Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Friends You Meet Along the Way

This is the second year in a row I’ve done a similar post on this, because I’m amazed that every time I go to Oktoberfest and sit in one of the tents or outdoor beer gardens – I always meet some very cool and interesting people. Some are passing through Munich on a tour through Europe, others are long-term residents from Bavaria, others are students hoping to catch a bit of the party. The world is converging on Munich, and it’s fun to watch the population swing through in hopes of picking up a bit of the Bavarian culture. But for all of you who only come through Munich during this time of revelry, you should know that the same spirit is there year round, wrapped into what a beergarden culture is supposed to be. Casual, laid back, and friendly.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Breathalyzer Girl

It’s not every day that the tools of police work enter your party. But this is Oktoberfest, and this is the Hofbrau tent, where it takes with pride the reputation of being the drunkest tent on the Oktoberfest grounds. Here you will find the highest number of foreigners, generally not prone to drinking in such great quantities, and definitely not accustomed to drinking the stronger Oktoberfest beers. Besides, if you can make a few $$ off it, then it generally shows up here. So here’s the deal. You pay the nice lady to get your alcohol level tested for no other reason than to gain bragging rights for getting your level so high. This is the disgusted look of one of the party goers when he only registered a .25 (note that .08 is considered too drunk to drive in the US). When asked what the highest of the day was, she said a blood alcohol rate of .8. I didn’t know this was actually possible. At any rate, the man pictured took solace in the fact that he received a nice certificate telling of his accomplishments, and successfully fell down the stairs as he walked away. Yes. That’s Oktoberfest at the Hofbrau Tent.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Power of the Dirndl

One of the most “visibile” elements of Oktoberfest is the traditional Bavarian clothing – the lederhosen and dirndls. They are fantastic, and you see these colorful outfits all over town and all over Oktoberfest. Now most people go the traditional route with bold colors and beautiful aprons, and others… well they go a completely different direction. Take the table next to us in the Hofbrau tent last night. If this woman was revealing any more of her fine Bavarian tradition, I wouldn’t be able to show it on this blog. Everyone knows the dirndl is all about tactfully showing off the breasts, but some of the new styles go a little too far. But perhaps the man across from her doesn’t agree. I can’t tell if he is really drunk, or just mesmerized by her breasts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leading the Calf to the Slaughter

That’s the way it felt trying to squeeze out of Hackerbrucke S-bahn station on the way to the Oktoberfest. Hundreds of party goers arrived on each train, and the local police had crowd control down to a science – keeping everyone clear of the train, and funneling arrivals through one stairway, and drunk departures through another. The entire bridge is shut down, and only available for pedestrians. This was how most of the Oktoberfest felt during “Italian” weekend where thousands of Italians come up and take over the fest. On the sides of the photo, you can see the endless construction of new homes and shopping center, which are reinventing and reforming the neighborhoods around the tracks. I’m told that 16,000 new units will be created by the time construction is complete.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Topys-Turvy World

Especially when you are the world’s biggest beer garden. Like most beer gardens in Munich, the kids stuff is always nearby – so that both adults and kids can have a play day. I mentioned the rides at Oktoberfest yesterday, as you have more than 70 rides and shows to pick from; and you’re sure to see the rides packed on Tuesdays as it’s family day, and rides are half price. Like every year at Oktoberfest, you will always find a few new rides. One of the new features for 2009 is “The Tower,” which is sort of a big vertical playground inside, as well as great views atop the 28M tower. In the same theme, you will also find the “Silberturm,” a 10M tower which you ride to the top and free fall to the bottom. And finally, you will find Psychedelic, which is, no surprise, a tribute to the hippies, which leads you through a crazy labyrinth. With all those new items, I ended up selecting an “oldie, but a goodie” for today’s photo – the endless slide. I just loved the contrast of the father and son silhouette gliding through the up and down world that is Oktoberfest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birds of a Feather, Fly Together

Who says Oktoberfest is all about the beer tents? In addition to the massive 14 beer halls at Oktoberfest (each one has the capacity of up to 5000), you will find an endless variety of rides and amusements – everything from roller coasters to bumper cars, to fun houses. I came across these three young ladies in traditional wear hanging out on some sort of vertical carousel. I stopped by on a weekday afternoon, and loved all the festivities. You find that energy there every day of the week. I mentioned this many times before, but the great thing about Oktoberfest is how excited and passionate the locals get about the celebration. Sure you have 6 million visitors each year, but in Munich you see people in traditional clothes all over town – at work, on the S-bahn, and certainly heading over to the Wiessen. Sunday will be our night at the beer hall, with a table reserved with great friends. I look forward to sharing an insider view with you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And so it Begins...

