Part 2: Oktoberfest - September 26, 2018
The previous night at the hostel we stayed at, Phillip and I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a plan for what to do the next day and beyond as we had to keep an eye on flight loads for the sake of getting back. It was found that Frankfurt would have more options for getting back to the states than Munich, so we decided that we would end our trip up there. We had booked a bus ride to get to Munich for Oktoberfest, but with our trip being on the fly, it made it a little bit tricky to plan ahead. We didn’t have a hotel booked in Munich as we were not sure if or when we would get there, so when we finally knew for sure we would get there and began looking for a place to stay, we ran into the most unfortunate problem with last-minute travel planning…steep prices.
So in the interest of trying to save some money, I suggested the idea of spending the afternoon and evening at Oktoberfest, then catching an overnight bus to Frankfurt to continue our visit in Germany. I could tell that Phillip was not fond of this idea, but he did eventually agree to it as I don’t think either of us really wanted to spend a fortune on one night for a last-minute hotel where a big event was taking place. So we booked a night bus ride for after Oktoberfest to get to Frankfurt, and then would continue from there.
Once we had that squared away, it was time for bed, and after getting some shut-eye, Phillip and I would get up, showered, and back over to Zurich Main Station to head across the street to catch the IC Bus of DB Bahn from Zurich to Munich. DB Bahn operates both buses and trains, with the IC Bus offering transportation between several cities in Germany and their neighboring countries for a low price, as we spent about €20. The double-deck bus offered a comfortable ride with wifi and electric ports to plug your devices while on board, and also had a vending machine for those wishing to purchase snacks or beverages if they would like. The best part about the ride though was that it was quite scenic as you pass through the countryside and small towns on the route.
What was a surprise for this ride was that we would be passing through Austria along the way. I had not really looked at a map of Switzerland and Germany, but upon looking at it as we came alongside of Lake Constance, it became obvious that the bus wasn’t going to suddenly turn around to cross the border between Switzerland and Germany, and it wasn’t going to take the ferry across the lake, leaving a short drive through Austria. It was fun to add this country to the list of those that I have been in, although it would have been nice to have had a stop in the country to really get a visit in rather than to just pass through, but the drive through was still enjoyable as we passed through the small town of Lustenau.
About 20 or so minutes and we were in Germany, where the rest of the drive would occur. After a couple hours more of scenic beauty, we begin to arrive to the urban area of Munich, and then into the heart of the city at the bus station. Since we were going to be catching another bus that evening, we decided to put our luggage into storage for our time at Oktoberfest. Unfortunately all of the lockers were full at the bus terminal, so we had to take a short hike over to the Munich Hbf train station, where we found a much larger number of lockers to store our stuff.
With that all squared away, it was time to walk over to Theresienwiese, the fairground that hosts Oktoberfest! Getting to Oktoberfest was quite easy as there were signs on the sidewalks that pointed out the way, plus there were plenty of people walking toward the grounds in their drindls and lederhosen, so we really just had to follow the crowd. Entering Oktoberfest is as simple as walking up to the gate and going in, as there is no admission to enter the grounds itself.
While the festival is centered around beer and the local breweries, the event is a bit more controlled when it comes to the booze as you cannot roam the fairground with beer in hand. All beer consumption takes place either inside of a beer garden, or inside one of the large beer halls or their patio areas. Some of the breweries do, however, offer specialty drinks of the non-alcohol variety, such as a drink from Paulsner Brewery called Spezi (I gathered from Phillip that it was pronounced “speh-zuh”), a mixture of orange and cola, which was an interesting mix of flavors.
When we first arrived, we took a walk around the grounds to see what all there was to enjoy at the festival, looking to see what rides there were, and then trying to find a place for food and drinks. I eventually grabbed a bratwurst, and Phillip had a half-chicken. We also tried to see if we could get a spot at one of the tables inside one of the beer halls for the sake of getting a liter of beer in true Oktoberfest fashion. As we walked and heard the band playing, I was expecting to hear more traditional polka music, or more oompah style music, but when we were in some of the halls, the bands were playing songs like Frank Sinatra’s New York New York, or John Denver’s Country Road. It caught me off guard, but I thought it was neat that the band was playing it, and a large number of the patrons inside were singing it as well.
Unfortunately as we walked through the halls trying to find a spot to get our beer, many of the tables inside were either filled or had signs that said they were reserved. At first, Phillip and I came under the impression that you needed to have reservations in order to get a table, but we found out from friends who had been earlier that it was possible to get seating without a reservation as long as you could find empty seats, and that showing up first thing around opening made it easier. Not finding a place at the time, we instead went for some rides.
