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Munich view Nyphemburg palace with green grass in the foreground

European Adventure Munich

Munich

The next day on the train to Munich I meet Daniel. He actually starts up a conversation with me worried we might somehow be on the wrong train since we’re literally the only two people aboard or at least in our coach. Having been through those iffy train moments earlier, I’m a little worried myself but once the train starts moving our worries quickly subside. We end up having a really interesting and involved conversation on not just the typical topics of travel but also politics and just general way of life these days. A very introspective and thought provoking chat, indeed.

Through the course of our conversation, I learn that Germany and the US have quite a bit more in common than I had originally thought. He also provides me with more travel tips. At the next stop we meet Idalia who’s rushing to get on the train. She sits next to us and after waiting for her to catch her breath, I engage her in conversation as well. I find out she’s from Albania but now lives in Germany and works in Italy. We all end up chatting the entire way to Munich and time just flew by practically unnoticed.

In addition to the good conversation, I’m also treated to the best scenic views yet. This was an Austrian train operated by an Austrian crew complete with bistro car that served traditional Austrian food items. The train route traversed the gorgeous Bremer pass and made its way through the Austrian Alps which offered up some amazing views. I had read a little bit about it prior to booking my trip and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Awe inspiring mountain views, impressive cliff side castles, cascading streams, waterfalls and even a rainbow! These were all things I was fortunate enough to witness on my train ride to Munich. Crossing through three different countries by train proved to be rather interesting as well. At each border stop there was a pretty heavy police presence and the crew would also switch out. The Austrian crew didn’t take over until we officially left Italy and then stayed on until we reached Germany.

Towards the end of our trip together, Daniel even offered me some Leberkase off the Austrian menu which was very similar, if not the same, to the traditional German kind. He thought I hadn’t eaten it before but I had already tried it at a small local Oktoberfest celebration in the states. It was greatly appreciated as I already had some bread to go along with it. We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. He wished me well on the rest of my trip and we both hoped for good weather.

That night I settle into my home base in Munich. I meet my host Nicole who I would be staying with during this time. We have a really good conversation that first night and we end up getting to know a good deal about each other. I find out that Nicole is working towards some type of tourism certificate or degree. I share that I also worked in tourism for a while when I lived in San Diego.

We talk about the possibility of exploring places like Neuschwanstein and visiting the Disney Castle or perhaps a trip to Salzburg. In the end, I decide to just explore Munich. After all, that’s one of the reasons why I came to Munich. I just literally got off like a 6 hour train ride and I was already going to head out somewhere else? Even though my main reason for the visit was Oktoberfest, I definitely didn’t mind seeing more of beautiful Munich.

The next morning I take advantage of the nice weather and start my Munich exploration with a visit to the Englischer Garten. What a beautiful urban park. Great scenery, lakes, streams and wildlife all around. The perfect picnic spot for enjoying an afternoon lunch. The ideal environment for enjoying my Leberkase sandwich with that sweet German mustard that I don’t recall the name of but was oh so tasty. Also I can’t forget the Biergartens. There’s literally a bunch of beer gardens all around. I guess that must be where the name comes from.

My next stop that day would be Nymphenburg Palace. Having forgone the idea of visiting the famous Disney castle, I was still on a mission to visit a local castle. Unable to find one nearby, this baroque style palace ended up being the closest thing I could find and I’m glad I did. The palatial grounds were gorgeous. Full of flowers, bright beautiful colors and sculptures all around. Complete with its own private gardens, lakes, streams and waterfalls. The perfect spot to take even more gorgeous pictures.

Later that night I end up having a traditional German dinner consisting of roast pork loins and potato dumplings. Call me crazy but I enjoyed German food much more than Italian food, a conclusion that I honestly didn’t think I would reach prior to my travels.

Octoberfest Munich

The next day I head to Oktoberfest. The big day and the big celebration that I had been planning for all along. First time and a must do for me. I always wanted to say I had been to and experienced the real deal. A true authentic German celebration. I had already messaged fellow members of a local WhatsApp group who were also planning on going. I decided to go on the very last day. I was told this was the day when the festivities would wrap up, which meant taking part in closing ceremonies that would only take place on this last day.

One of those celebrations was the gun salute which took place on the steps in front of the iconic Bavarian statue. This was the first thing I was fortunate to witness when I arrived at Oktoberfest. What most people don’t seem to mention is just how massive the grounds around the Weissen are and how it’s mostly a carnival style atmosphere with big roller coaster rides and games similar to what you would normally find at a local county fair.

In fact, the popular ‘Beer Tents’ seem to be secondary to this but of course that’s just not the case at all. The real party is definitely inside the tents and that would be my next obvious destination after exploring the festival grounds. Another thing that stood out was how elaborately decorated and set up these tents were both inside and out. Each one housing their own unique style and decor. Of course it all revolves around the beer and the different brands of beer that are being served at each tent.

As I’m standing outside observing the gun salute ceremony and parade, I’m approached by a guy who requests to use my cell phone because he got separated from his girlfriend. Keep in mind it is still way too early so naturally I’m a bit skeptical but it is Oktoberfest after all so I just go with it. I let him use my phone to text his girlfriend and follow him to the Pschorr tent. Officially my very first beer tent at Oktoberfest. He ends up finding his girlfriend inside. Meanwhile, I keep texting away with the group I’ve been planning to meet up with all along.

