I spent the last week in Germany, on what has become an every-other-year (at least) reunion of friends. Adam and Ulf are friends of mine from business school. Over the years of hanging out with Ulf in Germany for skiing, hiking, and celebrating birthdays, I have become friends with several of his close friends as well.
I arrived in Munich, Germany, on Sunday, September 27. I took the train from the airport directly to Oktoberfest (locally known as Wiesn) where I met Uli, my gracious host for the week. We ditched my bag in the bushes at a friend’s office building (shhh… don’t tell anyone) and headed into our favorite beer tent.
Even though this was my fifth visit to Wiesn, I was still as excited as the first time. There is just something about it.
- Is it the traditional Bavarian outfits that people wear so proudly?
- Is it the songs that the band plays and the crowd sings along to?
- Is it the immense decorative wooden tents that fill with laughter, cheering, and singing?
- Is it the neighborly feeling that allows you, in fact welcomes you, to join a table of strangers?
- Is it the endless supply of beer, roasted chicken, and pretzels that come in huge portions?
One thing is for certain - my friends always show me a great time. I really appreciate going with them. I feel like I get a much more authentic experience hanging out with “locals” (even though some of them are actually from northern Germany). They navigate our group into the best tents, with the best beer, food, and crowds.
We have come up with a list of “Rules of Wiesn” that we like to remind each other of, should a violation occur. I won’t repeat the entire list here, but in case any of you readers are thinking about a visit to Wiesn in the future, here are a few of our rules:
- Don’t buy stuff. (E.g., souvenirs, rabbit ears, etc.)
- Never finish your beer. (It's probably warm by the time you get to the bottom.)
- Never pour the remnants of your old beer into your new beer. (Why contaminate fresh cold beer with your warm stale beer remnants?)
- Hold your beer the “right” way. (i.e., Hold the mug (called a mass) with your left hand, so that as you drink, your lips touch the mass at a spot on the rim where fewer lips have touched. Most people drink with their favored right hand. Alternatively, you can hold with your right hand, but twist the mass a bit so you drink from the spot just above the handle, thereby also avoiding the most common spot on the rim. We’re sure the masses are clean, but then again you never know. Also, if you are a man, NEVER hold the mass with the palm of your hand – use the handle to show that you are strong enough to hold the heavy mass.)
We spent four days at Wiesn, which was plenty from both a health and financial standpoint.
Over the four days, our group of friends trickled in from other parts of Germany. By Thursday, all seven of us were here, so we started the second part of our week: a hiking trip in Austria.
On Thursday afternoon, we made the 90-minute drive to Pertisau, Austria, for hiking in the Alps. The town itself is small, nestled in a valley at the edge of a lake called Achensee. We stayed at the Einwaller Hotel, which included breakfasts and dinners.
We took two long hikes over the weekend. The first hike included a 3-hour ascent to a 2,000 meter peak, which gave us a spectacular 360 degree view. It was beautiful but also pretty windy and cold. We stayed there long enough for lunch, but then headed back down a different trail, which turned out to be a bit longer and more technical.
The second day we took a longer but easier route, which still had magnificent views. We stopped at a couple of huts along the way. At the first hut, we had buttermilk, a traditional drink in this part of Austria. At the second hut, we had weissbier and schnapps while enjoying the view and warm sunshine.
On Sunday, we drove back to Berg, changed our clothes and headed off to Wiesn for the final night of the festival. It was a great time to have all of us (plus a few other friends) together for that final night.
Needless to say, today has been day of rest, recovery, and rehydration. And saying goodbye to great friends. Danke!