So, the great Deutschland adventure had begun. After a luxurious business class flight and a lovely day wandering around Frankfurt being tourists, we picked up our Wohnmobil (campervan) and headed south to Munich.
After an initial hiccough getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road (almost wiping out the wing mirror in the process) and discovering that the GPS unit we purchased for the trip doesn’t schprechen Englisch, we finally hit the autobahn at speed. Admitted, a rather subdued 120km/h because that’s all Frau Helga (the campervan) could manage.
It was certainly an eye opener, the autobahn. You hear stories about it, but it’s not until you’re on it that you truly appreciate the speed. Here we were cruising at 120 and cars are zipping past us at who-knows-how-fast. So fast that the wind would cause the van to rock and sway. The road was nothing special either. It looked like any other highway, and surprisingly bumpy in places. I’m surprised we hadn’t seen an accident, or even the remnants of one.
One thing that was noticeably different about the German countryside was that it’s dotted with wind turbines and fields of solar panels. For a country that gets way less sun than Australia, it tries to squeeze as much energy as it can out of it. Something we could certainly take note of.
We arrived in Munich around half past eight that night and parked the van on the side of the road, on a fairly wide street not too far from the city centre. This was our home for the next few nights. Apparently, because Oktoberfest is on, the officials are very lax about people camping on the side of the road. The following week heralded what is colloquially known as “the Italians”, which, as the name suggests, is when the Italians descend on the city to partake of the celebrations. It also means that every available space on every available street is going to be full of drunken Italian campers.
After parking we met up with Schtuffy’s mate, Katja, who whisked us away on the München Underground to the festivities almost as soon as the key was out of the ignition.
Wow, is all I can say. It was nothing at all like I was expecting. It looked more like the Royal Melbourne Show with rides and food vendors, only in place of the livestock tents, you had beer tents. HUGE beer tents, capable of holding quite a few hundred drunken revelers in each, and collectively they rake in somewhere around 400 million euro each year just from beer sales alone!
So naturally, we did our bit to help the German economy.
The beer itself is something special, as well. Apparently, there are only five breweries who are officially allowed to cater to the festival and each brewery is located within the city limits. The brewery tent we were drinking at, Augustiner, was established in 1328! And the beer was incredibly tasty…and at around 6% ABV, incredibly potent. Adam’s brother could remember drinking 11 Maßen (the 1 litre glasses) when he was there…he couldn’t remember much more after that. Unfortunately, we only got through one each before the tent shut up shop. It was late on a Monday after all, which is why we’ve decided to go back again the next day…after some sightseeing in Munich and of course, shopping to buy me some lederhosen!
We made it back to the Wies’n (that’s what the local’s call the fairgrounds – short for Theresienwiese) at around 4pm. This time, however, we were meeting up with some of Katja’s friends who had already booked a table in the Armbrustschützenzelt Tent (run by the Paulaner Brewery). Now, I say tent, but in reality they’re more like buildings. It takes about ten weeks to set up the festival site and construct all the tents and then 17 days later, they’re all taken down again.
We then spent the next several hours drinking and singing along with the Oompah bands playing an assortment of classic songs on high repeat, such as Sweet Caroline, oh and not to forget Ein Prosit, which is sung every 15 minutes. When it starts everyone jumps up on their benches or tables and belts out the song with as much gusto as they can manage. As the last note begins to fade everyone screams PROST! Slams their Maß together and skulls their beer.
Every 15 minutes. In Every tent. It’s no wonder they manage to go through over 7 million litres each year…each year in the space of 17 days!
As it was, I only managed to drink 9 Maßen. I could have gone more, but Adam put the breaks on. After all, he had to sleep next to me in a small camper van, and in hindsight, 9 was more than enough.
After we recovered from our collective hangovers we prepared to move on to the next town in our adventure. Nürnberg.
..to be continued.