Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 42: Oktoberfest

Venice is ready. Diana is ready. Xander is ready. The family is ready.

Third time's a charm. It took us three tries to get out of our hotel this morning. First time, after a family photo in the lobby, Venice and I decided to try the bathroom one last time. Second time, just out the door, Chris decided he needed a jacket, he was feeling cold. This time we all went back in. Xander added a shirt, I added a sweater. Third time, we walked down the block to the Bahn station and Xander decided he needed a jacket. So, he and I went back while Chris and Venice bought us Bahn tickets. This time, we were ready.

As we walk to the station and ride the U-Bahn, I am seeing that not everyone is wearing lederhosen or dirndls. Lots of people are wearing their work clothes and jeans... there are enough others "dressed up" that I don't feel out of place... but I am thinking, we totally could have worn our "normal comfy" clothes.

Just for the record (I am still feeling miffed), I KNEW where we were going. I had looked at the map, I used Google to plan a Bahn trip to the fairgrounds. I knew where to transfer. Well, we were on the train and at the stop before I wanted to transfer, a gentleman on the train said, "You want to get off here! For the fest." Another woman joined in and said, "Yes, get off! It's right there!" I said, "What about transferring at [insert name of next station]?" She replied, "But it will be a 2km walk. If you get off here, it's a very short walk." Now I'm confused and doubting myself. But it's too late anyway, the doors are closing. They tell us to get off and go back, we say we will. In my mind, I'm thinking, we can transfer at the next station as I had planned. But the gentleman gets off with us and explains to take the train back and go there. We decide, he's the local, he knows. So we do take the train back a stop and follow all the other people in their Oktoberfest outfits (or, as we've been told, what the Bavarians wear all the time...)

Front entrance (left). This year's poster (middle). Dang cute participants (right).

Ticket booth (top-left),
Rollercoaster (top-right)
The swings (bottom)
It was about a 4 block walk to the entrance of the fairgrounds. It did feel like "the entrance", marked with flags and everything. But, again, just for the record, after walking through to the other side of the fairgrounds, was the actual entrance of the Bahn station I had planned to take. So, we would not have had to walk AT ALL if we had done my original plan, thank you very much. Yes, we would go past that entrance and would have transferred trains, but we wouldn't have come out of the Bahn already inside the grounds. Argh. I just want everyone to know that I knew what I was doing! So there!

Today is Thursday. It is around noon. I can't say it was deserted at the Festwiese (Oktoberfest), but it wasn't crowded at all. There were no lines for any of the rides. In fact, many of them looked to be running almost empty. All the bratwurst, pretzel, nuts, candy... stands... no lines. We jumped onto a rollercoaster (it was super expensive, about €20 for the family). Then the kids did a swinging ride alone (more money, you can't buy an "all pass" only per/ride tickets, which add up over time).

But, with no lines, it was easy and calm. It was lovely to be the "only ones" there. Then... you walk into a tent... and there everyone is! Holy smokes! The amount of people in a single tent, the workers running around serving 10 one-litre beers at a time, or a giant platter of food, the security, the ooglers (like us). Wow. Just wow.

And crazy side note. We took some photos outside of Paulaner tent (see horses below) and it turns out, a family friend (Randy Coleman) was INSIDE that tent! Doh! If we had only known!

Paulaner Horses; The horse whisperer a.k.a. drunk man (top-left)
Venice trying to pet the now agitated horse (top-right)
Inside two different tents (middle and bottom)

We looked into two different tents and decided, as much fun as it looked, we are just not "those" kinds of people in this time of our lives (ok with squishing into a large table already crowded eating right next to drunk strangers). So, we opted for the Haufbrau outside area. There were several open tables, no problem. We got a large table all to ourselves. And no worries, they have speakers sharing the party noises from inside! So, when ever they sang "the song," we were able to participate in the debauchery.

Not only giant beers, but giant sodas too!

Our waitress came over and pointed to us and said, "One beer, one (couldn't understand, either wine or beer) a Fanta and a coke?" I replied, "Two beers, one Fanta and a Coke." ... she said, "I'm good!" and brought us our order. I get it on the beers, but how did she know about the sodas... she IS good. P.S. This is the first time we're confronted with a menu that is only in German, no English to help us out. We muddled our way through and, OMG, the food was so good! The potato dumplings were a bit gooey, but the crispy chicken was heavenly. We did a great job.

The beer might be stinky, but the food was yummy (you can see a chewy-potato dumpling).
Venice, trying to get warm (right).

After bringing us our drinks, we paid. Then we ordered food and when that came, we paid. So, money right away. Makes sense, then no one has to remember what they bought or run a ticket, etc. Everyone is "even" the entire meal. I also find it fascinating, that in so many situations (including this one) service people don't always use a calculator. They are, more often, doing the math in their heads and coming up with totals on the spot. So, children, learn your mental math!

