Sunday Market

This morning, we will return to the Oktoberfest market, but this time to buy produce and honey.  We pack a couple of grocery bags into my panniers and head to the elevator with our bikes.  We’ve worked out a routine to fit both bikes in the elevator, but I always forget what it is, enter the elevator the wrong way, and end up having to pick up my bike (heavy with gear) and swing it around the make room for Pat.  Each time this happens, I think I should let Pat go into the elevator first, but then I forget the next time.   This is partly because he stands back to let me go in first, which I think is a secret ploy to amuse himself because he laughs at me every time.

We do make it into the elevator eventually.  And the elevator, which has been remarkably better behaved of late (or else we’ve just developed our elevator button pushing skills to its liking), takes us to the first floor with only a slight pause after closing the doors before it starts to move.  We roll our way out the door and down the ramp to the parking lot where we stop to put on helmets and sunglasses.  Unfortunately, I put my helmet on first and then remember that I can’t fit my sunglasses under my helmet unless I put them on first.  I take the helmet off, put on the sunglasses and replace the helmet.

I think it’s taken us longer to get ready to ride than the ride will take.  But, finally ready, we hit the road and head up towards the Walnut St Bridge.  Having safely crossed the river, we work our way through downtown, back towards the Tennessee Pavilion for the second day in a row.  Pat comments as we approach the Pavilion only a few minutes later about how much faster it is to ride a bike 2 miles than it is to walk.  Even at our slow riding pace, it’s about 3X faster.

When we get to the market, it’s far more crowded today than it was yesterday.  I guess all the regulars of the Sunday market are here today along with the extra crowd attracted by Oktoberfest.  There is no place to put our bikes and we didn’t bring a lock anyway, so we walk them through the pavilion with us.  This works well in that it allows me to use my panniers as a shopping cart.

Pat crosses in front of a woman who is, predictably, out of shape.  She has to pause for a couple extra seconds while Pat rolls his bike by.  He overhears her comment to her friend “they shouldn’t allow those in here.”  Pat tells me this and I look around.  There are parents pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, even a man pulling a wheeled cart with oxygen on it.  I find myself thinking I’ll be walking around her wheelchair in a few more years if she doesn’t start taking care of herself and decide it’s OK if she has to walk around our bikes in the interim.

We work our way around the produce section, picking up some gorgeous bib lettuce (and I don’t call bib lettuce “gorgeous” often), watercress, and another lettuce whose name escapes me.  I also pick up some goat cheese and then we head over to see Eddie and Lou, the honey and candle makers.  Eddie gives us tastes of three different honeys and we end up buying a jar of sourwood honey with a hint of blackberry juice.  Apparently, there were overly ripe berries that attracted the bees enough that it slightly changed the flavor of the honey.  It’s really good.  I had no idea that there was that much control over what the bees collect nectar from that you could end up with honey that was from only one type of flower.  Eddie and Pat are busy chatting about other things or I would have asked more questions about how this works.  Along with the honey, we also buy a honeycomb, which Lou tells us is really nice to slice and serve with cheese.

Next we look for bread.  We’re disappointed by the first bread vendor in that all of their crusts are soft.  We walk/roll over to the second vendor and find only their baguette has a crisp crust, so that’s what we buy.  Next, we look for apples and tomatoes.  We’re disappointed to learn that the vendors there don’t have heirloom tomatoes and the first vendor doesn’t grow their tomatoes organically.  However, the second vendor doesn’t use pesticides or herbicides, although she’s not certified organic.  We buy some of her tomatoes and then head over to the apples.

This is where I get into trouble.  I have a very specific way of placing my fingers on apples and exerting gentle, even pressure so that I can tell if an apple is crisp without bruising them.  The woman selling the apples gets upset with me because she doesn’t want her apples bruised.  While I can understand that she can’t have everyone coming over and squeezing her apples all day and, therefore, she can’t let me squeeze her apples even if I have a special talent for it (is this starting to sound like it’s no longer rated PG?), she really didn’t have to be rude.

