Confessions of a First-Timer at Munich’s Oktoberfest

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Three-and-a-half hours. That’s what it took me yesterday to reach Munich in a regional train for the Oktoberfest. One-and-a-half hour is how long I actually stayed at the “world’s biggest beer festival”.

Yes, you read that right. For starters, I hadn’t planned on staying for such a short while when we first started our journey. Ever since the Oktoberfest kicked off on September 20, I had been very excited to visit it. Oktoberfest had never been something that was high up on my bucket list for many reasons, the first (and the main) being that I don’t drink at all. For a long time, my interest in Oktoberfest remained only in the fact that why it was called an “Oktoberfest”, when it actually starts in September! The second reason why the festival never had my fancy, was because I don’t eat pork or beef. So, nope, no food to look forward to either!

No, don’t roll your eyes and think ‘why did I then go to the Oktoberfest, duh!’

Well, the idea of experiencing Oktoberfest first piqued my interest when I visited a “Sommerkirchweih” (a smaller, more local beer fest organised on a similar format of an Oktoberfest with beer stalls, live music, German food, and the famous roasted half chicken) was organised in the town we live in. It was the time of the football world cup and the Sommerkirchweih gave us a perfect atmosphere to join in the revelry, while sit with some friends and cheer for Germany!  The Sommerkirchweih brought life into our town — for the first time since the famous Christmas markets, I saw some merry making! And it was also the first time when I became acquainted with the Bavarian costume of dirndls and lederhosen. My husband and I went there for three days, enjoyed some nice live music, had the most delicious roasted chicken and garlic bread, watched the live screening of the football semi finals, and also got to interact with some really friendly Germans. So, when my husband told me that Oktoberfest is similar, but imagine it to be at a five-times bigger scale, I was obviously excited! How could you live in Bavaria, just over 200 kilometers from Munich, and not experience the Oktoberfest?! Every one said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (If you enjoy the drinking and the food, there are more than one reason for you to visit the Oktoberfest). And that’s how I decided I had to attend it.

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Oktoberfest Special: Top 10 Reasons to go to Oktoberfest

Image copyright Ludus Tours

Image copyright Ludus Tours

 

If you have been still thinking whether or not to visit this year’s Oktoberfest at Munich, stop thinking and start reading! Backpacking Croissants asked  Ludus Tours, a travel company founded in 2003 by avid sport fans and former athletes with just one motto: to make bucket list dreams come true, to write a guest post for us sharing their reasons why one needs to visit Oktoberfest once in their life. And they give you not one, but 10 reasons to visit Oktoberfest at Munich, Germany. Ludus Tours have also been organizing special Oktoberfest tours, so that when you are in a tent with 10,000 fellow beer drinkers and the band strikes up, you are going to take in that experience and remember your time in Munich for long!

Here are their 10 reasons to visit Oktoberfest

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Oktoberfest Quiz: Which Dirndl Style Are You?

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Yesterday, Dirndl designer Erika Neumayer talked about how you can rock a dirndl this Oktoberfest. If you love the idea of donning a dirndl this Oktoberfest, but don’t know where to start, this post is for you. To continue the Oktoberfest fun, here at Backpacking Croissants, we have a fun quiz for you to help you decide which dirndl style goes with your personality!

Erika designed this quiz to help you decide which dirndl you should be wearing this season!

You can also take the full quiz here: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=which-dirndl-style-are-you

 

Oktoberfest Special: Dirndl Designer Erika Neumayer Talks About How to Rock a Dirndl

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Oktoberfest, an important event in the Bavarian culture, is also one of the biggest funfairs in the world held in Munich, where litres and litres of (not so free!) beer and German food, music gigs, attract visitors from all over the world – over 6 million, to be precise!  

And of the ways to really enjoy the event is to soak yourself in the Bavarian way – and no, we aren’t talking only about the beer! As you would have seen, men and women during this time wear a traditional costume – an important aspect of the Bavarian culture. Women typically wear a ‘dirndl’ – consisting of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and an apron. Though it may appear to be a simple dress, dirndl can be quite expensive. Men wear a checkered shirt, leather trousers (called lederhosen), trachten socks and shoes.

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

When I moved to Germany, I got acquainted with this very beautiful dress. The first time I saw it was during the many Christmas markets. But it was during the summer months and the various smaller beer fests around our cities that I really had a good look at what a dirndl looks like. I loved the flowing skirt and a bright apron, often coordinated with hair done up in braids – it looks straight out of a story book, and yet stylish in its own simple way.

So, if you are looking forward to visit this year’s Oktoberfest (Sept. 19 – Oct. 6) like a true Bavarian, why not do it in authentic Bavarian style! Dirndl designer and owner of Rare Dirndl, Erika Neumayer, talks about the tradition of Dirndl, how she mixes traditional concepts with modern design, and how you can rock one this Oktoberfest, in this very special Oktoberfest special guest post. 

Over to Erika!

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Herzogenaurach’s ‘Mittelalterfest’ takes you back in time!

I woke up this morning thinking of it as just another quiet weekend in our quaint town of Herzogenaurach — good luck trying to pronounce that! Usually when we say our town’s name to someone back home, their first reaction is ‘Herzo-whaaat?! Most expats, like us, take the easy way out and call it ‘Herzo’.  Anyway, so this beautiful cozy Bavarian town is best known to the world as the home to Adidas and Puma. Most weekends, particularly Sundays, are rather quiet, with no soul in sight!

