Yes, you read correctly. I was at Oktoberfest last Thursday. To be honest, I wasn't all that excited about it to begin with. If you know me, liters of beer, drunk people on county-fair-style rides, and lots of camera-toting tourists (including yours truly) aren't really my thing. But that's not to say that the experience wasn't entertaining, because believe me, it was entertaining.
First of all, with my blonde hair and traditional Bavarian attire, everyone believed me to be a native. My friend Keri from high school was also similarly garbed, and the two of us were tourist magnets. No one even cared if they realized we were American -- they still wanted to have their picture taken with us. Especially if they were Italian. We had choruses of "Bella, bella!" following us throughout the streets, which sounds less charming when slurred and coming from a pack of forty-five year old men.
But don't let my personal grievances give you a bad impression of Oktoberfest! It does have its merits, most of which fall under the category of "things to eat." Chocolate-covered fruit, roasted nuts, sausage and sauerkraut, crepes with nutella filling, fish-on-a-stick (not to be confused with "fishsticks" -- these ones have tails and eyes) . . . The list goes on and on. And all of these delicacies can be purchased at stands outside of the beer tents, so the prices are slightly more reasonable than those in the tents. (Think 10 euros for a liter of beer. Yes, it's a liter, but ten euros?!) Let's see. Other good things about Oktoberfest. Hmm. Yep, nope, that's it.
Munich is a phenomenal city, and Oktoberfest is interesting to experience once. But I won't be headed back that direction till the festival is over, the crowds have died down, and lederhosen is worn daily only by old German men, and not intoxicated foreigners.
I spent the rest of the weekend in Regensburg, hanging out with old friends and reliving my abroad experience. A part of me wishes I were back there, but most of me feels just plain excited to get to know Tübingen as well as I know Regensburg. They are both such beautiful cities that it's impossible to complain about having to live in either one!
All this traveling has meant not a whole lot of work on my project yet. But have no fear! I hereby swear that the next blog post I write will be about the letters. Until then, enjoy this picture of Keri and me in our dirndls at Oktoberfest:
Starting at about 7 am on Tuesday morning, the construction site positioned directly outside our hotel window began its day, pouring large rocks through a chute about every fifteen minutes. By 9 am, we finally realized we were not going back to sleep, and instead got up to have breakfast. Bandana man from the night before was there (this time in a red bandana), but other than that breakfast was great. We checked out and deposited our backpacks once more in the storage closet, and then set off to Andechs.
The S-Bahn ride was beautiful. It took us immediately outside the city, and for almost an hour we sped past farm fields, forests and lakes. We got off at the last stop (Herrsching), just in time for a sudden downpour to catch us without our raincoats on. By the time we suited up in our wet-weather gear, the sun was poking out of the clouds, and we were on our way up Mount Holy to see the monastery at the top. The hike was a very pleasant one (and coming from me, you know that means it was easy), with a quite gradual incline. The pleasantries ended, however, around the final fifteen minutes of the hike, which consisted of a very steep paved road directly followed by very steep stairs. This led us to remark upon the fact that the whole way, we never saw anyone else going up - we only saw people going down. Hmm.
At the top, we stopped to catch our breath and had a beautiful view of the village down below. We explored the monastery grounds for a few minutes and checked out the varieties of rosaries offered in the monastery shop, and then went to the much more interesting monastery Biergarten for lunch. Our plan to share a rotisserie chicken was foiled (the chickens weren't going to be done for another forty minutes) so we went with the next best option of barbeque ribs, corn on the cob, and a nice, cold Russ'n to quench our thirst. After lunch, we surveyed the rain clouds approaching and opted for a bus back into the city. Back in Munich, we picked up our bags and headed to the train station, ready to be on our way home to Regensburg after a mildly exerting, fun-filled two days away.
Because Monday was a national holiday (Pentacost) in Germany, and Tuesday was a university holiday, Leigh and I decided to take advantage of our extra days off and go on a little excursion. We scoured our guidebooks in search of a picturesque German town to visit, and stumbled upon the village of Andechs, located about 45 minutes south of Munich by S-Bahn. Perfect!
Monday morning we got on the 8:45 train to Munich and arrived a little after 10. We stopped by the Euro Youth Hotel (which I would highly recommend) to drop off our backpacks, and then headed to the Marienplatz meeting place of Mike's Bike Tours. We'd been wanting to do a bike tour of Munich for a long time, and we picked a great day for it! The weather was great - cool but sunny - as we gathered under the tower of the Old Town Hall. It was a big group: thirty-five people hailing from all manner of English-speaking lands (Canada, New Zealand, England, Texas). Our guide, Jolly from Melbourne, sported a bright red knitted Rasta hat and confessed within the first ten minutes that he was a stoner. Leigh and I smiled, and the family from Texas (who had two children with them) laughed awkwardly. But Jolly was not about to let them down. The tour was a perfect combination of interesting historical sites, beautiful scenery, and hilarious but informative anecdotes about the city. Highlights included stepping into the hushed, incense-filled interior of Old Peter's cathedral, having lunch by the Chinese tower in the English gardens, and meeting a couple of cute guys from Boston. It was also exciting to learn that I can still ride a bike (the last time I attempted to do, exactly four years ago in Sun Valley, Idaho, I found my skills to be somewhat lacking).
After the tour, I met up with my once-upon-a-time foreign exchange student, Fabian von Rom, who stayed with us in St. Louis five years ago. We hadn't seen each other since we were sixteen, so we had a lot to catch up on. He's now studying dentistry in Munich, and sports a hot pair of Gucci glasses to boot.
It was getting late, and Leigh and I were getting hungry. Before dinner, though, we went on a hunt for a movie theater that was playing the newest Matthew McConaughey movie (The Womanizer) in English. We managed to find about five theaters located roughly near the spot Jolly had marked on our map for us, but none of them were showing the film in English. (In fact, only two of them were even showing it in German. What the heck.) Disappointed, we headed to the Altes Hackerhaus for dinner, where we were able to use the coupon we were given after the bike tour and get two Käse Spätzle meals for the price of one. In case you are unfamiliar with this traditional Bavarian dish, I'll use Natalie Hoffmann's description of it to clear things up: it's just German macaroni and cheese. So good!
By this time we were getting pretty tired, and much to our dismay, the waitress was apparently running on turtle time, causing us to miss happy hour at the hostel. We went to the bar anyway though, hoping to meet up with our new Bostonian friends (who were also staying there) for a drink. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found, and we instead found ourselves sitting next to a forty-year-old Indian man. When the weirdo with a bandana and a hawaiian shirt started making eyes at me from across the room, Leigh and I decided to head upstairs and call it a night.