Sunday, October 2, 2011

The REAL Oktoberfest

Fall has arrived and that means lots of Oktoberfest celebrations around the country including here in Central Indiana.  But these celebrations are pretty tame compared to the mother of all Oktoberfests in Munich, Germany.  We just returned from a driving trip of Eastern Europe that began in Munich where we participated in Oktoberfest kickoff celebrations.  The event starts with a huge parade that features lederhosen-wearing bands, Clydesdales pulling beer wagons and gigantic kegs of beer.  The parade ends in a beer free-for-all at the Oktoberfest grounds, which has 8 enormous beer halls that are all jam-packed with beer drinkers and oompah bands.   
As we were walking the Oktoberfest grounds, which also has amusement park rides, food and souvenir stands, it occurred to us that it was akin to our State Fair, but with a beer theme!    We watched people who had drunk so much that they were literally holding each other up and medics were roaming the grounds with stretchers ready to pick up celebrants who had passed out.  And this was just the start of a 2 week celebration!
Leaving Munich, we drove the legendary Autobahn getting our car up to 110 mph while other cars passed us like we were going 60!   

Up next was Budapest and Prague, both pretty, but Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  It is vibrant with gorgeous architecture, history and great shopping. 

On our way out of the Czech Republic, just a few miles from the German border, we were pulled over by Czech police who told us we didn’t have a necessary toll pass.  We had not seen or read of the requirement for pass anywhere.  When the officers said they would take cash or a credit card, we said we couldn’t do either, so they gave us a “ticket” with a handwritten bank account number on it to have money transferred into.  We’re pretty sure it was a shakedown of foreign tourists but we’re very sure that we’re NOT going to pay it!

Next was Berlin where we visited what is left of the Berlin Wall and the new Holocaust Memorial which is emotionally moving and was appropriately built on the site of one of Hitler’s headquarters. 

Finally, we ended up in Amsterdam which is a city of nonstop activity.  Between the thousands of bikes, the cars and the trams there is always movement.  One of the highlights was visiting the Anne Frank Museum which is based in the very building where she and her family hid from the Nazis for 2 years.  

This adventure had all the ingredients of a great trip:   beautiful cities, great architecture, history, art, gorgeous scenery and lots of beer!  Strangely though, we’re not beer drinkers but we still enjoyed it immensely!

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