Unfortunately, she is having troubles with her inner jerk today.  And this causes my inner jerk to rise from the little snooze she’s been taking.  Imagine the introductions:  “Inner Jerk, meet Inner Jerk.”  Fortunately, before my inner jerk can get one word out, I say, “OK, Thanks,” and run off as quickly as I possibly can, leaving Pat standing with both our bikes, unable to follow.  I recognize that Pat is not behind me relatively quickly and circle back around realizing I’ve left him stuck.  As I get close to the apple stand, I approach from an angle where the woman is unlikely to see me.  I explain to Pat that I need to get out of there and we head off, apple-less.

We ride back a different route, working our way up to Walnut St early so as to avoid a very steep climb up to the bridge.  Unfortunately, it turns out part of Walnut St is one-way the wrong way and we have to take a detour to get back to it.  But, we make it to the bridge safely and navigate the tourists successfully, returning home with our goodies in a much better mood.

I can’t wait to try the honeycomb and immediately slice up some bread and start spreading goat cheese and honeycomb on it.  The bread is more of a “if you can’t find good bread and you need something in a pinch” variety of bread and the goat cheese is good but typical, but the honey comb makes it all seem special.  I am hooked.

Oktoberfest all over again

It’s Saturday once more.  This weekend’s agenda is to experience Oktoberfest Chattanooga style.  The last time I went to an Oktoberfest in the states, it was the Oktoberfest in Columbus about 15 years ago and it was pretty lame compared to Oktobefest in Munich (as one would expect).  Given that Columbus is about 3X the size of Chattanooga, we don’t expect much.  However, Chattanooga has the interesting twist of combining Oktoberfest with their weekend farmer’s/artist’s market.

The market sets up Saturday and Sunday in the Tennessee Pavilion downtown for Oktoberfest–the market is normally only on Sunday’s.  They set up a tent and have bands playing outside the market area.  And, of course, they have plenty of beer trucks, too.  We decide that since we will want to have beer and don’t know how long we will want to stay, we will walk there.

Most places we go are so close that walking there takes less time that getting into the car, driving, and finding a parking place.  However, the Tennessee Pavilion happens to be at the opposite end of downtown and is a good 2 miles away.  While a 4 mile walk is not bad, I have a slight limp due to my sprained foot and Pat is still limping from his hamstring pull.  But, it’s an incredibly beautiful day, so we decide a walk is in order.

Walking through downtown Chattanooga is a different experience than riding through it on a bike.  Slowing down allows us to notice details that I missed when I rode through the previous weekend.  We also point out things to each other that I noticed from my bike and Pat noticed from a drive through the area during the week.  As we get further from the riverfront, the area becomes more deserted.  There are few people out and about on a Saturday morning with the exception of the area near the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  We are a block over, but as we pass a large hotel, suddenly groups of people appear in front of the hotel.  Yet, as soon as we pass the main entrance, the sidewalk is once again deserted even though we are passing a large convention center.

We start to worry that we’re lost just because the streets seem so deserted and we think we ought to be getting close.  But in another block, the road shifts and we can see large groups of people up ahead.  We make it to the festival and discover that, like Munich, there is no entrance fee.  However, instead of beer wagons pulled by draft horses, in Chattanooga, they have lined up a collection of VWs at the entrance for people to look at.  We are intrigued by the VW pop-up camper.  It even has a tiny kitchen with a camp stove in it.

I get out my new iPhone 4S and decide this is an excellent time to test out the new and improved camera, having decided not to carry my DSLR today.  I’m not sure the shooting conditions really make it a good test–lots of bright sunshine in mid-day–but at least I got pictures.  Unfortunately, it’s so bright out that I have trouble telling what I’m pointing at with only an LCD screen to go by.

We find food first, ordering brats that are typical American, course brats.  I like these a lot.  Pat prefers fine brats, but I can’t recall ever having them here.  We take our food over to some tables where we can sit to eat.  Eating takes about 10 seconds (walking makes us hungry!) and then we head straight for the beer trucks.

