Abby and I were trying to plan out the rest of our days that we had left in the Schengen. After calculating our days, we made plans to go to Munich and use the city as a home base to also go explore Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. From Munich we would take the short trip to Zeilhard to spend our last week in the Schengen with family.
Before leaving the States nearly four months ago, we went to several weddings and traveled to see many friends before departing. During a couple of those trips, we visited with a couple of old school-mates who would be moving to Munich, who shared our love for travel, exchanged tips and info and took note that they would be living in Germany at a date we were not sure of. While trying to plan our trip to Munich, I reached out to Ashley and Patrick and told them that we would be in Munich for several days and wondered if they were settled in Munich yet. Much to our surprise, they generously offered us a place to stay (even though they had only been living there for less than two weeks!). We began to chat about our plans, and I said, “We are so lucky that you guys offered us some couch space, I don’t know why, but prices for hostels and Air B&B are sky high!” Ashley replied, “You idiot, it’s the opening weekend of OKTOBERFEST! Of course places to stay are super expensive. Some places are booked a year in advance!” To “accidentally” stumble into Munich during the most celebrated beer festival in the world would turn out to make memories (some remembered, some forgotten) for a lifetime.
We arrived in Munich with three full days to see the sights. We were exhausted from traveling, and lucky for us Ashley and Patrick met us at the bus station to help us to their new home in a neighborhood called Moosach. We dropped off our bags and immediately went to a place near their apartment for some supper and catching up. After some beers and pizza we went back to their place for the evening where we would rest up and prepare to take on Oktoberfest the following day.
We awoke refreshed and excited to go experience the sights and tastes of Oktoberfest. After a light breakfast and some coffee, we were on the S-Bahn towards the beer festival. When we arrived, we were already in shock and awe of the size of the grounds. Oktoberfest is like a state fair on steroids, pumped full of shops, snack bars, carnival rides, and of course, beer “tents.” However, these beer tents aren’t tents at all, but huge warehouse-like buildings that can hold anywhere from five to eight thousand people each, all of their inhabitants drinking full liters of beer, dancing on tables and singing along with the bands. It is so hard to put into words how crazy it really is inside of those tents, but for you Nebraskans out there, take your favorite memory from your favorite Husker football tail gate experience and multiply it times a thousand. It is just unreal the amount of energy and beer that are in those tents.
Each tent is full of seating, mostly long tables with benches, a stage for the band to play and some sort of restaurant. Only one type of beer is sold in each tent (whichever the beer sponsored tent is, of course) and the beer is served in huge, one liter glass steins. I was so proud of Abby that she finished her first full liter of beer! (She’s a slightly terrible German…she doesn’t like beer). Ashley, Abby and I explored several tents, which included the Hofbrau Haus, Paulaner, and Spaten (poor Patrick is going to school for his masters degree, so he couldn’t join us until late in the evening after a couple liters of beer and our memories slowly fading). After watching people chug from their boots and shoes, cheers-ing “prost!” with everyone around, dancing on the table and swaying to the music, we were thankful to have Ashley and Patrick guide us home as night one of Oktoberfest came to a foggy close.
I woke up with a mild headache the next morning, which would slowly disappear as we began day two of our Munich trip by catching a train to Fussen; the small German village in the mountains that is home to the Neuschwanstein Castle. We bought a Bayern Pass, a ticket that allows you to travel by train, bus, tram, subway, and shuttle within the whole state of Bayern for 24 hours…all with only the one ticket! Definitely saved us a ton of money on our way to the castle and back to Munich. The weather was supposed to be cold and rainy, but we were lucky to have a chilly, slightly cloudy sky that didn’t drop any rain until our way home. We made the 30 minute hike up the mountain and couldn’t believe the views it had to offer. We knew the castle would be breathtaking, but we had no idea that the surrounding area would be so beautiful. Even if there was no castle on that location, this area would still be a tourist hotspot with the pure beauty the nature beholds.
After exploring the castle grounds, hiking up the mountains surrounding it, and taking in the views, we made our way back down the hill to catch our shuttle back to Fussen. We had about two hours before the last train back to Munich, so we got some soup and beers and explored the cute, cozy town. We really enjoyed our short stay in Fussen and could have definitely seen ourselves spending a day or two there if time permitted us to. After a long day, we hopped on the train and made our way back to Ashley and Patrick’s place for the night.
Our last full day had come and we made a plan to see some main sights of Munich and catch Oktoberfest one last time. Patrick made us an awesome itinerary of places to see that would loop around downtown Munich. We began at the Glockenspiel Rathaus (Town Hall) and made our way towards the Englischer Garten while passing by the Spielzeugmuseum (where the Nazi “Kristallnacht” began), Feldhernhalle (where Hitler gave one of his famous speeches in Munich), the Einbachwelle (a river area where people river-surf nearly every day of the year) and ended at the Chinese Tower in the center of the garden for drinks and supper. We got hit with some heavy rain there, which prolonged our stay and extended our drinking time. From the Chinese Tower we made our way to the U-Bahn where we hopped on and headed to Oktoberfest one more time.
We only made it to one tent that night: Lowenbrau. We found a spot right at the foot of the band stage by a couple locals. We quickly made friends with them and by the end of the night we were chatting away, singing to the music and dancing together. Lucky for Abby, the girl we met was dating the band’s manager, so she was being given vodka mixers that she would willingly pass down and share with Abby. The experience of Oktoberfest is one that we will never forget (well, most parts) and although we were sad to leave the party, I’m sure our heads and liver were very pleased to be moving on from the biggest beer festival in the world.
We cannot say thank you enough to Ashley and Patrick for welcoming us into their new home. It is always such a tremendous feeling meeting up with people overseas, whether you are close, acquaintances, best friends or new friends. The memories made will be ones shared for a lifetime.