I do not find it immodest to say that in my more than six years living in Belgium, I have lived life to the fullest way that I know possible. I came from the United States in 2011 with a lifetime’s worth of European travel dreams and I have spent the entire time here passionately fulfilling them. The more dreams I have crossed off the bucket list, the more I prefer to return to certain places and in a way, create traditions for myself. There is a warm feeling that comes with a familiarity of my favorite places, where visiting becomes somewhat like a homecoming.
One tradition which is taking shape is an annual trip to Munich for the biggest and baddest beer festival in the entire brewtifulworld, Oktoberfest. No day will ever match my first Oktoberfest in 2015. It literally was the best day ever. In 2016, the Essen Oktoberfest was a worthy follow-up. But the real Oktoberfest will always be in Munich, so in 2017, I organized an entire weekend with several friends. It is this type of weekend that makes living in Europe so… forgive the pun… intoxicating. This is why I moved here. And to be able to make a personal tradition out of München Oktoberfest? Somebody pour a cold Hofbräu over my head to make sure I’m not dreaming. The weekend was a work of art, one which will hang in the museum of our travel memories for the rest of our lives. No one got kidnapped, no one woke up with a face tattoo or a second wife. We can all account for every minute of the weekend with pure clarity… ahem. It was a Schwarzeneggaresque weekend. It was the best weekend ever.
Ok enough of the goofy filters…
So what makes this trip different than in 2015?
With some experience under my belt from 2015, it was possible to plan for a larger group. More friends were invited. In 2015, we were a group of 5. In 2017, we became 11. With such a large group, it became important not to leave so much to chance like we did in 2015, when we had no tent reservation. This time, I made a reservation for the Pschorr Bräurosl tent. This took away some of the spontaneity and unpredictability of the trip that made 2015 such an amazing experience, but in the end, having the reservation was well worth it. And finally, with so many people taking time away from their home-lives, I wanted to make the focus not just on one day, but the entire weekend. So I decided that each day should be a different and memorable adventure. Each day should be able to stand on its own as a highlight. Fortunately, München and vicinity offer plenty of opportunities for incredible experiences.
Making the Reservation
The key to making a tent reservation at Oktoberfest is to be diligent and be early. Check the Oktoberfest main website for a list of all of the tents and their webpages. Each tent has their own rules for making reservations. They do not all start accepting reservations at the same time. So check each one carefully. For the Pschorr Bräurosl tent, I sent an email to them on March 1, 2017 at the very beginning of the reservation period. They replied within about 6 hours and we had our table. Search over.
I can’t say how all tents work, but I assume they are similar. For Pschorr Bräurosl, tables are for 10 people. The reservation is free but you must pre-purchase 2 beers and 1 meal for each available place at the table. In other words, for a table of 10, you must pre-purchase 20 beers and 10 meals even if you are only 8 people, for example. They do allow more than 10 people to sit at the table. We ended up with 13 people and I can tell you that the tables are so closely packed together, it was impossible for everyone to sit at the same time, even if we were only 10. Fortunately, it is not required to be sitting down. Most of the time, you will be up dancing and walking around mingling with the rest of the crowd.
So by mid-March, we already had our tent reservation, flight tickets, and Airbnb’s reserved. The stressful part was over. Now it was time to look forward to the fun.
Day One: Friday September 22, 2017
Friday was laid back day. The tent reservation was for Saturday so Friday was a day just to relax, catch up with old friends, and soak up the atmosphere in one of my favorite cities in the world. Munich is the greatest beer city in the world despite what I may have written in my Prague post. This city is built around the beer experience. Indoor beerhalls that give an Oktoberfest atmosphere almost every day of the year. Outdoor biergartens (I have to use the German word, because the English form beergarden just doesn’t look or feel right to me) which are what really makes Munich rise above its biggest competitor, Prague. The oompah music. The songs. The giant pretzels. The smell of bratwurst. And of course, the variety of big Bavarian beer brands that make their home here. You know the names. Hofbrau, Spaten, Franziskaner, Paulaner, Lowenbrau, Hacker-Pschorr. And to a slightly lesser degree, Schneider Weisses and Erdinger. To sum it all up, Munich is hefeweizen heaven.
When you get 11 guys together in a big city with lots to do, it is inevitable that interests will vary. Munich offers a lot of world class sites and museums. One group opted for the BMW Museum and the rest of us were more than happy to get the ball rolling on the liver damage.
Stop 1. Viktaulienmarkt
The Viktaulienmarkt is the city’s central biergarten and home of the famous maypole. The maypole tradition is debated but in Bavaria, they are erected and decorated every May 1 with Bavarian colors and symbols of local industries. However, the one on the Viktaulienmarkt is a permanent structure. Notice the beer barrels on the bottom right of the pole in the image. That is an industry worth celebrating every day of the year. The Viktaulienmarkt is surrounded by several nice restaurants, but for lunch, it is recommended just to buy a bratwurst on the markt. Here we finally began the quest of quenching an unquenchable thirst. The first beer of the day for me? A Paulaner pilsner. Who needs the BMW Museum?
Stop 2. Lederhosen Shopping
In Munich, the place to shop for traditional clothing is the Original Steindl im Tal. It is not cheap. A complete standard outfit (like what I am wearing above including the hat) will cost you close to 200 euros. I purchased mine in 2015 but wanted to add a vest this year. The shop will be busy, but the service is great. If you are a guy, you will be eagerly served by the gentleman (whose name eludes me) seen above my head with wings and fig leaf. Be really nice and you might get a free glass of sekt.
Stop 3. Schneider Weisses Bräuhaus
Shopping made us quite thirsty and this place is just a couple blocks from Steindl im Tal with outdoor street-side tables. Schneider Weisses offers a good variety of beers which it labels as Tap 1, 2, 3…. A Tap 11, bitte.
Stop 4. Hofbräuhaus
No trip to Munich would be complete without a stop at the most famous beerhall of all. Here you get a miniaturized sense of what it is like inside an Oktoberfest tent. The return of the BMW group gave us our first chance to have a beer together as a group.
On the way to our next stop, I am not sure if it was the beer getting to us, but we could have sworn that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, head of the German government was giving a speech on the Marienplatz.
Stop 6. Rischart: Cafe am Markt
Back on the Viktaulienmarkt, we were still a bit early for our dinner reservation so why not stop for another beer at the Rischart Cafe biergarten.
Stop 7. Der Pschorr
Time for something other than liquid bread. Dinner time. I have no picture of Round Five. Hacker Pschorr. Maybe I had passed out on my schnitzel.
Stop 8. Tegernseer Tal Bräuhaus
For a nightcap, the only place we found open was this fringe bräuhaus just across the street from the Schneider Weisses Bräuhaus. Only one very low quality picture from this place. Clearly affiliated with Hofbräu.
Eleven friends, Six different beer brands, Four Bräuhauses, Two Biergartens, and one Head of State. Oh, and a really cool vest. But now it was time to endure the snoring of friends and recuperate for the big day. Already a weekend to remember and a brewtiful masterpiece.