Today, obviously, I went to Oktoberfest. Before I begin, I have to explain to you my method of wandering around new cities. I basically start in the direction of the biggest, oldest, most important looking building, and, once there, look for the next biggest, oldest, most important looking building and wander off in that new direction. Sometimes I take side streets because they look cool, or hop on a bus going to a completely random place. I've found that this approach not only makes me learn my way around, it (more often that not) brings me directly to the sights I want to see. Which is exactly what happened today.
Usually I have my map when I wander but today, I forgot it. As it was cold, windy, and rainy, I really didn't want to walk the several blocks back to my hotel to retrieve it, not least of which was because I didn't trust myself to leave to leave my warm, dry, windless room again. Completely directionless, I stumbled into what appeared to be an Arabic-speaking neighborhood before spotting a church at the end of a long street and heading in that direction. Churches make for excellent landmarks, by the by; you can spot their spires from almost anywhere.
I make it to the church (stopping to get a butter filled Bavarian pretzel along way--Yum!) only to find that it was locked tight. My dissapointment was soon replaced with curiousity when the faint strains of "Oom-Pah" music began to reach my ears. Starting off in this new direction, I soon found myself face to face with a huge wooden wagon stacked high with beer barrels and decorated with assorted flowers and verdant wreaths and drawn by six of the brawinest horses I have ever seen. The impressive sight was diminished only slightly by the steamy, grassy, poo balls the horses dropped every few feet or so.
Turning to my left, I saw sea of women in dirdnls and men in lederhosen and realized I'd stumbled quite accidentally into Oktoberfest. My first impression was "This is just like Georgia State Fair only with fewer pigs and more beer." My second impression was "This is nothing like the Georgia State Fair."
The carnival like atmosphere was there, but there was something more, a feeling harder to pinpoint. It was like someone decided to throw a huge party and invite a few thousand of their closest friends. Everyone seemed happy and happy to be there. The whole thing made me smile immediately.
There were beer tents of course, filled to the brim with busty lasses clutching a half dozen beer mugs in each hand, people sitting at long wooden tables slinging back long draughts, bands playing what I guess was traditional German music (while drinking entire glasses of beer between songs and between verses too if they could manage it), and even some people dancing on tables.
Aside from the beer tents there was a midway with carnival games and rides whose only purpose seemed to be making people throw up all that beer. There was plenty of food too. Most of the stalls seemed to fall into three main categories: roasted and sweetened nuts, bavarian pretzels, and assorted pastries. There were also quite a few sausage stands of course, but they seemed to be quite outnumbered by these other three. Some of the pastry stands sold what appeared to be gingerbread hearts covered in icing; it seemed that men would buy the hearts and give them to their female sweethearts.
Not really wanting a beer (the beer tents aren't really set up for people traveling alone), I found the pastry and coffee tent and bought a mug of steaming coffee with a vanilla creme filled doughnut. Heaven. While on the midway, I bought a ferris wheel ticket so I could take a ride to the top and look over everything. After a few hours, I was tired of swimming through the sea of people, but I have to say, it was quite an enjoyable experience and I'm very, very glad I went.
Plans for the rest of my time in Munich include the Glockenspiel, daytrips to Dachau, Salzburg, and Neuschwanstein Castle, and a train trip to the Black Forest if I can manage it before heading off to Amsterdam.