When we decided that we wanted to experience the craziness that is Oktoberfest we made the great decision to head off to Munich two days early to actually fit in some sightseeing before that said craziness began.
Flying out after work on Wednesday night we touched down in Munich close to midnight. I had decided to take the easy option of booking an airport hotel, as it’s about a 45 min train ride into the central city. That way when Thursday rolled around we were up bright and early and ready to explore. Our next hotel was just 3 stops from the central station at Rotkreuzplatz and close to the Nymphenburg Palace. This impressive building was the summer residence of Bavarian monarchs and is now a favourite sight amongst tourists. The palace is set in perfectly manicured gardens and can be reached by a lovely stroll up the entranceway canal.
We headed into the city and managed to time our arrival to Marienplatz perfectly as it was just after 11am and were able to witness the spectacle of the Glockenspiel going off. The Glockenspiel attracts hoards of tourists every day and is named the most overrated shows on Earth. The tower in the heart of Munich chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century to the amusement of the crowd. The show consists of 43 bells and 32 figures acting out several different scenes from history and the whole thing can take anywhere from 12-15 minutes! We were done after maybe 3 minutes or so and weaved our way out of the crowds in search of food.
The Viktualienmarkt is just a stones throw away from the main square and a perfect introduction to some of Munich’s traditional foods. This is a popular market for tourists and locals alike – offering everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish to beer, cheese and fresh flowers. The maypole in the centre of the market displays the trades and crafts of this part of Munich – and highlights the seven main breweries. We wandered around taking in the sights and smells and decided upon a stall which sold sausages and pretzels. The white sausage below is the Weisswurst – traditionally made with veal and pork flavoured with onions, fresh parsley and herbs and served with sweet mustard – a traditional hearty Bavarian breakfast. We found out later from a tour guide that day that you’re not meant to eat the skin (whoops!) and there are several techniques for skinning this sausage which are also traditional.
At 2pm we headed back to Marienplatz as we had booked onto a free city walking tour with Sandemans. I’m a big fan of walking tours, especially if you’re short on time and your knowledge of history is a bit shit like mine. The tour covered some of the top landmarks in the central city and delved into the stories about the origins of Oktoberfest, beer gardens, Opera, the royal family and touched on Hilter and the Nazi party too. Munich is known as the Capital of the Movement – the birthplace of the Nazi party. Many German’s want to forget about this dark past, even as we stood in Dodger’s Alley listening to our guide passersby made uneasy facials when they overheard what she was explaining to us.
That evening we headed into the infamous Hofbrauhaus for our first stein! This 3-story beer hall is probably the most popular – for tourists and locals – and is claimed as a must-see if in Munich. The place was absolutely packed and rowdy, and a great place for people watching.
For dinner I had already researched restaurants that serve good Bavarian duck so we wound up at Wirtshaus in der Au. We had the most unreal meat platter which consisted of roast duck, roast pork, pork knuckle, sausages, potato dumplings, bread dumplings, braised red cabbage AND sauerkraut with copious amounts of gravy. Germans know how to do meat that’s for sure!! Best meal of the trip!
The next morning with the pending arrival of our friends that evening, we decided to go on a scouting mission to Oktoberfest to see which tent we would try to get into the next morning. Even at 11am on a Friday many of the tents were already packed, though the vibe was pretty chilled in relation to what we experienced the next day…but more on that in my Oktoberfest post to come. The sheer size of the Oktoberfest is overwhelming. Not only are there 14 massive beer tents, but a range of restaurants, cafes and food stalls as well as a massive carnival with terrifying, stomach-turning rides.
Back in the city again we decided to climb the 299 steep, narrow steps up the tower of the Church of St. Peter which offers a 360-degree view of Munich. From here you can admire the old city and its landmarks from a different angle and also get a closer look at the Glockenspiel – worth the €3 entrance fee. We also searched out the Devil’s footprint which our guide had told us about the previous day. Found within the Frauenkirche church, the footprint was a result of a broken promise between the buildings architect and the Devil himself. You can read more about this legend here.
After yet more sausages from the Viktualienmarkt we walked to the Englischer Garten “English Garden”. The part that I was most excited to see was the stream where locals go to surf. Surfers line up along the banks to surf the artificial wave, dropping in like a skateboarder on a halfpipe. They surf back and forth along the wave of the narrow stream then drop out for the next surfer to test their skills. It’s fun to watch and you could literally sit there for hours of entertainment. This garden covers over 900 acres and we only managed to see a very small part before having a wee snooze on the open fields in the sun – we were lucky to have an amazing stroke of good weather!
In the evening we met our friend Abbey for dinner at another of Munich’s famous beer gardens – this time the Augustiner-Keller. We had a great chat to two young American guys about frats, finance and the impending US elections while enjoying delicious meaty dishes and beers of course!
Then it was off to bed for an early start – the Americans couldn’t believe we were going to line up at 6.30am…