Unlike the Munich tradition of only allowing regional breweries in Oktoberfest, Chattanooga has vendors selling all kinds of beers from lots of different places.  This certainly opens up more choices, although there are at least 3 breweries in Chattanooga.  I believe that’s 1 brewery for every 100,000 residents.  I try the Oktoberfest brew from the Chattanooga Brewing Company.  Pat picks a Pilsner.  The beers are served in 8 oz plastic cups and are only 3/4 full.  This is probably a good thing–we really don’t need the 1 liter mugs used in Munich.

Next, we walk around the market.  There are only a handful of produce vendors and one honey vendor.  We end up talking to the couple selling their honey for quite a while.  We learn about their bees and sourwood honey and end up talking about other things.  Pat learns that Eddie, the bee keeper, used to know about Gruhn Guitars in Nashville.  This starts of a conversation of seeing if they know any of the same people.  Soon, they’re talking about Eddie’s old trumpet and swapping information.  Eventually, we tell Eddie and Lou (Eddies’ wife and the Candlemaker) that we will come back tomorrow to buy when we can ride our bikes down.  Lou points us in the direction of some interesting artists tents and we leave them to go take a tour of the craft vendors.

While I’m not interested in buying non-consumables that don’t go on my camera, I am a bit amused by some of the offerings.  There is an entire tent dedicated to aprons.  In case you, like me, have forgotten what an “apron” is, it’s an article of clothing you put on over your real clothes so you can cook without getting food on your outfit.  Except here, they are called “hostess wear.”  And they are supposed to be couture.  I cannot imagine the kind of woman who buys a fancy apron to cook in, but I’m pretty sure the last one died a few decades ago.  Wouldn’t most women rather hire a caterer than spend a bunch of money on “couture hostess wear”?

A couple booths over there is a display of fancy barrettes and other accessories for little girls.  Tons of tutus line the racks in the tent.  I wish I would have written down the vendor’s name because it was really funny, but it turns out this vendor dedicates her talents to creating pageant wear for little girls.  For any one who believes that the way to make a little girl feel good about herself is to dress her up in frilly attire and judge her based on her appearance as compared to other little girls, this is the place for you.  We, however, move on quickly.

More interesting to me are the photographers’ booths.  I love to look at professional photographers’ work, although it often depresses me just because my own photos pale in comparison.  But, it gives me ideas and when the photographers are there to give pointers, it’s a real bonus.  However, the first booth I pause at features the work of someone who seems to enjoy Photoshop a lot.  They have a cityscape of Chattanooga with WWII planes flying over it.  I don’t quite get it.

The second photographer is more interesting to me.  His photos are more purist in nature.  Plus, he has a shot of Neuschwanstein displayed for Oktoberfest that surprises me–it’s shot from the bridge above the castle, which, between rain and snow, is a view we skipped both times we went.  He also has a really nice shot of the penguins in the aquarium.  I talked to him for a while about how he got it, having had such poor results myself.  He told me what time they clean the glass and how he managed to get a clear shot.  I thank him and look forward to my photography workshop there next weekend.

Moving along, we decide it’s time for another beer.  We return to the beer truck and I decide to stick with what I had the first time.  We walk around slowly while we drink our (very small) beers and I spot a stand that sells cake by the slice.  They seem to be attracting a big crowd and I suddenly find my sweet tooth suggesting perhaps I should go stand in the line.  I pick a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.  Then, we wander off to find a place to sit–which has gotten more challenging as the day has gone on.  I try the cake and when I get a big bite of frosting, I nearly choke.  The baker seems to have employed some special sort of magic to infuse at least a pound of sugar into less than a quarter cup of icing–I bet she was wearing couture hostess wear when she did it.  The cake is moist, though.  I try adjusting the cake/frosting ratio on my fork and take another bite.  About then, a man with a little girl approaches and asks if we’re using the extra chairs at our table.  We invite him to use the table as well and he and his daughter (not wearing a tutu) join us.

