- Day 1: Vienna, Austria
- Day 2: Bratislava, Slovakia
- Day 3: Salzburg, Austria
- Day 4: Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
- Days 5-7: Munich, Germany and Oktoberfest
- Days 8-10: Hamburg, Germany and Tracy’s Wedding
- Days 11-12: Hallstatt, Austria
- Day 13: Innsbruck, Austria
- Day 14: Innsbruck to Murten
- Days 15-16: Murten, Bern and the Swiss Alps
- Day 17: Lucerne, Switzerland
- Day 18: Zurich, Switzerland
Dates: September 18-October 5, 2015
A little over a year after our first trip to Germany, we were beyond excited to be coming back! This time, we would be living it up at Oktoberfest in Munich, and then living it up again in Hamburg for my college roommate and one of my best friend’s weddings.
We were still training for our half marathon, though, so before the beer, we had to run. Thankfully, Munich has a fantastic and large park, the Englischer Garten, which is perfect for running around for 8 miles. What made this particularly fun for me is that the treadmill I had been running on has these videos you can watch that simulate running through various places around the world, and this very park is one of those places. So weeks before my real run here, I was virtually running through this park on the treadmill in my hotel in Baltimore.
A run in the park
That night we rewarded ourselves with a visit to one of our favorite spots from last year – the touristy but delightful Hofbrauhaus, where we got a few liters of beer and a delicious meal of cheese and weiner schnitzel. As with last year, we met lots of people in this festive environment, including, unfortunately, a drunk guy who vomited under the table, with a bit splashing up on me. It was disgusting, but at least his friend gave me 5 euros to get my sweater cleaned. Blech. Aside from that, though, we had a great night in one of our favorite beer halls in one of our favorite cities.
Dinner at Hofbrauhaus
The next day, we had a relaxing morning and then ventured out to Oktoberfest. We had redeemed Marriott points to stay at a hotel outside of the city center, but right by the train line that goes directly to the fair grounds. Our commute to beer and food heaven couldn’t be easier.
Once at Oktoberfest, we meandered around for a bit taking in the scenes. In a way, the whole event reminded me of Las Vegas mixed with a state fair. Like a state fair, there were food stalls, games, and rides all over. But like Vegas, there were giant, gaudy, heavily decorated beer tents dominating either side of the dirt paths through the fairgrounds, not unlike the themed casinos lining Vegas’s strip.
In this way, Oktoberfest was a little different than we expected. We pictured a grassy field, with lots of outdoor seating – long benches and tables under picnic tents. We also pictured drunk people flailing about everywhere. Instead, it was more like a state fair, and in place of drunk and disorderly, it was more like an organized enthusiasm. And all of the beer tents were more like beer buildings, and they were very, very large.
In one of the Oktoberfest tents
We ventured to a few, and we knew that we had friends (Liz and Donald) who used to work at the same company as us frolicking somewhere around the fest. We grabbed seats at a table in one beer tent sitting with some South Africans who became our friends for the next hour or so. Eventually we found Liz and Donald and joined them for a bit. Only 2 liters of beer each, and we were pretty lit up. Tim and I decided it was time for food and so we went outside to have curry wurst, pastries, and other snacks. I also bought what is, according to the notes I took on the day, “a magical hat.” I should clarify that the reality is that I spent $80 on a pink felt hat that had flowers and feathers stuck on it.
By early evening Tim and I were sobering up and getting to bed. We were flying the next morning to Hamburg, where my friend Tracy was getting married. Her now-husband, Stefan, is German, and his family is from Hamburg. When they were planning their wedding, they found that it would be much cheaper for them to have the wedding in Germany, and it would give their friends an opportunity to travel. Bonus, they timed it with Oktoberfest, which was very thoughtful of them.
When we checked in to our hotel in Hamburg, we found that Tracy had left a small welcome gift for us – a loaf of her famous chocolate chip banana bread, and a chocolate candy that Stefan had picked out. Yum!
That night we met up with Tracy, Stefan, their families and weddings guests at a really cool local pub and brewery for a casual welcome drink.
The next morning, I was at Tracy’s hotel early to get ready for the ceremony with the other bridesmaids, doing the hair, make-up, dress thing. I have to say, Tracy was such a calm and happy bride. She didn’t seem stressed at any point and even when she got some mud on her shoes later that afternoon while taking photos at the park, she took it all in stride and was grateful that she at least got some good photos of the shoes beforehand.
Me and Tracy at her wedding in Hamburg
The ceremony itself was lovely, and was followed by snacks, drinks, speeches and dancing. I, along with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, gave brief speeches for the bride and groom, which was a nice way of making it really personal and sharing our relationship with those in attendance. The reception itself lasted late into the night- Tim and I left around 2am and the party was still going strong. I learned this is very typical for a German wedding, and one of the reasons Stefan in particular wanted to have their wedding there.
Me and Tim – aww!
The next morning, only slightly exhausted, we left Germany to head back into Austria for the second part of our road trip through central Europe!