When I was a kid I lived in eight different places (my Dad was in the US Army for 30 years). One place in particular was by far my family’s favorite – the mountain resort town of Garmisch, Germany (on the border of Austria). So when it came time to picking a place for my parents to meet us during our World Travels, Garmisch was a no-brainer. And the timing just happened to work out so that Bryan and I were in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! 🙂 We flew from Dublin, Ireland to Munich, Germany and traded our Guinness in for some German beer. And we almost convinced the Fogarty crew to reschedule their flights home and join us. 🙂
Bryan and some of his college buddies went to Oktoberfest two years ago for the 200th Anniversary. They had a ridiculous, fun time. I went to Oktoberfest when I was nine so there was a lot of riding the carnival rides and no beer drinking for me. Bryan was happy to return to Oktoberfest though so I could partake in the beer drinking festivities. 🙂 And I’m sure we’ll return again someday!
Oktoberfest began on October 12, 1810 when all the citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities for Prince Ludwig I’s wedding. The annual festival was eventually moved to late September for better weather and now lasts 16 days until the first Sunday of October. Although people from all over the world come to Oktoberfest, nearly 2/3 of the people are actually locals from Bavaria. It’s now the biggest fair in the world – over 6 million people attend each year and over 7 million liters of beer are consumed.
A bit of advice – if you plan to go to Oktoberfest book your accommodations ASAP! Places book up quickly and charge crazy amounts. We booked a few months prior and ended up paying $250 USD a night for the Holiday Inn in the outskirts of Munich – and they wanted an extra $30 per person for breakfast! Nonetheless, if you enjoy beer and socializing the cost is worthwhile. I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t have as much fun because it was just the two of us rather than a big group of friends like Bryan had last time. But I didn’t have anything to worry about. We instantly met people to hang out with from Germany, New Zealand, and Luxembourg. The intensity in the huge beer tents is so high, especially when the Oompah Band starts playing and cheersing every few minutes (“Prost” in German). And of course there’s lots of good, hearty German food like greasy Rotisserie chickens and huge pretzels. We were pretty proud of ourselves for surviving Oktoberfest from 10 a.m. until nearly midnight. Six in the morning came way too soon though. Bryan and I felt pretty rough meeting my parents at the airport that next morning. 🙂
Since we left for Leg #2 in July, we haven’t stayed in the same bed for more than 2-3 nights. Nearly every night we’re in a different bed in a different location. So I was really looking forward to staying in the apartment that my parents rented for seven nights in a row! Bryan never gets tired of moving from place to place, but I occasionally need a bit of a break from constant travel. And best of all, I’d get to spend a week of quality time with my parents in what I consider to be one of the most striking places on earth. Bryan got to hear lots of childhood stories and family memories so I’m sure he was just thrilled. 🙂
There isn’t anywhere in the world that’s perfect. But if I had to cast my vote for a place that seems close to perfection, it would have to be Garmisch. Maybe my love of Bavaria partially comes from all of the German ancestry in my blood (my maiden name is Münch and my mom’s maiden name is Fleischman). But either way, Bavaria is breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful. The houses are all white and wooden with painted frescoes and big window boxes of colorful flowers. High, jagged and often snowcapped mountains entirely surround the valley town. Tan and white cows with big clanking bells and sheep graze in the bright green fields beneath the mountains. The town residents and visitors are active people and Garmisch caters to this lifestyle. There are walking, hiking and biking trails everywhere, along with tons of ski slopes and even a ski jump. I have fond memories of my school closing down early every Wednesday so everyone could take ski lessons. I skied at least once or twice a week with my Dad (and sometimes we even convinced my Mom to join us). Garmisch wasn’t as quiet as we remembered it though. It seems that others have gotten the word of this gem of a place. There was nearly constant traffic through the town, and we were there during the off-season. I’m sure summer and ski season are much busier.
One of the first things on our itinerary was to visit our favorite castle – Neuschwanstein. The castle looks familiar to everyone because it’s the real castle that the Disney castle was modeled after. We were looking forward to showing it to Bryan. Finally somewhere we’d been that he hadn’t yet. As soon as we got near, we realized our scaffolding curse had continued to follow us through Europe. Nearly the entire castle was covered in scaffolding and it didn’t even look like a castle. Even Bryan couldn’t get a good picture. But the day-trip was not lost. We stopped for lunch and schneeballen in the adorable nearby town of Fussen. A few years ago I was watching Samantha Brown’s travel show and she was traveling through Germany in a Mercedes going from town to town eating whichever pastry the German town was known for. That sounded like my ideal trip so I vowed to do the same thing someday (with or without Bryan the non-dessert eater!). One of Samantha’s pastries that looked delicious was a big, softball sized schneeball. I was thrilled to see that Fussen had a pastry shop with dozens of fresh Schneeballen in a huge variety of flavors (coconut, amaretto, cream, chocolate, you name it). And my parents rented a BMW for the week so my dream trip was coming true. 🙂
Speaking of good food, the restaurants in Garmisch are unbelievable. We found such a delicious restaurant that we ate there three times that week. I actually got the same thing every time because it was just that good. It was sautéed turkey breast in some type of creamy white wine sauce with spatzle (little German dumpling/noodles) served in a hot skillet – accompanied with a wheat beer. It was my top meal of our World Trip so far.
We didn’t just eat during our week in Germany. We also did some sight-seeing, including a cable-car trip up to Germany’s highest mountain – the Zugspitz. My Dad climbed this mountain when we lived here but we took the easy way up to enjoy the views this time. From the top, the mountains go on forever and you can see not only Germany, but Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, too. The top was already covered with lots of snow – perhaps the only snow we’ll see this year!
After a week of quality time with my parents and some relaxation and comfort, it was hard to say good-bye. 🙁 But we aren’t alone yet, we are flying from Munich to Istanbul, Turkey and will be meeting some of the Virginia Tech crew there! (Mark, Ace, and Curt) 🙂 Going from Germany to Turkey should be a major cultural shock.