So I’ve been a bit delayed getting over to Oktoberfest – a full week in fact. Last year, our first full year in Munich, I felt I was at Oktoberfest every day in September. This year, I thought I would ease into it, and what better day than Family Day? Why ease into it, you ask? Well Oktoberfest in Munich is an all-encompassing thing. Take a look at the local papers and you will understand - 50% of the articles are already on Oktoberfest – beer, beer, and more beer. If you are in Munich, there’s no way of getting around it. So you might as well strap on your Lederhosen and dirndl and join the party. So lots more to come in the next few days, but I thought I would share this picture of a regal couple in front of the Spaten beer trailer. They look amazing, and amazingly Bavarian. It was the strangest thing. It seemed that in front of every beer trailer, there was someone with matching color, pattern, and demeanor. It was like a beer endorsement around every corner. In the end, it was just people having fun at Oktoberfest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Watching the Ladies

In so many ways, Munich is no different than anywhere else on the planet. I came across this group of boys sitting at the Augistiner Beerhall on Neuhauser Strasse, looking all so casual, checking out the ladies passing by. This is life in the Altstadt on a sunny day, packed with people passing by. The Augustiner Beerhall is actually in the location of the original Augustiner Brewery, which has since moved out to Landsburgerstasse – just outside the center of Munich. This remains the only one of six Munich breweries that is family-run. All the others – Franziskaner, Spaten, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Hofbrau have all been purchased by conglomerates like in-bev. The age of the independent brewing is long gone, and only a few exist to this day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Global Blockbuster

Like most places in Europe, Munich receives its share of Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, more and more often these are coordinated across a global scale. Avatar, this year’s expected Hollywood blockbuster directed by James Cameron, will hit Germany and 31 other countries on or around Dec. 17th. Advertising – in colossal form (this sign is about 50 feet high on the front of the multi-plex movie house at Karlsplatz), has already started three months in advance. In addition to the incredible amount of multi-plex movie houses that have opened up in Munich in the past 15 years, you can still find quaint, single screen movie houses around Munich – especially in the Schwabing neighborhood. Usually they are nestled between apartments on side streets, and really targeted at the neighborhood residents. Unfortunately, much like in the US, these theatres look to also be dying out; so catch a movie in one of these great theatres before they are all gone.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summer’s Fading Moments

Two women get their information fix at the base of the Max-Joseph statue in the platz by the same name in one of the fleeting glimpses of Summer. Max-Joseph Platz is flanked by the Residence, the National Opera House, the Residence strasse, and Maximillian Strasse. It’s one of the many large open spaces in the center of Munich. Apparently, King Max-Joseph didn’t like the design of his statue, which is seated and giving a blessing. He preferred an equestrian pose, but after the king died suddenly in 1825, the first draft of the design was accepted and has been standing there ever since. Max-Joseph was a great opera fan and built the Opera House. The building burnt down shortly after its completion, but was rebuilt with the money raised by taxing – what else – but beer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are YOU Ready?

Octoberfest starts in 3 days, 12 hours, and 35 minutes – not that anyone is counting. You are hard pressed to find anything in Munich that is not impacted – positively and negatively – by Octoberfest. We have a table reserved at one of the tents, late in the Octoberfest season, which this year runs from Sept. 19th to October 4th. So I will try to share with you some interesting perspectives. This weekend kicks off Octoberfest with several parades (including the colorful costume parade) and the tapping of the first keg by Munich Mayor Christian Ude. Then it’s nearly three weeks of non-stop partying from 10 am to 11 pm, and then parties spread out across Munich after that. So pull out your dirndl and lederhosen (which is viewed in Munich as everything from common person’s clothes to formal wear), and get ready to join the festivities. You get a peek here of some at some of the more modern, and honestly less interesting fashions this year from Karstadt.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Loosening Up About Sex

No big surprise here. Attitudes toward sex make up one of the more interesting cultural divides between Europe and the US. Europeans tend to have much more liberal views when it comes to sex and their bodies, and it shows all over life here. Even in conservative Bavaria, there’s no shortage of nudity in the parks or at beaches along the rivers. There have also been reports of state sponsored shows and documentaries throughout Europe, that would be considered pornographic in the US. I came across this listing for the top story of the day in the local newspaper: “What women want. The top 20 sex tips.” I didn’t pick up the paper, but I’m sure it had no shortage of graphic photos. In the US, you are more likely to see violence on TV and in magazines than sex. I personally think the Europeans are onto something, and us Americans should lighten up a bit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Late Look at Lilalu

I’m a little late on this post, as it’s been a week since I visited the Lilalu festival at the Olympic park I’m not quite sure I understand this particular kinder festival. I think it has the most captivating poster (which I tried to repeat in the photo), yet the festival itself seems to be a bit desolate. It reminds me of the travelling carnivals in the US, always a bit random, a bit make-shift and a bit creepy. At this event, you found rides sprawling out in every direction across the gravel field, then a big stage where entertainers sang and danced with the kids, the customary hippy shops, and a play area so dark very few kids played there. The saving grace was the firemen showing the kids how to use the hoses – which was quite cute - and the parachute play (pictured here).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bavarian Bookends

