Germany Munich

Munich – Salt, Walls & Beer Halls

Salt was the white gold of the Middle Ages. It was as valuable to the medieval economy as oil and natural gas are to ours. Salt’s ability to preserve food is considered a founding contributor to the development of civilization. A great deal of wealth and power could be attained by those who controlled its movement. It has been a deciding factor in the outcome of wars and the founding of cities, and Munich is a prime example of this¹.

Oberföhring was a medieval city located along a low point of the Isar river, where carts and wagons could cross. Because of this, it was an integral part of the Old Salt Road. Around 1000 C.E., the bishop of Freising built a toll bridge and began to collect a tidy profit from the salt traders.

In 1156, a powerful German prince known as Henry the Lion (Duke of Saxony and Bavaria), decided he wanted in on this lucrative business. He burned down the existing toll bridge at Oberföhring and built his own, located just a short distance up river in a tiny community that included a Benedictine monastery. By doing this, Henry the Lion (shown below) effectively rerouted the salt trade through this tiny community, which would later become Munich, and he would be considered its founder. Oberföhring would later become a mere district of Munich, located northeast of the city centre, with a street name of “Salzenderweg” that changes into “An der Salzbrucke” (translating into “Salt Way” and “On the Salt bridge”, respectively) remaining as a teasing historical remnant.

Henry knew that his new location would require protection, and so he ordered the building of Munich’s first city wall. It was completed in 1175, and encompassed a small area of 400 metres with Marienplatz (then called Marktplatz) at its centre. A second city wall was built in 1330 to accommodate the expansion of the growing city.

Below is an image of Munich in a 1493 woodcut.

Munich around 1572.

In 1618, the wall was refortified and additional structures were built to strengthen it as the Thirty Years’ War began. By the late 18th century, however, the wall was outdated and hindered the development of a more modern city. It was eventually levelled.

Today, three town gates of the wall remain: Isartor in the east, Karlstor in the west, and Sendlinger Tor in the southwest.

Isartor is named after the nearby Isar river. This was the gate that met with the salt trade crossing and, as such, was the city’s most important entrance. It is the only gate of the remaining three that still has its main central tower.

The gate has been restored and reconstructed over the years, especially after being heavily damaged in WWII. It remains largely faithful to its medieval appearance, shown in the image below.

Karlstor marks the beginning of the pedestrian-only shopping street of Neuhauser Straße. To visit downtown, Neil and I would take the train from our apartment to nearby Hauptbahnhoff station, walk across busy Karlsplatz, and cross under this gate. It is only a five minute walk from here to Marienplatz. The gate was originally named Neuhauser Tor after the next village that could be reached when leaving town. It was renamed in 1791 after Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. Locally, it is better known by the nickname of “Stachus.”

The current version of the town gate only bears a little resemblance to its medieval counterpart, shown below (plus moat and bridge). In 1857 an annex to the main central tower was used to store gunpowder. In 1861 the gunpowder exploded, destroying the annex and main tower so badly that they both had to be torn down. The remaining towers were redesigned and connected with a new bridge in 1861-2.

Sendlinger Tor is located at the southern end of Munich’s historic city centre. Originally, this gate also had a central tower. In 1808, the central tower was destroyed. In 1860, the flanking towers and the wall were restored. In 1906, the three original arches were replaced by one central arch (to meet with increased traffic demands) and two small pedestrian arches were added on either side, giving the gate its current look.

Unlike its sister gates, Sendlinger Tor received hardly any damage in World War II. It did undergo some refurbishment in the 1980s.

Below is a picture of the medieval gate.

A small stretch of the Munich city wall remains at Jungfernturmstrasse.

Siegestor was built in 1843-1852 under the orders of King Ludwig I of Bavaria as a Victory Gate to celebrate the glory of the Bavarian army and its success in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The bronze figure of Bavaria is riding in a chariot drawn by lions, looking north in the direction towards which most visitors approach the city. Below her, “Dem Bayerischen Heere” (“To the Bavarian Army”) is inscribed. It was modelled after the Arch of Constantine in Rome.