So, this morning too, as we made our way to the grocery store, going about our weekend tasks as usual, the town was buzzing! Every few minutes, we saw flock of people, dressed in costumes straight out of a History book, going towards the Altstadt (old town). Curious as we were, we found ourselves following the crowd and into the Altstadt.

And it was some sight! It was the annual ‘Mittelalterfest’ (literally translated as the Middle Ages fest), which is organised on the first weekend of August by Hezogenaurach’s state administration.

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City Focus: A Weekend in Prague

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I ringed in my 25th birthday with my husband in the city of Prague, on a rather sunny January weekend. Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, is a favorite with travelers in Europe, perhaps because of it’s location, which connects it easily to other European cities. From Nuremberg, where we are, it is just a three-hour comfortable bus ride. We left early morning on Saturday from Germany, where for the most part of our journey a dense fog enveloped our drive. With no great scenery to look out to, I soon fell asleep (as were most of the fellow passengers!) and by the time I woke up we had already entered the Czech border. From there on, there was hardly a minute where I wasn’t looking outside the window. It looked like we had entered a different time — the city looks straight out of a beautiful painting. The red-roof houses, the Medieval look, the narrow cobbled lanes, and the bridges, Prague entices you at every corner. Romantic? I don’t know. But it is definitely a great weekend escape. (Really, what is with me not finding cities romantic! — more on that later as you keep reading Backpacking Croissants 😉 )

Prague can be easily covered on foot and public transport. Just grab a map and get ready to explore the best sightseeing attractions in Prague if you only have a weekend: Continue reading

City Focus: Explore Berlin in a Day

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Every city has a character, expressed through its urban spaces, it’s images, the landscape, and the history. But in Berlin, it is a different story. Here, history stands in front of you. A somber reminder of the most volatile phase in international political history, Berlin today stands as a melting pot of past and present.

Berlin has a lot to offer. A great city of culture, art and history, it is also an important hub for business travelers. You would need atleast a weekend if you truly want to know Berlin. But if you are in the German capital only for a day and want to explore the highlights of city sightseeing in just a few hours, there’s no reason why you can’t.

I really feel that one of the best ways to explore the city in a limited time is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus. That way, you save time trying to figure out how to reach from one destination to other via public transport. Perch yourself on the top open air section of the double decker bus and experience the sit. Just get down at the spot you want to explore and spend some time at, and hop back on. Even if you don’t want to get down from the bus, you still get a feel of the city and see the important and popular landmarks.

There are many city tour buses that run within the city. We took the Berlin City Tour bus from Alexanderplatz. There are four different tour options. We took a combination of two tours — the classic route which took us around the famous landmarks of the city, and the ‘wall and lifestyle’ tour which gave us a chance to explore the former East side (here we saw an original World War II bunker!)

Here are some suggestions on top must-sees of the city, so that you take back some great memories and picture postcards from the best of the city.

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Why Your Next Holiday Should Be to Füssen/Neuschwanstein Castle?

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Dreamy, splendid, beautiful, romantic, magnificent…. adjectives fall short when I start to describe the Neuschwanstein Castle. Set in the beautiful Bavarian Alps of Germany, the Neuschwanstein Castle is a picture that weaves a thousand adjectives around itself — often many fall short to summarize the beauty that it stands for. One of the most popular sites of Germany to the world, the Castle stands tall and proudly so! You would have seen it on the television, or the internet, but you have to see it to believe it’s splendor.

Late March, when the icy winds had died down and the sun had begin to shower its warmth on us, my husband and I decided finally to embark on a trip that we had been planning for the last two months. After numerous debates on going by road, or taking the train, taking a day trip or making it a weekend rendezvous, we finally planned our much-awaited holiday — and I was thankful for the decisions we made.

First things first. Neuschwanstein is often visited as a day trip by many tourists. But I strongly recommend you to make it a weekend trip, so that you can truly absorb the experience called NEUSCHWANSTEIN!

We decided to take the nearly four-hour train journey from Nuremberg to Füssen (the nearest stop). And you will be glad for the train journey. Like much of the Europe, the train journey to Füssen paints a dreamy picture. As the train chugs, you take in the quaint countryside, the lone cottage on a farm, the clear skies, and the gentle unfolding of nature.

We arrived late afternoon to the town of Füssen. The train station is conveniently located to walking distances to various hotels in the city. We had our bookings at the Vital Hotel Wiedemann, which was at a scenic walking distance from the city centre. [More on the hotel in the next post].

We decided to explore the town of Füssen that day and saved the best (the Castle, that is) for the next morning. There are buses that go from here to the base town of Schwangau. Once you reach this town, you can buy the tickets at the ticket center for both Neuschwanstein as well as the Hohenschwangau castle. The castles can be viewed only as a guided trip and you would need plenty of time in hand to fully experience. If you are short of time, then I would suggest to just visit the Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle can be reached via horse carriages, bus or on foot from the ticket center.

Here are five reasons why Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle need to be on your list of places to visit this year.

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Nuremberg Zoo: A great place for all ages!

Nuremberg Zoo or the Tiergarten Nürnberg as it is called, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful zoos I have ever been to. Set in the Lorenz forest, the Zoo houses as many as 2,000 animals from 300 species, in near-natural surroundings. Whether you are a young couple, or a family with kids, or someone who enjoys a quiet stroll in nature, this zoo is an ideal place to spend your day! And if you are on a vacation in this region of Germany, I would recommend to put it on your to-do list. You won’t regret!

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