Friday, October 16, 2020 | Written by Kaela
When people think of Germany, they might think of people dressed in lederhosen (leather breeches) or dirndls (traditional dresses) eating copious amounts of meat and pretzels. After my brief visit to Munich, I can confirm these assumptions have at least some truth. We decided to visit Munich because one, it is a beautiful city, two, Germany has great food, and three, we wanted to catch the end of the Oktoberfest “celebrations.” Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than two hundred years ago and soon became an annual event intertwined in German culture. While the Coronavirus pandemic halted what would have been the 187th Oktoberfest in Munich, the spirit of the celebration still continued on. People dressed in traditional outfits peppered the streets and many restaurants offered special “Oktoberfest” menu items.
After a long morning of travel, we headed to Augustine Keller for our first German meal (as well as our first meal of the day.) A friend and I shared a wurstlteller: a platter with an assortment of sausages. We took our time tasting each sausage and examining their flavors as though we were food critics. I tried some of a travel companion’s schnitzel and thoroughly enjoyed it (and highly recommend it). I left the restaurant wishing both my stomach and wallet were larger so I could order a schnitzel for myself. We played a few rounds of cars after our meal, but our fun was cut short by the menacing chestnuts hanging above our heads. Every time a strong gust of wind blew, a few would come flying down towards our table like hailstones.
Upon arrival at our hostel (Augustin), I immediately fell in love with our temporary housing. We had traveled with enough people to have our own hostel room and despite the bunk bed style sleeping, there were a lot of private spaces. We had our own large bathroom with two showers and the toilet was placed in a separate area. There were more than enough mirrors, sinks, lockers for storage, and couch space all placed strategically so it did not feel cramped. The room was modern, clean, and had an amazing view overlooking a small courtyard. German engineering is renowned for a reason.
After freshening up for a bit, we headed to a famous Munich landmark, the Bavaria statue. Our hostel happened to be extremely close to the statue, which sits in the middle of the grounds where Oktoberfest would have been hosted, Theresienwiese, had it not been cancelled. The statue is meant to be a female personification of the Bavarian homeland. It reminded me of a piece of home, the Statue of Liberty. Both statues serve as monuments to their homeland, personifying patriotism through the depiction of nurturing and powerful women. It was fascinating to walk through the entirely empty fairground and imagine what would be there: food and drink tents, traditional music, dancing, horse races, temporary museums and crowds of people. I took a moment to try to imagine the fanfare and compare it to the somewhat empty large park before me. There were people wind skateboarding, biking, running, working out, or passing through like us.
We passed through Marienplatz on the way to our next eatery: Hofbrauhaus. We admired the New Town Hall building and its gothic revival architecture. I admired the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, a tourist attraction in its own right, with 43 bells and 32 life sized figures. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the show while we were in Munich but I imagine it is quite a spectacle.
Our last stop of the night was at Hofbräuhaus München. This Bavarian restaurant dates back to the 16th century and is three floors high. Its aura was incredible: live music, bustling customers, the smell of great food, couples dancing, traditional clothing, and workers walking around selling pretzels. Our group opted for a family style meal allowing us the opportunity to try all of the restaurant’s popular dishes. My favorites? For sure the half chicken, schnitzel, and pretzel. After eating and playing more card games without the threat of chestnuts falling on us, we headed back to the hostel for the night. As I listened to the snoring of a travel companion in the bunk above me, still full from my traditional meal, I slowly drifted off, excited for what the next day would bring.