Category: Travel

Oktoberfest in Munich

Via some roundabout train rides (Amsterdam to Prague to Warsaw to Munich) I ended up at the Munich Oktoberfest on September 22, the first Monday of the festival.  FYI Oktoberfest actually starts in September (although it does end in October).  Apparently the dates have been moved up over the years to provide better weather for the festivities.  Surprisingly, many of the Germans I met/know outside of Munich have never been to Oktoberfest.  Not that Oktoberfest is not well attended by Germans…

Anyway, here’s a brief look at Oktoberfest as I saw it that day.  One thing I liked about going during the day on the first Monday was that it wasn’t super crowded and that overall people seemed pretty relaxed.  I’d heard that things get progressively more crowded, and the behavior progressively more drunken and rowdy, as the weeks go on.  I have no doubt that things get more crowded and drunker, especially on weekend evenings (as in any bar or similar type place) but I couldn’t say to what extent.

First thing is getting there… I decided to make things easy and go to the Theresienweise U-Bahn station (which during busier times may better be avoided in favor of slightly more distant but less crowded stations).  Mid-day Monday it was busy but not crowded.  Exiting the station, it’s still a few minutes walk to the festival, but pretty easy — follow the signs or even better, just follow the crowds of people headed in the same direction!

Just follow the crowds of people, many dressed in Oktoberfest style.

Just follow the crowds of people, many dressed in Oktoberfest style.

Oktoberfest is more than just beer – besides the many beer tents there is a full-on fair going on, with lots of food and drinks and rides.  It was a little cloudy that day, but in nicer weather you could probably spend the whole day outside the beer tents.  There is no entrance fee to enter either the overall area or the beer tents, although the beer tents can get full, in which case you’ll have to wait in line.  It’s possible to reserve tables in the beer tents, which does cost extra.

The different beer tents have their own color scheme and atmosphere.  The biggest ones are associated to breweries, but there are others not directly affiliated, but may specialize in things like rotisserie chickens.  Obviously, if you’re in a brewery’s tent, don’t expect any other kind of beer!  I had heard that Augustiner Brau was one of the best, a bit more traditional, and favored by Munich locals.  There was a basic bag-check at the entrance — naturally they don’t allow outside food or drink.  A helpful tip: they also don’t allow water!  Whether that is to promote more beer sales, or to discourage smuggling of clear alcohols like vodka, I couldn’t say.  In any case, just be prepared to dump even your water before entering.

After entering, a waitress will find you a spot… generally speaking unless your group fills an entire table, be prepared to share!  She found me a spot at a reserved (but not full) table, with a bunch of locals enjoying their annual Monday trip to Oktoberfest.  Although they spoke only a little English, and I spoke no German whatsoever, they made me feel quite welcome and I now have places to stay for the next Oktoberfest visit — as well as a spot at their reserved table!  I’m really glad to have met them and experienced an Oktoberfest beyond just massive quantities of beer and drunken foolishness.

Other countries

One of the best things about traveling is getting a true taste of what other countries, and their people, are like.  As Americans I’m afraid we often match the stereotype of forgetting that there are any other countries outside of our borders.  Or if we do acknowledge them, our vision of them is built purely

The Charles Bridge in Prague

After Amsterdam it was onto another night train, this time to Prague.  After getting settled into my AirBnB, and a short nap, I figured there was time to see the Charles Bridge for the sunset.  Naturally this is when everyone else (or at least the tourists) go to see the Charles Bridge so perhaps it was lucky that it took longer than expected to walk there and I arrived a bit after sunset.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t super crowded, and the sky was still painted a lovely color from the sun:

Evening sky over the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic.

Evening sky over the Charles Bridge in Praha, Czech Republic.

The bridge is a nice long walk, heading west towards the Old Town.  All along the bridge are statues, better seen during the day.  But from the bridge there are very nice views of the city along the river:

Pivovarsky Klub Prague

Prague, and the Czech Republic, is definitely a beer area.  While you may not find a wide variety of choices in a given restaurant, there are lots of good beers around.  One place that specializes in beer is Pivovarsky Klub.  Pivo is beer in Czech, if that helps.  I’d also been told that Anthony Bourdain went to Pivovarsky Klub when he visited Prague, which I have to admit made it a must-visit.