The back of the monument is where things get interesting. The arch was heavily destroyed in WWII and was set to be demolished in July 1945. Instead, it was partially restored (note the blank empty space where previously sculpted details would have existed) and a new inscription was added: “Dem Sieg Geweiht, Vom Krieg Zerstört, Zum Frieden Mahnend” (“Dedicated to Victory, Destroyed by War, Urging Peace”).

Siegestor sits on one end of Ludwigstraße and, at the other end of the street at Odeonplatz, sits a similar monument, the Feldherrnhalle, which honours the leaders of the Bavarian army. In the first picture of the Siegestor above, if you peek through the arch on the left, you can see the orange towers of Theatinerkirche. I’ll detail those two buildings next.

Feldherrnhalle translates as “the Field Marshall’s Hall.” Similar to the Siegestor, it was commissioned by King Ludwig I to celebrate the Bavarian army. It was built between 1841-44 in the location where one of the old city gates, Schwabingertor, was located. It was modelled after the Logia dei Lanzi in Florence. Two statues commemorate military leaders, Johann Tilly (of the Thirty Years War) and Karl Philipp von Wrede (who fought against Napoleon). The sculpture in the middle was added in 1882 after the Franco-Prussian War to celebrate victory over France and the unification of Germany. The lions, added in 1906, are modelled after the Medici lions at the Logia in Florence.

The Feldherrnhalle is where Hitler’s failed coup attempt, the Beer Hall Putsch, came to an end on November 9, 1923. Hitler and his followers tried to storm the Bavarian Defense Ministry but were met instead with a line of Bavarian police. Four policemen and sixteen marchers were killed, many were wounded, and Hitler was captured and sent to jail. When Hitler seized power of Germany in 1933, he turned the Feldherrnhalle into a sacred Nazi site. Hitler proclaimed that the sixteen fallen men were the “first martyrs” of the Nazi cause, and had a memorial built to honour them. The memorial was kept under perpetual ceremonial guard by members of the SS, and Munich citizens were obligated to salute it when they passed by. The square in front of the Feldhernnhalle became a place for SS parades, commemoration rallies for the dead SA men, and new SS recruits would swear their oath of loyalty to Hitler here.

Some Munich citizens found a way to avoid saluting the Nazi memorial. Behind the Feldhernnhalle there is a lane called Viscardigasse. People could use this street as a detour, earning it the nickname “Drückebergergasse” (which translates as “shirker’s lane” or “dodger’s alley”).

Normally, Viscardigasse has a small golden trail painted on the cobblestones to mark the route of the people who used it to avoid passing the Nazi memorial, like what is shown below.

However, I have been beset with a curse that means that many of the historic sites I am most excited to see will be under construction when I want to see them. So, instead of golden cobblestones, we saw this:

Oh well, maybe next year!

At the end of World War II, the Feldhernnhalle location was returned to its pre-Nazi appearance. Locals destroyed the Nazi memorial on June 3, 1945.

The Theatinerkirche was built between 1663-90. It was founded by Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife Henrietta Adelaide of Savoy, after the arrival of their long-awaited heir, Prince Max Emanuel in 1662. It is also known as the Dominican Priory of St. Catejan.

I liked the beautiful yellow colour of the building.

Hofbräuhaus is a famous beer hall in downtown Munich. There is also a large Hofbräuhaus festival tent at Oktoberfest.

Munich imported beer from the German provinces of Saxony and Kassel until the 16th century. In 1589, Duke Wilhelm V (of the ruling Wittelsbach family) decided he wanted his own local brewery to service the needs of his royal court. The Hofbräu (“hof” translates as court, “brau” as “brew”) was born, and the “haus” (“house”) was where it was made. (German is easy! Right, Neil?)

The brewery was originally located next to the Imperial Palace, the Alter Hof, but as demand for the beer grew, it was moved to its present location in the Platzl. Below is a picture of the original building.

