Tuesday, October 1, 2013


So here is the entry you have all been waiting for…Oktoberfest!!!

My classmate, Sabrina and I departed from Prague this past Friday night at 5:15pm on a train heading to Munich, Germany!  We took the local tram to the train station which is just a few minutes from our flat, hopped out and strode excitedly along the path and into the station.  I grabbed a ham sandwich to go in the 5 minutes we had to spare and then we hopped aboard!

Our train ride amounted to 5 hours total.  By the end, I had moved into Sabrina’s car and because we were the only two people sitting within the compartment, each of us had sprawled out along the length of seats on our side of the compartment and was lying down reading on our Kindle/Tablet.

We arrived at the main train station in Munich at 11:30pm to find the station was buzzing with activity and energy.  Hoards of people ran along the platforms, walked together in large groups, men swayed drunkenly, youths shouted and popped open champagne bottles, hundreds of people were dressed in lederhosen everywhere we looked, it was an explosion of human movement.

Sabrina and I hopped on the subway and rode it a few stops to where we were met by her long time family friends, Doro and Theo.  Sabrina embraced them in hello.  Then Doro and Theo warmly greeted and welcomed me.  We chatted as we walked back to their warm car idling in the parking lot.

Upon arriving at their little house on a quiet neighborhood road, we unloaded from the car and walked up the quiet, dark driveway.  The inside of their house was quaint, cozy, lots of natural colors and textures (white, wood, etc) and bright.  Sabrina and I were shown to a little room downstairs with towering, fluffy comforters, little chocolates on each pillow and a few towels sitting on the side of each bed.  We put our things down as Doro and Theo asked if we were hungry, to which we said yes, very.

Sabrina, Doro, Theo, their teenage daughter, Clara and I sat around their round wooden table and were served an absolutely delicious leek soup out of a large clay pot, with sides of crunchy French baguette.  It was amazing, it warmed me from the inside out, and the flavor was mild but delicious, with a bit of onion and herbs.

After our meal, Sabrina and I turned in as it was 1am and we were exhausted.  This was hands down one of the best night’s sleeps I have had since I have been in Europe.  It was the best.

On Saturday morning, we awoke at 9am ish and were welcomed to their little wooden table for breakfast.  Doro served us homemade traditional German bread which was to die for.  I can still conjure the taste when I think about it.  The bread is dense, slightly egg-like, and sweet, almost like a challah bread of some kind, with a sprinkle of sugar crystals on top, just the slightest pinch to give it a tiny bit of added sweetness.  A mish-mash of various jams, jelly, creams and toppings were covering the rest of the table, along with vanilla yogurt, coffee, tea and water.  I had two pieces of this bread covered with a blueberry jam (home made by Doro and Theo from handpicked blueberries).  It was one of the best breads I have ever eaten.

We showered and headed out around 12 noon to the train station for our destination: Oktoberfest.  Sabrina, Clara, Clara’s friend, Elizabeth and me hopped on the subway together, rode 3 stops or so and exited along with hoards of peoples, the majority of whom were in lederhosen.  We walked over a huge iron bridge above the overpass and down a concrete staircase to the entrance.  A huge sign overhung the entrance welcoming us to OKTOBERFEST!!

Walking toward Oktoberfest!

We entered the event and the best way to describe it in a nutshell would be the most insane, populated, gigantic and lively carnival you could possibly imagine.  I will post photos below as I feel any descriptions I might come up with would fall short with giving you the proper images:

Elizabeth and Clara.

Around 1:00pm we got in line for a beer tent.  Waiting within this line was an entire experience within itself.  The line snaked along outside the tent within the beer garden outside.  Hundreds of people crowded on the long wooden benches and tables.  People drank from LITER sized beers.  This was the one-size fits all standard size for beers.  Waitresses dressed in the traditional Oktoberfest garb carried large platters of traditional German food with the most efficient speed throughout the line and crowds to the tables around us.  People at the tables would randomly (and often) break out into loud song and cheers as they clinked their huge beers together and drank.  Every ten minutes or so, a bleary eyed, stumbling, vacantly staring, often drooling youth (usually male) would appear at the tent entrance being escorted out by the angry faced security guards.  All of us folks standing in line would shrink back as the youth stumbled passed us, worried about a potential sudden barfing as they stumbled along precariously close to us.

Waiting in line to get into the tent....

After an hour and a half, we finally rounded the front of the line and were able to see into the tent.  Before this moment, I had wondered if maybe we should abandon the line…if it was even worth it (though of course, the beer tents are what Oktoberfest is known for).  However upon being given a glimpse into the tent, I knew it was well worth the wait.  The tent ceilings soared, higher than any circus tent I have ever seen, draped in brilliant colors.  People danced on every table, arms wrapped around one another, beer glasses clinked, the smells of food wafted out from within the tents, loud and jovial songs rang out from the crowds on the tables.  Being within the tent is absolutely where the party is at.