Pivovarsky Klub offers (as from their website) 240+ bottles of beer by the bottle, and six on tap.  The six on tap are listed above the bar, and I started off with a Milota Red Ale:

Milota Red Ale at Pivovarsky Klub.

Milota Red Ale at Pivovarsky Klub.

Pivovarsky Klub also serves good Czech food.  Unfortunately I was a bit limited by my cash reserves (darn those Czech forints) as I was leaving Prague that night within the hour and didn’t want any excess forints.  So no ostrich for me, and I chose the chicken schnitzel, which was still quite good:

De Kas Restaurant Amsterdam

On September 15, 2014 I went for lunch to the De Kas Restaurant Amsterdam.  My friend Nilay had highly recommended it, so of course I had to go, which was good enough for me!

The side of the restaurant, with a water feature alongside.

The side of the restaurant, with a water feature alongside.

The restaurant is located inside of a park, so it was quite nice to walk around the area a little beforehand.  On this weekday it was quiet in the park with just a few families and one woman getting a personal training session.

De Kas’ dining room is inside of a greenhouse structure, which would be great for any time of the year.  However, today the weather was exceptionally fine, so of course everyone sat outside.

The outdoor patio at De Kas, with everyone enjoying the late warm weather.

The outdoor patio at De Kas, with everyone enjoying the late warm weather.

The view from my table, of De Kas' garden.  Some of the produce you eat will come from right here.

The view from my table, of De Kas’ garden. Some of the produce you eat will come from right here.

Amsterdam Museums

Amsterdam has plenty of museums and I went to several: the Stedelijk Museum, Rijks Museum, and Van Gogh Museum.

First, the Stedelijk, which is a modern art museum.  Pretty interesting, and here is a sample of the art represented:

I liked it, a good place to spend a couple of hours or even most of the day if you like.

The next day I went to the Rijks Museum…

Kartika Restaurant in Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam for a couple of days beginning with September 13, 2014.  One of the things on my must-do list was to find some Indonesian food.  Perhaps as a consequence of the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, Holland has a decent-sized Indonesian community.  Looking through Tripadvisor I found a listing for Kartika, and went to check

A Day in Copenhagen

On September 12, 2014 I had a day to spend in Copenhagen, the result of a night train from Stockholm and another night train which would take me on to Amsterdam.  After looking for the toilets and storing my backpack, I headed into the city. I’m going to try a different post format here and share a

Funny toilet sign, Copenhagen

One of the important, yet less picturesque, aspects of traveling is finding a toilet.  Europe overall seems pretty easy, especially in countries where they have the paid ones.  I think between US$0.50 and US$1 is a small price to pay for the convenience and general cleanliness. But in addition to the practical nature of finding

Fjord cruise from Flam to Gudvangen

Continuation of my day trip from Oslo, with the first part described in my previous post The Flamsbana.  So after arriving in Flam, there was a quick transfer to the ferry.  BTW, many of these transfers like from the first train to the Flamsbana, or the Flamsbana to the ferry, seem to be very tight… maybe 5-10 minutes per the schedule.  But don’t worry… at least if you follow the Norway in a Nutshell itineraries, they pretty much know there will be hordes of confused tourists trying to make those transfers.  And they will wait at least a bit to make sure you can get on board.

Anyways, as I mentioned the ‘cruise’ is really just a ride on the regular ferry from Flam to Gudvangen.  However, a nice thing is that they play recorded audio clips pointing out lots of interesting sights and facts along the way.  So when you board a ferry a crew member will ask you where you’re from.  I thought initially it was weird but turns out they have audio in a bunch of different languages, which they play one after another.  Cool.

Boarding the ferry from Flam to Gudvangen.

Boarding the ferry from Flam to Gudvangen.

The cruise is only about an hour in length, but you get two travel along two different fjords, the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.  The Nærøyfjord is the narrowest fjord of… sorry, didn’t catch it, maybe Norway or even the world?  In either case it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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