Another vacation in Bavaria is in the books!
In late September, I flew nonstop from San Francisco directly to Munich, treating myself to a premium economy ticket.
I was careful to pack a carry-on bag only, but when I got to the airport, the Lufthansa agent said my bag was too heavy. I pleaded my case, saying (truthfully) I had a “tight train connection in Munich to meet my friend…” She immediately smiled, attached a special sticker to my bag, and said, “Ok, just show this sticker if the flight attendants give you trouble.” I guess she knew the end of my sentence was going to be “…at Oktoberfest.”
Arriving in Munich at 17:30, I quickly found my way to the S1 train, and then transferred to the U6. I arrived at the Poccistrasse stop, adjacent to the Oktoberfest (Wiesn) fairgrounds. I followed the same procedures we have been using for the last 10 years or so: storing my bag in a secret location and then meeting my German friends at the “normal meeting place.” It was 19:05 when I walked into the Kufflers Weinzelt and gave my friends Uli and Christopher big smiles and handshakes. “Servus!”
Per the normal procedure, I was the designated driver that night. I enjoyed a welcome weissbier before we walked back through the fairgrounds to the car. Although the drive home included the speed-limit-less autobahn, we took it slow because of the rain. Ah, yes, rain. That would be a theme throughout this trip!
The following day, Uli and I returned to Wiesn for a full day of fun. We took the ferry from Berg to Starnberg, and then a combination of trains to the fairgrounds. We enjoyed reviewing the “Wiesn Regeln” (Wiesn Rules) over a tasty Hendl (half chicken) and Mass (1L beer).
I’ve mentioned the Wiesn Rules in previous years’ posts. Over the years, my friends and I have developed a list of over 30 rules of what do to (or what not to do) at Oktoberfest. Some are funny, some are serious; some can be shared, some are for Wiesn audience only. A few of the basic ones include:
Rule #6: Eat.
Rule #7: Prost to the eyes.
Rule #12: Don’t pour last bit of old beer into the new one.
Rule #21: Save the last 50 Euro (updated in 2019 to be 60 Euro) for the taxi home.
We always have a good laugh reviewing the old rules, and adding a few new ones each year. For example, this year we added “Rule #31: First thing to do when sitting down at a table is say ‘Servus’ (a Bavarian greeting) to everyone else at the table.” This rule came about after a couple of guys rudely and aggressively sat down at our table, without asking if the space was free and without giving us any sort of greeting. Usually people are very friendly and fun at Oktoberfest.
The next day we relaxed at home and prepared for our two-day hiking trip in the Alps.
On Thursday, Uli and I drove to Benediktbeuern. We parked the car at the trailhead, and hiked up for nearly 6 hours to the Stie Alm hut. The first bit of the hike was a gradual incline; but as we ascended, the trail steepened. And then the rain came. Serious, nonstop rain. The trail became so slippery and muddy that we called off both of the two peak summits we’d intended to conquer. We made a beeline for the hut.
We checked into our tiny room which consisted of a bunk bed, a shelf for our bags, and just enough standing room for two people. We changed into dry clothes and gave our wet gear to the staff, who put it into the dryer for us! We then enjoyed a homemade cheese and bread plate, and a few beers. Dinner that night was tasty beef goulash, followed by a schnapps and card games.
In the morning, the rain had stopped. We had a hearty traditional breakfast of eggs, meats, cheeses, bread, granola, fruit, and coffee. We packed up, thankful that our clothes (and boots) from yesterday had dried out. We began the second part of our hike. It was a long day of hiking and, once again, we cut it a bit short due to the trail conditions. It was a tough call, but safety first. You don’t mess around in the Alps. We stopped at the Tutzinger Hut for a hot soup and refreshing apple juice spritzer before making the final descent to the car.
Over the weekend, we returned to Oktobefest. Our friend Adam flew in from San Francisco. He followed the same “meeting place procedure” as I had a few days earlier. Saturday was another rainy day at the fairgrounds, but Sunday was a sunny day, which gave us a chance to play some of the softball-throwing and gun-shooting carnival games.
In between our Oktoberfest outings, we explored the lakeside trails around Starnbergersee (Lake Starnberg). One day we walked from Uli’s house in Berg to the town of Starnberg. Another day we drove south, parked, and walked along the southern portion of the lake, stopping in for a fish sandwich at a local café/market.
Mid-week, Uli, Adam, and I took the train to Oberstdorf, where we met four of our friends from Northern Germany – Ulf, Olaf, Bernd, and Fred. They had flown into Munich and also taken a train to Oberstdorf. We checked into our hotel and then squeezed into a local restaurant for a late dinner.
We’d be in this resort village for three nights, tackling two challenging day hikes.
The first hike was the famed Laufbacher Eck trail. It was about 25 km and took us nearly 7 hours. We started with a multiple-gondola ride up to the Nebelhorn peak of 2,200 meters. We then followed a trail along a series of ridges, and then down into a valley. The trail was steep and technical in places. This particular day it was extra difficult because of the fresh snow! The snow and ice was slippery in the morning; and by the afternoon the slush and mud was equally slippery. We took it slow. I was thankful for my trekking poles! The trail gave us amazing views of the Alps and valleys. What a day! Apart from the fresh snow the night before, the weather during the day cooperated. A few puffy clouds, but no precipitation. One of the funniest (and fun) parts of the day was getting down to the lowest hut which happened to rent scooters for the last few kilometers down to town. Rather than walking along a paved trail, why not use the scooters! We had fun coasting down into town.
While the first hike was sort of long-and-meandering (although certainly steep and technical in places), the second hike was more of a straight-up and straight-down hike. We hiked up to the Rubihorn peak; the trail was 18 km and took us 6 hours. Elevation gain was about 1,200 meters. (We started at ~900 meters and climbed to ~2,100 meters.) We did race against the weather, though. We knew the forecast indicated rain was coming in the afternoon. So we got an early start and hit the trail by 9am. By the time we were about an hour from the peak, we could see the dark clouds coming, and wind beginning. We didn’t waste any time. We got to the peak just as the snow was starting. After a quick selfie, we headed straight back down. Carefully navigating the trail under the snow flurries. As we descended, the snow flurries turned into rain. Needless to say, it was a very long, wet walk back down and to the hotel.
That evening, we enjoyed a hearty dinner at a very nice restaurant just outside of town.
On Saturday, we all headed back to the Munich area – to Uli’s house in Berg – where we cleaned up and immediately headed to Oktoberfest for dinner, per tradition. We had a table ready for us at Wildstuben. After dining, we headed over to the Weinzelt for post-dinner weissbiers, and then eventually piled into a few taxis home. Thanks to Uli who had arranged the table, as well as wrist bands to bypass entry lines.
The next day, our friends from Northern Germany departed. Adam and I helped Uli clean up the house a bit. We treated him to a dinner at the local restaurant, Stuberl. And on Tuesday, we headed back to San Francisco.
It was a fantastic two weeks of fun and adventure with good friends. Someday I hope they come to California so I can repay the hospitality.
Until next time… Danke! Servus!