After a few minutes, the man’s wife joins our table as well, carrying a pretzel that resembles a pretzel only in that it’s shaped like one.  The brown crust looks bumpy and, well, wrong.  It’s shining with what I can only imagine is oil.  When the woman sets it on the table, we all laugh out loud.  I take a picture just for fun.  We learn that she is also from Germany.  In fact, she grew up about an hour from where Pat spent his early years.  I ask Pat later what the odds are of being at a festival in Chattanooga and meeting a woman from Atlanta who grew up an hour from his home in Germany.  He says, “Well, we were at Oktoberfest.”  I roll my eyes at him–like all Germans come to Oktoberfest in Chattanooga!

On the way home, we decide to stop at the Pickle Barrel pub for another beer.  We don’t really need another beer, but the building is so interesting that we want to go inside.  It’s one of those wedge-shaped buildings that practically comes to a point where two street intersect at a very shallow angle.  We each order a beer and then take the narrow, metal spiral stairs up to the deck area.  Small trees surround the building so that their foliage is the perfect height to provide shade on the deck.  It’s a beautiful day to sit outside, although it’s cool enough that I pick a spot in the sun.

As we sit, we see a free shuttle drive by.  I google and find that there is a shuttle that goes between the Chattanooga Choo Choo and the Aquarium.  We contemplate walking back to the Chattanooga Choo Choo to catch the shuttle instead of walking the rest of the way.  However, a little more googling tells us that we’re a 1/2 mile from the shuttle and 1 mile from the aquarium, so we might as well walk the extra 1/2 mile given that we can’t find any schedule information for the shuttle–it would suck if the shuttle has stopped for the day.

We stop in the restroom before we leave.  The restrooms are like caves, dark and small with rock walls and wooden doors that swing shut and latch with large wooden sliding bars that seem like something out of the middle ages.  I decide to test the flash function in the iPhone to see if I can capture the ambience of the ladies room, covered in graffiti.  I’m impressed that I’m able to get a shot at all considering how dark it is.

We make our way slowly back up Market St.  When we get to the bridge, we pause and notice a cabin cruiser docked below with a For Sale sign on it.  There is part of me that thinks I would like to live on a boat, but we decide to forego walking down to look at it.  We drag our gimpy, tired selves home, plop on the couch, and prop up our feet.  My sprained foot, which has felt fine all day, decides to tell me now that I walked too far today.  I give it some ice to quiet it and all three of us settle down for the evening.

Oktoberfest

As we walk from the train stop to Oktoberfest, more and more people wearing lederhosen and drindl crowd the streets.  We pass a collection of port-a-potties and decide to stop.  At this point, I am envisioning a large collection of big white tents (like the kind people use for wedding receptions in the US) in a field with thousands of drunk people staggering around drunk.  Having not given a thought to restroom logistics, the fact that the Germans want to stop at a port-a-potty on the way there now makes me worry that there will be no restrooms at the fest itself.  This worry is reinforced when we pass a man urinating in the bushes just 20 yards from the port-a-potties.

When we arrive at the entrance to Oktoberfest, I am surprised to discover that it is much like arriving at the Ohio State Fair.  The grounds are smaller, the rides are bigger and more sophisticated, rivaling the rides at permanent amusement parks, and the crowd is far more dense (in terms of number of people per square foot of space; I have no evidence to compare IQ levels).  Another interesting difference is that the people look like the same people we’ve seen all over Germany rather than the bizarre part of the US population, usually kept hidden from view, that mysteriously gathers at the Ohio State Fair.  And of course, the fact that at least half of the attendees are wearing traditional lederhosen and drindl just to be wearing it and not because they are participating in some act makes the crowd seem more interesting as well.