One of those members from the group was Chloe. We agreed to meet up on this final day of celebrations which also happened to be a National German Holiday, German Unification Day! This meant most Germans would have the day off and therefore more time to party. Chloe had most of the day off but she needed to get back to work on something that evening.

While waiting for her to arrive at the Pschorr tent, I indulged myself in another German delicacy of white sausage. This is usually enjoyed as a breakfast sausage and was only on the menu until 3 pm. It was also served with that same sweet, delicious mustard. Very tasty and a good way to pass the time.

Upon Chloe’s arrival, we quickly make the decision to take advantage of the nice weather outside and explore more of the festival grounds and other beer tents before we decide on settling into one. We were also looking for other members of our group. Chloe was yet another Aussie that I had met on my trip, currently living and working in Munich. She showed up wearing a traditional dirndl outfit and was all set for the festivities. We took pictures of the grounds and beer tents as we made our way to the Schottenhamel tent where some members of our group were already stationed.

We talked a good deal during this time and I got to know more about her. What she did for a living and why she moved to Munich. She was a lot of fun! Your typical Aussie at heart, very pragmatic and practical about life but at the same time not shying away from trying to drink you under the table.

We meet up with our group at Schottenhamel. This would be the tent where I would spend the rest of my time at Oktoberfest. I later find out that it’s also the oldest tent and the one in which the opening ceremonies take place with the tapping of the very first wooden beer keg. Yep, I got to celebrate Oktoberfest at the granddaddy of them all!

The first people we meet here are Mani, Maria and Natalia. The girls were also visiting from St. Petersburg Russia just like Maria and Olga whom I met earlier on my trip to Ischia. We would later be joined by Kai as well. We order some beers and join in as the crowd starts singing and dancing away to songs that are being played by the band in the middle of the tent. It’s somewhat of an even split between German and American songs. At this point we’re already standing on our table and most of the crowd is too.

We’re later joined by Adrian and much later by Mani’s girlfriend Andrea. As the night goes on, the singing and dancing becomes much more common place and the tables are no longer used for food. Everyone’s just standing, singing and of course drinking. I remember asking myself if I could make it through 5 hours of the same repetitive routine. I mean how much more YMCA could I listen to without literally losing it! But time flies when you’re having fun and before I knew it, it was time for the last song.

Prior to that last song and throughout the course of the evening, I was fortunate enough to get to know this group a lot better. Chloe, Maria and Natalia ended up having to leave earlier in the night but Mani, Andrea, Adrian and Kai stayed until the very end. We also managed to recruit a new group of girls to our table who were looking for an open spot.

If you’re wondering how that happened, here’s how it works. As it gets late into the evening, all the tents get really packed and there’s barely any room to stand, let alone sit. People will then walk through the aisles until they find a spot or until someone kindly offers them one. Being that we still had space at our table, standing room only of course, we were able to offer up some spots to this group of girls who were looking. So we’re joined by Caroline, another Maria and their friends, a total of 6 German girls all dressed up in their traditional festive outfits.

We get to know our new German friends better as the songs continue to play in the background. The girls were even nice enough to translate the meanings and words of the German songs. We break from singing only to offer the occasional toast and of course to drink. I learn that Germans seem to have a fascination with Johnny Depp. I’m later told that the song has nothing to do with the actor and that they’re actually saying “Johnny Dapp” and that it means nothing, just a playful phrase. Although this topic continues to remain in debate for much of the night.

One of the highlights of the night, for me, was singing a song by Journey at Oktoberfest with actual Germans. That to me was priceless! I was really impressed at how well they all new these traditional American songs just as much as they knew their traditional German songs.

For the last song, they passed out sparklers to light up for when the song played. We each got one. We lit them up and sang along to “Angel” by Robbie Williams. I have no idea why this song was chosen as the last song but from what I was told this seems to be a consistent Oktoberfest ritual every year.

After the last song is played, we say our goodbyes to the girls and to most of our group. Mani, Andrea, Adrian and I decide to continue the festivities outside into the carnival area. I somehow get talked into going on that drop tower ride. It was Andrea’s devious idea, but she was also kind enough to hold my hand the entire time so I gave her a pass.

We survive the ride and afterwards decide to ride the Ferris wheel, my idea of course. This would not only be our last ride together but the last ride of Oktoberfest as well. Turns out we were the very last ride of the night and once again they gave us more sparklers to light up for when we reached the top. They also let us keep riding for a very long time, in fact at one point we joked that they had forgotten about us.

It was tons of fun and I was so glad I stayed throughout the entire night and so fortunate to have met up with this great group of beautiful souls. After taking plenty of fun pictures and video, we exit the fairgrounds together and say our final goodbyes. We make a promise to see each other again at some point in the near future.

One interesting thing to note about our group is that we all had a California connection, in fact we joked with everyone that we were the Cali group. I couldn’t have imagined spending my time with a better group of friends. They made my first Oktoberfest celebration a truly memorable one!

Onward to Berlin

Trip photos

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