – 6 Germans and 15 Americans.  If you don’t know, Oktoberfest is celebrated in Munich every year for 17-20 days and is a large party/fair for everyone who attends.  We had reservations in the Pschorr Braurosl Tent, thanks to hard work by a German friend.  Reservations are free but you must buy food and drink vouchers for 2 beers (Each beer is a liter.) and a half chicken for each person.  You can order other food and “pay as you go”.  Our reservation started at 11:30 AM on Thursday morning and we had the 3 tables until 4:30 PM.  Let’s just say everyone enjoyed the food, drink, company, and German music. I lost count of the number of liters of beer that were consumed by our group.  A few hats were purchased from the vendors, too.

pschorr brauosl tent

This is the tent we had reservations for all afternoon.

Half a chicken and part of a beer – The rest had been consumed!

Coat rack and reserved sign

Everyone hangs coats on the table legs. Reserved signs are on the table after you find the row of your table from your reservation letter.

Keep looking for more pictures.

Oktoberfest fun!

Official logo for 2017

The official logo for Oktoberfest 2017 – steins, tshirts, post cards, magnets.

Oktoberfest sign

If you have any doubt about where to go, these signs are posted in the U-bahn and S-bahn and along the streets. Follow the signs to Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is not just a time to have a few beers and some food.  Oktoberfest is also a big fair – sort of like the Iowa State Fair without the cows, pigs, and chickens.  The rides included ones that go upside down, up high and around in circles.  No one in our group tried any of them but the lines were long, including people who I’m sure were not really in any condition to spin or turn upside down.

Upside down rocking ride

This ride went upside down and rocked back and forth

Spinning and upside down ride

This ride spun in circles and each car went in circles, too.

Oktoberfest Midway

Midway at night at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest has a post office set up for the event with its own cancellation stamp along with ATM machines since all purchases in the tents are cash only.

Keep on reading for more pictures

A day hike to Andechs Monastery

One day 14 of us took the S-bahn to Herrshing and then walked about 4 miles up to Andechs Monastery for lunch and an Andechs beer.  The monks make the beer – pils or dunkel – and they’ve added a schnapps-making business.

Andechs monastery church

We’ve been there a few times so we know there are 2 different paths to take up (about 1 hour walk) or you can take the city bus #951 that leaves from the train station in Herrsching 2 times an hour and take 10 minutes.  Eleven in the group walked while the other three with colds took the bus.  Naturally, Mark and I picked the hardest route up (We can never remember from year to year whether to go left or right at the sign!) but we had a nice walk up and then we came down the other path.  The walk up does involve 2 very long flights of steps – about 60 in each flight.  We missed the rain and had beer and good food as a reward for our hard work.

Steps to Andechs

The steps we walked up during our hike to Andechs. (Thanks to Stephanie for the picture.)

Monastery Group

Enjoying beer and apfel strudel after we went inside to warm up after lunch on the terrace.

Walking thru the meadow

Two routes to choose from Herrsching and one of them takes you through this meadow

Pork Knuckle and Pretzel

Pork Knuckle and Pretzel for lunch

Andechs beer

Dunkel beer from Andechs

9/14 An “Amazing Race” sort of day

Getting to Frankfurt was no problem from Dulles but when we tried to go to Heidelberg on the Lufthansa Express Bus Shuttle, it was a whole other story – best described as an “Amazing Race” kind of day.  As a preface to the story, we each had 2 suitcases with us – one hard-sided and one rolling duffel bag that we need for the safari and we wanted to go to Heidelberg to leave the duffel bags with friends until it’s time to fly to Tanzania.  Oh, it was POURING down rain in Frankfurt when we landed.

We booked the Lufthansa Heidelberg shuttle in August sometime so we wouldn’t have to manhandle 2 suitcases on the train with a change needed in Mannheim.  We knew exactly where the stop was the last time we did this about 6 weeks ago and we lugged our suitcases up 2 escalators or elevators and across from Arrivals to the train station to the stop.  Alas … a sign was posted that the shuttle pickup location (Wrong location #1) was changed as of September 1 to “P29 by the vending machine” but with no hint as to where P29 could possibly be located in the Frankfurt airport.