After 30 more minutes of being crushed between people in ways I never could have imagined possible, we finally made it to the dead front of the line.  We were the next ones in.  The following fifteen minutes crawled by torturously.  The portly security guard paced in front of me, a bulldog-like grimace stretched across his lined, unhappy looking face.  His thin, short gray hair was covered by a black cap.  When mischievous teens tried to cut to the front of the line, he opened his mouth in anger, no sound coming out, just a twisted grimace of disgust with his mouth open as he ushered them away.  At a number of points, he came up next to me and pushed me violently into the people on my right (I was standing on the outer edge of the line), telling me to stay within the line boundaries (which was close to impossible as the people behind me were virtually leaning against me in entirely dead weight, I was struggling to keep from falling over).

The guard came and stood in front of me; his face maybe 5-6 inches from my own, as he stared at the line behind me and mouthed things to various misbehavers.  This was a terrible moment as I was given crystal clear, repeated views of his tobacco stained teeth and windfuls of his rank, putrid breath.  For the next ten minutes, I was not happy.  I actually grew somewhat agitated and tense, because of the close proximity to me which this man was standing.  However he finally let a few more people in.  But those people were not us!!  Despite us being at the dead front of the line.  I got really frustrated at this point, having been in this line for 2 hours, so I tapped him bluntly on the shoulder and said “Hey, we have been waiting in this line for 2 hours now, what is the deal?”  And I gestured angrily to the people he had just let in.  He gave me a reassuring look and signaled to me “just one minute.”  No less than 3 minutes later, he let us in!!!!  FINALLY!!!  My god.  Victorious!!

And oh, was it worth the wait.  As I said, within the tent, the ceilings soared.  Crowds of people danced on tables, singing loudly, numerous drunk people (generally men) swayed and leered around themselves, liters of beer were being slammed down in front of people all around us, benches were filled to the brim with people stuffed closely together (if you were not already friends with your neighbor, you became friends!), baskets of pretzels, sausages and more were being offered to tent-goers, lively and buzzing teens laughed, kissed, danced together, a couple sporadic fights broke out.  It was utter, drunken insanity mixed with total joy and liveliness among the crowd.

We sat down straight away and got liters of beer.  Yes, I drank 1 liter of beer to myself.  Even I was shocked at this.  I drank one and was feeling….quite good.  So that was enough for me ha-ha.  The four of us stood on our table benches and sang a traditional German song, with hand motions, jumping on the wooden benches, and all.  So stellar!  We all shared a pretzel.  We walked around and took some photos within the tent.  And finally, we exited the tent.  That was truly the quintessential Oktoberfest moment I had been hoping for.

We walked around the rest of the fair, meeting up with Clara’s brother, Constantin and his girlfriend, Jojo.  I enjoyed chocolate covered strawberries with creamy, milky chocolate and fresh fruit, so delicious.  I also purchased a few of the traditional German gingerbread hearts.  Clara, Constantin and I rode the Power Tower (my FAVORITE carnival ride!!!).  I have never ridden a fair ride while tipsy before.  That was certainly a fun and giggly experience.  And then we walked around the fair a bit longer.  The crowd was buzzing at this point, high energy and drunkenness was evident within the crowd.

We headed out from Oktoberfest at this point.  On our way out, Clara and Constantin showed me where all the drunk people go throughout the day.  This was both truly impressive and made my mouth drop.  There were just HOARDS of people sprawled out on this hill, many of whom were asleep, falling over, bent over on all fours, etc.  It was surely a sight to behold.  A slightly cringe inducing one.

Where all the drunk people go....

To lie down haha! 

We took the metro back to Clara’s house arriving around 7pm where we were met with a delicious dinner waiting for us.  Small salads with tomatoes, balsamic dressing and a tiny mushroom with some kind of creamy food dalloped/stuffed in the middle of it, hearty but light spinach lasagna covered with pine nuts, and for dessert homemade applesauce topped with a tiny dark chocolate shaped leaf and homemade whipped cream.  I LOVED every meal I ate here, oh man, so wonderful.

After the outstanding meal, I was feeling embarrassingly exhausted…the perils of day drinking combined with already being a bit tired due to lack of sleep the prior couple nights (excluding the actual night before, which was a great sleep), so I went downstairs to relax/doze for a bit.  Doro and Theo returned home around 10pm and all of us (Sabrina, me, Doro, Theo, Clara, Constantin and Jojo) played two German board games, one called Bongo and the other, I cannot recall the name but it’s a card game that is ultra fast, very laugh inducing and lots of fun.  Sabrina and I retired to bed around 12 midnight.