When we get inside the entry, first we discover there is no fee to get in.  Second, we find there are plenty of places to spend money to make up for the free admittance.  Each brewery has their team of draft horses standing around waiting for me to pet them.  I’m not sure who called ahead to arrange this, but I appreciate it.  It’s been a lot of years since I spent time with horses; having the opportunity to scratch some giant heads makes my day.  As we walk away from the horses, we see a group of young men coming out of one of the beer tents.  Two of them are supporting a third who has clearly not paced himself well.  As we pass them, we understand the value of wearing lederhosen with suspenders.  This guy is wearing only lose jeans and they have slid down over his rear end, leaving him leaning against his friends with his bare butt hanging in the wind.  We all look and laugh, tipping off the guys friends that he needs a little help.  They pull up his jeans and make a joke in German.  Everyone laughs and we go on our way.  As I look around, I realize that no one else in the vicinity is staggering and I am surprised.

We slip inside a beer “tent” and are surprised it’s not a tent at all but a permanent building with massive beams supporting the roof and a wood floor.  We’re surprised and ask our friends about the buildings being permanent.  They tell us that no, the site of the fest is a park and that the “tents” go up about a week before the fest starts and are gone again within a week after.  We look at the structure again and are amazed at what it must take to erect this building in a week,–when we go to the restroom and discover a huge room of flush toilets, we are even more amazed.

The original plan for Oktoberfest was that we would have a reservation for three hours at one of the tents.  We would be served all we could eat and drink for those three hours and then we would have to give up the table.  However, Dieter and Giesala had friends tell them that a reservation wasn’t really needed and that we could show up at any time, so we did not have a reservation.  This worked well from the perspective that it allowed us to switch days on when we were going with the rain and cold weather, but not so well in that even on a Tuesday afternoon, the tents were packed and finding unreserved tables with open seats was not easy.  At the first beer tent, we were able to sit at a reserved table where the reservation didn’t start for several more hours.  We ordered a round of beers and sat sipping away.  I practiced my new beer holding technique–my wrist was already tired from the beer earlier in the day at the Haufbrauhaus.  We sit and watch people.  There are an overwhelming number of people to watch.

I watch the drindls and lederhosen, fascinated that while the basic look is always the same, they come in wide varieties.  Most interesting to me is the shoe choices of women wearing drindls.  I don’t know what the traditional show would be, but each woman seems to have made up her own mind without consulting tradition or fashion on what footwear choice works for her.  I see one woman in rubber Hunter boots with her drindl.  Another with 4 1/2 inch spike heels–the heels are literally spikes, made from metal.  There is everything in between, although ballet flats seem to be the most popular.

After finishing our beers (once again, I am unable to finish mine and I share with Pat), we start strolling through the park again.  We stop at some shooting galleries where Giesala and Jim try out the shooting skills.  The guns don’t shoot straight and it takes a while to adjust.  Once Jim gets the hang of it, he makes every shot, having been a sharp shooter in the military.  After spending something like 10 Euro on shooting, he wins a prize and allows Giesala to pick from the choices.  She selects a small teddy bear, which she decides should go to me and fastens him to the zipper of my rain jacket.  He bounces along as we continue our walk down the strip.

Eventually, we find ourselves in the Haufbrauhaus tent.  Here, the unreserved tables are jammed with people and the reserved tables are blocked off so they can’t be used even when no one with a reservation is there.  We wander around not sure of what to do.  Eventually, we find a table out in the beer garden.  It’s jammed up against the tables on either side so that when we sit down, we are literally using the people behind us as back rests.  No one whose been sitting there a while seems to notice.  The people already at the table we join are laughing and talking with the people at the next table over.  It seems like everyone knows each other with people switching tables frequently to visit with other people, but I think this is just the atmosphere of the fest.  We are surrounded by people from different parts of the country.  A guy with an odd long-haired wig on sits behind me.  He has a cart with what looks like karaoke machine in it sitting next to him.  Jim offers the guy 10 euro to sing.  The guy turns out to be a local personality there with a guy with a camera and they decide this will be a good bit.  They have Jim hand the guy 10 euro on camera and the guy sings.  Supposedly it will be on TV in Munich.  I find myself wondering what they are saying and hope that it’s not too embarrassing for Jim.