We knew the “P” probably indicated a PARKING location so the hunt began!  We asked a Lufthansa employee by the Lufthansa Shuttle desk and she sent us to the bus lot, involving another trek and an elevator ride.  Not there! (Wrong location #2)  We asked a Lufthansa bus driver there for help and his answer was “I get asked all the time and I have no idea.” Back up the elevator and, now, we see a Frankfurt Airport Information phone that Mark picks up and promptly hands to Susan.  After 5 minutes with the Information lady (She tried to send me to wrong locations 1 and 2 and I had to convince her I just needed to know where P29 is.), I finally got a good answer – Go to Arrivals Hall, exit the building, turn left and walk to the end of the building.

Before we manhandled the suitcases on two more escalators, Susan went exploring and found the location, we hoped, went back to Mark and we took our bags to P29. Now there are 2 vending machines to choose from, no signage for Lufthansa Shuttle although there is signage for other shuttles and we had 45 minutes to wait to see if we really found the correct location.  I called the Lufthansa Shuttle number and the guy who answered sounded like he knew what he was talking about and convinced me we are in the right location.  Grabbed sandwiches while we waited and, sure enough, the Heidelberg Lufthansa Shuttle showed up at the closest vending machine that had no cover from the rain. Yes, it’s still pouring down rain.

The driver was from York, England, and explained the whole mess with shuttle locations.  We were the only passengers and he was kind enough to drop us at our Ibis hotel when we got to Heidelberg.  Success at last but I now know how the Amazing Race players feel because we had NO idea – and neither did anyone else – where P29 is.

Frankfurt airport map P29

Where is P29 when you have no map?

After we made it to Heidelberg, we were in need of a shower, nap, food, and a beer in that order. The room wasn’t ready so we settled for food and beer and THEN a nap and a shower, a few hours later.

Kulturei Braueri beer

KulturBrauerei glass of Fest beer

Fountain at Castle in Heidelberg

Fountain in the gardens at Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg and river

View from the castle looking on the Neckar River after a walk in Heidelberg

A visit to western Maryland

We’re finished with the family visits after 5 days in Cumberland, MD with Susan’s Mom. We went exploring and found the Great Allegheny Passage and used it for 2 days of walks. It’s a biking/walking trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, following a rail line. Walking in 2 different directions, we found the Brush Rail Tunnel and the Cumberland Bone Caves where prehistoric bones were found about 100 years ago.

Western Maryland Mountains

Western Maryland is full of eastern mountains – highest point is about 1600 feet. It’s very green and full of trees.

Wild Mushrooms

Some wild mushrooms we found along the Great Allegheny Passage

Mark along the GAP

Mark at the start of our walk on the Great Allegheny Passage. We didn’t walk all the way to Frostburg!

On 9/10 we drove over to Shanksville, PA to visit the Flight 93 9/11 Memorial. It’s a very quiet, peaceful place and very moving. I needed a few tissues as we toured the Visitor Center and walked down to the Memorial Plaza where there’s a huge panel for each of the 40 victims.

Flight 93 Memorial Plaza

Looking down on the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza from the Visitor Center.

Flight 93 Memorial

Visitor Center of the Flight 93 Memorial

September 5 – The trip begins!

The adventure has started!  Stop 1 was Iowa via Omaha and, as Mark likes to say, the trip is all downhill from Iowa!  We started in Omaha (cheaper flight from Denver) with an overnight before heading across Iowa through all the fields of ripe corn and beans and spending the weekend in Iowa City.  Thank heavens the University of Iowa beat Wyoming in the opening game of the season or the entire city would have been filled with VERY unhappy people!

Hawkeye Fan Shop

You can find Hawkeye gear all over Iowa City.

University of Iowa ties

Just in case you need a U. of Iowa Tie

U. of Iowa sox at the Hawk Shop

Just in case you need to update your supply of Iowa sox you can find them at the Hawkeye Fan Shop in Coralville, IA.

Tailgating spots at Kinnick Stadium

These are highly prized and expensive reserved parking/tailgating spots right outside of Kinnick Stadium at University of Iowa.

 

The route back west across Iowa to Mark’s Mom’s house took us through Washington and Pella, Iowa. We went on a hunt for Susan’s long-ago relatives in Washington cemeteries and found a few 5th cousins 4 times removed. (We share great great great great great great grandparents – and, yes, the number of “greats” is correct!)

John Baker Tombstone

John Baker tombstone in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, outside of Washington, Iowa.

Pleasant Hill Cemetery

Located about 5 miles outside of Washington, IA in the middle of cornfields. We’re guessing my relatives had a farm somewhere in the vicinity in the late 1800’s.

The rest of the Iowa stop involved visiting sisters, nieces and nephews and Mom and watching Va Tech beat West Virginia University on Sunday night late!