So, the biggest downside to sitting outside, was the cold. Remember a few weeks ago how hot it was? Well, we're on the other side and we're frozen. Venice is shivering. My toes are frozen in my new shoes (no socks, nylons or tights). As good as the food and drinks were, we were ready to head back to the hotel for more layers of clothing (and private bathrooms, since we're there). Side note: The kids are always wondering what it's like to feel drunk. After a pint of beer, I told them, for me, I'm still cold, but I kind of just don't care.

We took the U-Bahn back (and an S-Bahn), almost the path I was thinking of taking on the way there (see, I do know what I'm doing!) We layered on the clothes. I took off my new cute shoes and opted for socks and sneakers (now I'm in red sneakers with my dirndl... somewhat standing out, somewhat fitting in with the younger crowd). Venice swapped shorts for pants. We also enjoyed some free coffee in the lobby. Bonus.

One of the nicest things about Festwiese is that admissions are free. So, you can spend as much as you want (oh my, we did spend a few hundred there on food and rides) or as little as you want. You can come and go as you please.

The Glockenspiel at the New Town Hall. It is not rounded, this distortion is due to the limitations of the panoramic.

So, after layering up (and changing out of my new shoes that I've been wearing "bare"... my feet are thanking me now), we decided to not go right back to Festwiese, but to see the Glockenspiel and other parts of town (we're on a hunt for surfers!) In all full outfits (albeit a little covered up with coats), we headed to the Glockenspiel. When we arrived, it was about 5 minutes after the hour, so we missed any show put on by the clock tower. Instead of waiting an hour, we decided to hunt for the surfers in the English Garden.

On our way to the English Gardens

Thanks to my (usually very good reading of directions) skills with Google, we took a very round-a-bout path to the English Gardens. Part of the problem was that we left our guide books at the hotel and were going off of memory of where to look for these surfers. At the river? Nope. At the tip of the English Gardens. So we were a bit off course.

The nice thing about taking the "wrong" path, is that you get treated to experiences you would have missed otherwise. And I'm convinced you enjoy your destination much more knowing how hard you worked to get there!

On our "wrong" path, we stumbled across a guitarist playing beautiful music. He was playing (amplified) acoustic guitar in a "dome" in the middle of a beautiful garden. The sound was so lovely. The kids tipped him at first. Then, Venice and I decided that this would be nice music to listen to when at home, and we wanted his CD. Chris, snark-ily, asked, "How are you going to get the music off the CD?" Doh... NONE of our computers have hard drives. So, we'll have to wait a few months to be able to rip the CD onto our computers. Sigh. Dang old technology. He should really be selling coupons to download off iTunes, right? But, we wanted it, so we bought his CD. I know I'll enjoy listening to it back home (in two months).

After a few more mishaps, we finally stumbled upon the surfers. We almost went another way, but Chris was drawn to the sound of rushing water, he investigated and, there we were! And wow, how cool?! The water rushes under the bridge, over the (manmade, we're assuming) specially made easement-bottom, creating a giant wave. There were several surfers suited up in wetsuits taking turns and entertaining us with their tricks and spills.

Xander the Tree Hugger (left), Surfing (middle and right)

We tried to make it back to the Glockenspiel in time for the next "hour". We hopped onto the bus, from right in front of the surfers, back to an U-Bahn station. From there, we took the U3 back to the Marienplatz, where the Glockenspiel is located. Well... the U6 to Marienplatz, puts you right in the middle of the square. Any exit you use takes you up to the square. The U3, unbeknownst to us, takes you about 1.5 blocks away from the square. And when you don't know where you are, and you pop up above ground and it's NOT where you thought you'd be... it can be quite disconcerting. We had 6 minutes to figure it out. Goole Maps. Begin walking. 5 minutes. Wrong direction. 4 minutes. Try again. 3 minutes to go.... and damn it, there's the chiming of the bells. But they echo in these alley ways and such... you can't always tell where they're coming from. We finally find the square, probably just about the time the bells stop ringing. But here's the thing. Our clocks all said we JUST made it in time. There were several clocks chiming and they all chimed EARLY. Dang it. Now we'll have to come back tomorrow.

Other clocks around the square.

To drown our sorrows, we headed back to Oktoberfest (now that we're experts in getting there).

Random photos. Heading back to Oktoberfest (top-left), Following signs for Festwiese (top-middle).
Venice, now with a jacket and her new owl cookie, these style of cookies are very popular (top-right).
The kids as chefs (bottom-left), Chris hugging "Kevin", Xander's new friend (bottom-middle)
Our new shoes and jackets (bottom-right)

Lowenbrau (for Keith!) and to show how different it all looks at night.
We ate more food. We did more rides (bumper cars and a giant ferris wheel, which made the youngest in our party somewhat nervous). We walked. We ate dessert (Zukerwatte - cotton candy - for Diana, chocolate covered strawberries for Venice, Nutella/Banana crepes for Chris, ice cream for Xander). We left.

Ferris Wheel

Home close to 10pm.

Over 21,000 steps for my day.

5 bisters. Damn the new shoes.

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