Before I can worry too much about the TV bit, a large group of Scottish guys in kilts arrives.  They greet the guy with the wig and walk around to join his table.  One of them immediately attaches himself to Pat’s mother and can’t seem to stop hugging her and telling her he loves her.  We end up in a conversation with him.  It’s a sort of odd transition, but we end up talking about Scotland and Pat’s own experience with wearing a kilt for a wedding.  This, of course, leads to discussion about what one wears under a kilt.  We learn that the Scots are traditionalists and the offer to prove it; Renate stops the one closest to her when his kilt is at about mid-thigh.  Back on the subject of Scotland, he tells us that we can have it–it rains too much for him.

It’s getting late in the day and Dieter wants to return to our country hotel in Wald.  We are trying to drink up so we can leave.  Pat and I are splitting a beer this time instead of me pretending I’m going to drink one myself.  I try to polish off the last bit of my half, but even half is a strain.  Pat takes an few extra sips for me and then works on helping Jim finish his beer.  I do some math and realize that I’ve had 1 1/4 beers since the first half beer at the Haufbrauhaus in Munich. But it’s 1.25 liters of beer, which is approximately 40 0z of beer or 3 1/2 US beers.  That’s a lot of beer!

We return to the train station at sunset.  We skipped the port-a-potty on the way, having all used the restroom at the tent.  But, it was a long walk from the Haufbrauhaus to the train station.  Pat needs a restroom now.  There are 7 minutes until our next train; Pat decided to risk it.  I will omit some of the more sordid details of the events of the rest of the evening, but Pat did not find a restroom, but did cause us to miss our train.  Having to wait 20 minutes for the next one with all of us having consumed much beer, that 20 minute wait led to much discomfort across the board.  Then there was the 30 minute train ride to to the park-and-ride and the discovery that the restroom there was closed.  Let me just conclude that we were pleased that the parking lot was surrounded by dense woods and there were very few people around by the time we arrived there.

When we returned to the hotel, we sit and allow Dieter to drink.  He had the least beer of all, having cut himself off early in the evening since he was driving.  The hotel is no longer serving dinner, but now we are hungry.  They fix us a spread of meats and cheeses that we enjoy with homemade bread.  Tired and full, we all retire as soon as the food is gone.

Intro to Munich

Tuesday morning, we wake up to find that it’s still cold and cloudy, but the rain has stopped. We cross our fingers that the sky will clear and the sun will come out–today is our day to go to Oktoberfest.

After our usual breakfast at the hotel, our little group drives off to find a park-and-ride. From there, we will take the S-bahn into Munich. Getting to the park-and-ride goes smoothly. We find a spot in the crowded gravel parking lot (although bike parking is completely full, the car lot has a few places left). We find a place to buy tickets, everyone uses the restroom and then we head up to catch the next train, which we miss by about 30 seconds. So, we get to hang out on the platform for an extra 18 minutes waiting for the next one to arrive.

As we wait, more and more people gather on the platform. About half of them are wearing traditional bavarian clothes: lederhosen for men and dirndls for women. It’s interesting how this traditional garb looks like a costume on some people and like heritage on others. I suppose it depends on how traditional the garb is–some of the dirndls seem to have taken a “naughty beer girl” adult halloween costume twist. By contrast, the men struggle to look sexy in their lederhosen. There is just something about the way suede hangs that makes it nearly impossible.

A loud and laughing group of young people get on the train at our first stop. It’s interesting to watch people’s faces and try to decide what’s going on. A middle-aged couple standing among the youngsters are laughing with them and enjoying the ride. Similarly aged people sitting around the group look disapproving and, in some cases, annoyed. I am unable to draw any conclusion except that several of the boys are pretty determined to get closer to several of the girls in the group. But I suppose even someone who wasn’t there could have guessed that would be true!