On Sunday morning we woke up around 9am and everyone congregated around the table for a huge, traditional, Bavarian style breakfast.  We had white sausages, apparently a Bavarian traditional breakfast food, which I tried a bite of but was not a fan of.  There was a whole trout on the table, fresh pretzels, that same delicious bread we had eaten on Saturday morning as well, a huge mix of various toppings, jams and creams to put on the breads we were eating, vanilla yogurt, coffee, tea and water.  We all feasted, conversed and laughed together, lots of fun.  They spoke in German about a quarter of the time (the rest of the time, trying to speak in English because of me, which always makes me feel simultaneously really blessed that people are doing this for me, but also horribly embarrassed and guilty).  I asked what a few German words meant that they were saying as well.

Sabrina and I left at 10:45am.  Doro drove us to the metro station and bid us goodbye.  Then Sabrina and I hopped on the metro and into the city center of Munich.  We walked around and explored for an hour and a half.  I was stunned by the city hall, wow.  It was comparable to Notre Dame in Paris, absolutely huge, imposing, Gothic and gorgeous.  We got teas in a little cafĂ©, walked some of the back streets, past cafes and little shops, and finally returned to the city hall at 12 noon to watch the bell tower show.  This was so charming, I loved it!  When the bells go off, little statues dance for about 7 minutes within the front of the bell tower.  It’s really neat, much better than the bell tower show in Prague (though that one is charming too in its own way).

A pretty clock tower.

The stunning and imposing Munich city hall.

Within the bell tower of city hall, where the figurines dance.

Then we headed back to the subway, hopped on and returned to the Munich train station where we boarded our train back to Prague.  I spent the next 5 hours watching the landscape scroll by.  Rolling green hills, seas of burnt red colored roofs, tiny towns, forests and winding rivers and fields of yellow wildflowers.  I love European landscape; it’s like something out of a romantic storybook.  I read on my Tablet (still reading the book: One Hundred Summers, which I mentioned in a previous post.  It’s excellent; I LOVE it, beautifully written, a gripping story and romantic).  And then Sabrina and I returned to our flats by 7pm on Sunday night, happy and wiped ha-ha.

Love the little marzipan platters of German foods!

These are samples of the outfits that almost everyone was wearing at Oktoberfest.

I proceeded to join three of my classmates out for burgers which were grand, as anything involving burgers always is.

Alright, whew, and that concludes my adventure to Munich for the weekend!  I literally could not have had a more fantastic weekend.  And the total cost of my weekend was… $175.  That includes everything, even the train ticket.  I am pretty pleased with that, having gone to Oktoberfest for only that cost, it really does not get much better than that.  And the time we spent with Sabrina’s German friends was just wonderful.  SO much better than any possibly hotel could have been.  These are exactly the types of experiences I am looking to have WAY more of while living over here.  I loved getting to know each of them, hearing more German spoken, playing the board games together, hearing about life in Germany and of course, sitting around their little country table and eating the INCREDIBLE meals that Doro made, wow.  And they were a wonderful family.  All incredibly warm, easy going, polite, welcoming and sweet.

Doro was kind enough to write out the recipe for the phenomenal bread that she served on both Saturday and Sunday morning for me.  Therefore, I have decided to share it with all of you here, if you might like to try it yourselves!  You will NOT be disappointed.  And the recipe is super easy!!  The only caveat, you will have to translate the measurements into US measurement, however I suspect this will be easy and would not take longer than 5 minutes using Google.  If anyone tries this recipe, please let me know!  I would love to hear how your version comes out!

(Doro's recipe has sprinkled sugar on it, not seeds like this one. I recommend the sugar).

Schwabischer Helozopf

500 g flour

1 package of dry yeast

11g of warm milk, 80-100g of margarine or butter

50-80g sugar

1-2 eggs


If you want, a little bit of lemon peel

Mix flour with dry yeast, salt and lemon peel.  Add butter/margarine, sugar and eggs.  At the end, mix in lukewarm milk and make a soft dough.

Let it rest in a warm place until the volume has increased substantially.  Then divide it into three equal parts and make a roll out of these parts and bread them.  Place it on a baking sheet and again, let it rest for a while.

Preheat the oven to 180 c and bake the bread for 25-45 minutes.  After 10 minutes of baking, paint it with a little bit of milk and add a little bit of sugar on top.  The bread is supposed to be golden but the inside should not be sticky.

*This recipe was written for me, word for word, by Doro!

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

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