One of the big differences between Oktoberfest and fairs back home in the states that I’ve experienced had to do with paying for the rides. While at many fairs back home, you would go to central ticket booths to buy tickets for all of the rides, at Oktoberfest you would go to a booth that was for the specific ride you wanted to enjoy and pay them directly. Most likely this is because unlike many fairs in the states where all of the rides are owned by one ride operator, or they are subcontracted by a main operator, most of the rides at Oktoberfest are owned by a variety of showmen and operators, thus paying at the ride allows them to make as much as they can, rather than just getting a set rate for rental of their attractions as would likely be the case in a sub-contractor arrangement back in the states.
In total, there were five different roller coasters that were a part of Oktoberfest this year. The first one ridden was one of the two Wilde Maus that were side-by-side and were essentially mirrors of each other. This rode much like other normal wild mouse style coasters, although these seems to be a bit more wild as the trim brakes were not used much compared to others. Because of the wait time after the first one, it was decided to come back later for the other track.
Coaster number two was probably the most unique of the five, known as Höllenblitz. This coaster’s exterior gives a sense of the ride being themed as a mine train roller coaster, but the seats are able to spin on the train, and when inside, the lighting more of what you would expect to find at a techno club or a rave, as there were strobes, lasers, fog, and even an occasional flame thrower. It definitely wasn’t what I was anticipating, but it was a fun ride.
The Next Coaster was probably one of the most anticipated, as it is one that is always a part of Oktoberfest, Olympia Looping. This coaster comes from the legendary designed Anton Schwarzkopf, and is known for featuring its signature 5 loops. While Schwarzkopf coasters are known for being intense rides, this one was certainly among his more intense creations as riders can really feel their bodies pressed to their seats in the loops as well as in some of the lower-to-the-ground turns. This ride has had a lot of hype around among the coaster enthusiasts who have ridden it, and it did not disappoint.
The last of the more unique coasters to be ridden on this evening was that of Alpina Bahn, another from the mind of Anton Schwarzkopf. Unlike its cousin just down the path, this ride does not feature any loops, but it does offer fun moments of airtime and swift turns through its twisting course. This ride also sticks out for its theming including the animatronics on the ride sign and in one of the ticket booths that occasionally tricks visitors into thinking it is an actual ticket taker.
Once we had completed the unique coasters (the other Wilde Maus was saved until just before leaving), we found an icon of Oktoberfest that can often serve as a barometer for how drunk someone is. The Tobbogan is a spiraling slide with a more unique way to get to the top. While most amusement slide would have its riders just climb stairs to get to the top, the toboggan has a rather quick conveyer belt that riders hop on to get close to half way up the tower. Younger kids and those not comfortable trying on their own can be helped by the ride’s staff, however, when older riders give it a try, it becomes a bit of a spectator event, as those whose coordination is weakened thanks to drinking a lot of beer will most likely stumble and fall over.
Phillip wasn’t quite feeling up to giving it a try, but I knew I couldn’t pass up on it. While it wasn’t pretty, I did successfully keep from falling flat on my face, although I did wobble a decent bit, and I hadn’t even had any beer yet.
After some rides, Phillip and I decided it was time to find some beer as we had not yet had any. We found a beer garden with a variety of beers from Hofbräu München located near Olympia Looping. Phillip and I both took the Weiẞbier Hell, which was a lighter wheat beer, and it was absolutely delightful! Wheat beers are typically my favorite kind, especially hefewisens, and this was right up that alley.
After a bit more walking, Phillip and I gave another shot at trying to find a table at one of the beer halls, and while it wasn’t inside, there were some empty tables at the Spaten tent, so we both had a pretzel, and I got my liter mug of beer! Much in the same way that some say it’s not really Christmas until the angel or star has been put on top of a tree, it hasn’t really been Oktoberfest until you get your liter mug of beer.
And that would be the end of our night at Oktoberfest. While it was certainly an enjoyable time, and you could certainly visit the way we did, I would recommend making plans ahead of time so that you can stay nearby without having to pay a small fortune for the night, that way you can just take in the atmosphere. While there are tons of places that host Oktoberfest events in their local communities, there is something special about going to one of the most famous ones. I would gladly come back again.
At this point, Phillip and I would head on up to Frankfurt to continue our visit in Germany…..or so we thought……
See more of the 2018 Random Europe Trip:
Where are Gary & Phillip Going? / 1: A Day in Zurich / 2: Oktoberfest / 3: An Unexpected London Visit
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