I came across this funny scene with a bare-chested man in front of the Jewish Community Center at St. Jakobs-Platz, with two female onlookers. I’ve written many times about open nudity throughout Munich, but even this shirtless man seemed a bit out of place in the busy and uptight square. The idea of a Jewish museum in Munich originated likely before the bare man was born, 78 years ago. But it wasn’t until 2007 that it was inaugurated. The facility now houses an elementary school, kindergarten, and youth center. The museum is designed as a freestanding cube with a transparent ground floor lobby. The two top floors house changing exhibitions, a learning center, and a library. The museum had one primary benefactor, the City of Munich – which still manages the facility today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hofbrau History

The brewery of the Royal Court, Dukes, creation of and monopoly for Weissbeer, Munich’s first beer festival, a home for the Nazi party, total destruction by allied bombing, and reconstruction better than ever before… It’s all part of the amazing history that is the Hofbrau house. What was founded in 1579 by Wilhelm V, the Duke of Bavaria, as a response of the costly import of beer from Einbeck - is now a worldwide phenomenon. Over the past decade, the Hofbrau House has expanded across Germany and the rest of the world. You will now find breweries in Miami, Pittsburgh, Newport, and Las Vegas. Known for inspiring the famous song and the phrase, "oans, zwoa, g'suffa" (bavarian dialect for: "one, two, chug"), the Hofbrau brewery has been a central part of the Octoberfest since its beginnings. Although it’s not my favorite beerhall in Munich ( you can do much better with Lowenbrau, Augustiner) because of the tremendous amount of tourists, you can find tours in English Tuesday through Thursday by appointment only.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lady in Red

I came across this woman, wonderfully dressed, in the old style arcades that line Maxmilianstrasse Strasse. My best guess is that she was on her way to the opera, across the street at the National Theatre. There’s no shortage of events – either Opera or Ballet – at the National Theatre. Seems to be one every day, and night. Not to be undone by her bright red shawl, the woman had florescent red hair – I’m sure to match a bright personality. Not sure what it is in Germany, but you tend to see hair dyed very dramatically. The street is filled with neo-Gothic architecture as one of the four royal avenues leading into the Altstadt. The Western side (as pictured here) is the city’s most exclusive with Dolce & Gabanna, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and Dior.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Surfs Up…At Least for Now

I’ve posted about the world famous Eisbach in downtown Munich before. Apparently, the concept and sport of river surfing was invented in Munich, back in 1972 on several points along the Isar River. Over the years, the wave at Eisbach has been modified to create a perfect standing wave, which is about 1 meter high and only 12 meters wide. There are constant battles between experienced surfers and beginners, as the Eisbach is quite dangerous and the regulars know that any severe accidents could shut them down for good. The river surfing has always been illegal, but has never been enforced. Apparently there is a better wave for beginners in Flosslande, near Thalkirchen U-Bahn station, and a third wave on the Isar near the bridge Wittlesbacherbruke – but only on flood levels.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Play it Again, Sam.

I’m not sure what the regulations are for street performers in the Altstadt of Munich, but more and more of these entertainers seem to be showing up around town every day. Perhaps out of work means a lot of free time on their hands. Usually you find jokers, jugglers, and sometimes musicians. I came across this young lady strumming her banjo for a small crowd of onlookers. I’m not sure if it’s a characteristic of being on holiday, that represents having more time on your hands – but it’s amazing what will draw a crowd. It’s not just Munich, but you see them around the world. Silver Man, who is spray painted head-to-toe in silver, the table guy who has his head through the top of the table and surrounded by fruit. And, of course, the real entertainers who play music, act, or otherwise captivate the locals and tourist alike. More power to them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Having a Ball

Whether you call it Bocce or Pétanque or kegeln (German version - Thanks Holger), there’s no question that the traditional game of choice by the Italians and French alike involve throwing metal balls around and trying to get closest to the jack. Go to any park in Southern France, or in areas around Italy and you see older men going at it on a 25 meter playing surface. Often you will find groups lined up next to each other, for the game that seems to be as much social as it is competition. It’s the European version of bowling, but instead of dating to the 50s, dates back to the Roman Empire. Therefore, you will find it anywhere you find Italians – and there are no shortage in the Northern-most Italian city, Munich. At some time in the early 1900s, the game was rebranded in France as Pétanque in Provence and has lived on in its own right. Today, you can find Bocce or Pétanque primarily in the Hofgarten of Munich. I was happy to see a whole new generation of players, between the age of 20-30, bringing new life to the competition.