We get off at the Karlplatz stop in Munich. We will “tour” Munich for a couple hours before going to the fest. There is a tremendous crowd at Karlplatz. I’m surprised–I figured everyone would be at Oktoberfest. We walk to the Rathaus to see the famous clock there that has a bunch of figures that move at noon. It’s now quarter ’til. Dieter has timed this perfectly to make sure we get to see this clock. We position ourselves in the courtyard for photos, although I did not bring my long lens for this. As we stand there listening, we discover we’re surrounded by Americans. Americans and other tourists–we don’t hear anyone speaking German. Tourists (perhaps from Spain) ask an American next to us to take a photo of them. He takes his time lining up a perfect shot of the group with the courthouse clock in the background and just as he snaps the shutter, a German walks right in front of his camera. My husband laughs and comments to the man–it’s a cultural difference we’ve noticed frequently at various tourist stops. A crowd of foreigners will divide around someone taking a photo, but a German will invariably walk right through the shot.

Eventually, noon begins to strike. Chimes start, music starts, and the ancient players in the clock come to life. My favorite part is the jousting on horseback. The jousters come out once and safely pass each other by, but on the second round, one of the jousters is struck and falls forward over his horse. After the top level of figures finishes their enactment, a lower level of dancing men goes into action. The way that the figures appear to hang on to the clockworks and the angle of their bodies make them look alive as they spin. We watch fascinated, trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes them look so realistic.

Once the clock finishes. we are ready for the next item on the agenda. This is to go to the original Haufbrauhaus in Munich. The Haufbrauhaus in Pittsburg has become a favorite place for my in-laws when they’re home, so going to the original version here is a must. It seems a bit odd to go there during Oktoberfest instead of going to their tent at the fest, but I am told that we will do both. I am surprised by the crowd there when we arrive–it’s a weekday after peak tourist season, and it’s competing with Oktoberfest, yet we have a hard time finding a table. Eventually, one frees up that is close to the action. We sit down and order beers. We’ve decided to have lunch here as well, so we check out the menus and pick out which form of sausage we will enjoy today.

The beers come and they are served in 1L mugs. Pat has to show me how to slide my hand under the handle with my thumb over it so I can lift the mug one-handed without injuring my wrist. This reminds me of a story a former colleague once told me. When he was a teenager, he worked in a grocery store. One day, he was restocking beer when a customer came in and picked up 2 40-oz beers. My colleague had seen this man buy 2 40’s every day for several weeks. Trying to be helpful, he pointed out the 12 pack of the same beer telling the man how much money he could save by going that route. The man replied, “No, that’s OK. My doctor told me I can only have 2 beers a day.” I will make sure I adhere to the same logic today. 🙂

When our food comes, a woman sitting behind me at the next table leans over and says, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” Everyone within earshot says, “Yes!” She asks what the pork knuckle is that Dieter has ordered–it’s a massive thing that looks like it should be held by a caveman and gnawed at vigorously. We explain what it is and show her which item it is on the German menu. I notice when her food comes she didn’t order it.

A girl selling enormous pretzels walks around the room for the second time since we arrived. This time Pat stops her and hands me a pretzel bigger than my head. I split it amongst 4 of us. It’s surprisingly good. The thick part is especially good–nice and fluffy on the inside like every good pretzel should be. Eating is periodically interrupted by a group toast led by the oompah band at the front of the hall. Everyone waves their beer back and forth and sings along until the final Prost. It’s like a piano bar in the US.

At the end of my meal, I still have 1/4 of my beer left and I cannot drink anymore. I hand off to Pat who polishes it off for me while the rest of the group finishes eating. When everyone is done, we track down our server, pay the bill, and head out. We have seen enough of Munich; it is time for Oktoberfest. But first, we must find a bank and exchange some money.

We find a bank on the way back to the train station. Pat goes in by himself while the rest of us stand outside waiting. The bank entrance has a life-sized statue of a lion outside the door. Two girls walk up and take turns posing with the lion while the other snaps photos. One hugs his neck, the other leans against him. I’m surprised neither gets up on his back like they’re taking a ride. Maybe it’s considered rude to ride a statue?

Pat returns and we head for the train. The closer we get, the more lederhosen and drindls we see. We are getting psyched for Oktoberfest even though we feel inappropriately dressed. We cannot wait to find out what it’s like, none of us having ever gone before.