Last Saturday began the 183rd Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, it will go until the 3rd of October. Thousands of people converge on the city to imbibe, eat and party together while the rest of the world celebrates where ever they are. It is funny to me that a royal wedding celebration in 1810 for then Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen sparked such a tremendous festival for the people that has a huge presence today. Last November we were in Germany for a week of business followed by another of personal touring. Oktoberfest was a memory by that time, so we didn’t search out the ‘Wiesn (field) but we were only a few blocks away from it. Disease and war prevented some Oktoberfest celebrations; barring any further catastrophes 17 years from now will be the 200th celebration in which Hubby and I hope to participate first hand.
We flew into Munich from Berlin Sunday morning, where we had wished our fellow business travelers safe flights. The Friday, November 13 2015 Paris attacks were to leave many of our group stranded in the locked-down security of the Paris Airport for a day or two before they could make their way safely home.
The train ride from the airport to Munich’s Hauptbahnhof and walk of a few blocks to the hotel and we were ready to get out and explore. (I am intrigued by the bicycle culture throughout Germany, please indulge the pictures.) Had we turned west we would have walked toward the Theresienwiese and the Oktoberfest grounds, but we went east and wandered through Marienplatz, Munich’s main square. The ancient buildings both spared and restored after the WWII bombings and the modern architecture were decked with holiday splendor. The Christmas Village was nearly complete and vendors were selling roasted chestnuts (die Marone) and citrus that smelled divine. We went into St Michael’s, a historic Jesuit church, as there was a service in progress. It was as breathtaking inside as I expected. Here is a wikipic to show you the High Alter: here. We took no photos inside as that would have been highly inappropriate.
Monday we participated in a walking tour of Hitler’s Munich, Third Reich guided by Sabri Ben Ltaief (also a photographer). It was fascinating to step through time to experience the streets and buildings that we had walked along the night before as they related to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and their fate during WWII. Hubby and I chose to take the second part of the tour to discover none of the other eight tour participants did. Sabri went with us to lunch and we walked with him to his job at the University Library; he pointed out the landmarks and points of interest that would have comprised the second tour. What a terrific way to begin our vacation week!
No visit to Munich and Marienplatz is complete without going to the Hofbrauhaus. (This is the Oktoberfest tent.) Founded in 1589 by then Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V., to introduce a quality, affordable brown beer for his family’s consumption. The second brewing was built in 1607 by Wilhelm’s son, Maximillian I, for his burgeoning wheat (whit or white) beer production and the building was thus white. In 1806, when Bavaria became a Kingdom, the ruling family became royalty, therefore Hofbrauhaus or ‘Royal Brown House’. In 1828, 18 years after his royal wedding, King Ludwig I decreed the royal beer could be consumed by commoners, but it was the transition of the brewing facility to a new location and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant and hall refurbished in 1897 that became the hall we recognize. Bombing raids in WWII destroyed most of the building 1944-45; it took until 1958 for the Hofbrauhaus renovations to be completed, this is where we sat in 2015. If you want to know some of the historical highlights of the worlds most famous brewery, here you go.
Sipping beer and sharing a pretzel, an authentic Bavarian pretzel, soft on the inside with a crunchy crust and just a bit of salt, as we took in the details of the hall and listened to the brass band gave us pause to consider and discuss the significance of our history lesson that day. No person or point in time is isolated, we all feel the ripples and choke on the waves of bad decisions as much as we float on the good decisions of those that precede and surround us. The beer was good; the experience was terrific.
This week, having procured a six pack of Hofbrau Dunkel, we are participating in Oktoberfest quietly, at home, after our respective harvest work. This is the original brown beer, the one that started it all for the ruling family of Bavaria in the late 1500’s. Yup, Hofbrau beer is now distributed far and wide, for all the common folk. I thought about attempting to make traditional pretzels, but I will wait for the holidays to do so. Bottled is not as good as draft, that said, this is it – a smooth, nutty beer with a bit of baking spices to keep it interesting.
We brought in just over 10 tons of fruit this week, Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon. We also pressed 2 tons of Chardonnay for Basalt Cellars (and here). We are now half way through 2016 Crush by ton. Cheers!