The brewhouse wasn’t actually made accessible to the public until 1828 by King Ludwig I. In 1896, the brewing equipment and process was moved off-site and the building was re-modelled so that it would cater exclusively to its patrons. This is the version of the building we recognize today.

Hofbräuhaus has beautifully decorated ceilings, a live house band, and several floors of seating available. The first floor is where most of the action is.

I’m sorry the pictures are of poor quality. Neil was using the main camera to shoot some video, so I was using my camera phone. I didn’t realize the quality was so poor until later. When we go back to Munich, I’ll have to take some better shots.

There is a big area reserved for regular customers. 120 groups of them meet often at Hofbräuhaus. Regulars have a place where they can store their beer steins, some of which are shown below.

This is where I ordered the infamous pork knuckle. It is delicious, but a lot of food to eat! It could be split between two people, easily. That is, if one of them isn’t a vegetarian. It came with a potato dumpling. I thought its texture was a little weird.

History is thirsty work!

We stopped in the shop on our way out and, guess what I found!? A sensible cardigan!

Hofbräuhaus is located in the Platzl, which is full of these beautiful Renaissance-style townhouses. They’re not as old as they look, unfortunately, because many of them had to be rebuilt after World War II (this is a common theme in Germany).


Maybe the potato dumpling would have benefitted from a little more salt.

¹ Fun fact, In England, the use of “-wich” in a place name indicates that the location was once a source of salt (ie: “Sandwich”, “Norwich”).

Germany Munich

Munich – Monks & Marienplatz

Munich is the 3rd largest city in Germany (pop. 1.5 million) and is located in the southeast. It is the capital of the German state of Bavaria. München is the German name for the city and comes from the Old High German word Munichen, which means “by the monks.” This derives from the monks whose Benedictine monastery was the first known settlement in the area. The monastery was located on the Old Salt Route, a medieval trading corridor, and its location later became part of the Old Town of Munich. The city was first referenced in a document in 1158, and so this is considered Munich’s foundation date.

In addition to Oktoberfest, Munich is a city with a rich history that will gradually unfold as you visit many of its beautiful landmarks. The best place to start is at the city centre, in Marienplatz.

Marienplatz is the heart of downtown Munich. It has been the city’s central square since 1158. Markets and tournaments were held in this city square in the middle ages. Today, the square marks the beginning of a pedestrian-only shopping zone with many historic buildings, shops, and restaurants. Many of the must-see attractions in Munich are located either at the square or within a short walking distance of it.

The square is named after a column that was erected there in 1638, St. Mary’s Column, to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years’ War. The column is topped by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary balancing on a crescent moon.

The four corners at the base of the column each feature a statue of a cherub-like figure fighting a different beast. These beasts represent different adversaries the city of Munich has had to face:

The lion symbolizes war.

The rooster signifies the plague (with a cameo by an Oktoberfest gingerbread cookie).

The dragon represents hunger/famine.

The serpent depicts heresy (ie: Protestantism). Munich was a Catholic stronghold during the Counter-Reformation.

On the north side of Marienplatz, the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) draws a crowd every day to watch the glockenspiel show on its tower. The show runs for 15 minutes at 11:00 am, at noon during the summer months, and at 5:00 pm. The glockenspiel was constructed in 1908. It chimes and reenacts two stories from the 16th century.

The top half of the glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria to Renata of Lorraine on February 22, 1568. Several courtly figures dance around the royal couple three times, including a pair of knights on horseback.

The Bavarian knight’s horse wears white and blue. The Lorthringen (Lorraine) knight’s horse wears red and white. Many historic buildings in Munich, including the New Town Hall and the glockenspiel, are covered in heavy netting to protect them from the pigeons.

On the third round, the knights face off in a joust. Guess who always wins?

If you guessed Bavaria, you are right! (Munich is the capital of Bavaria, of course the Bavarian knight always wins!).

The bottom half of the glockenspiel relays the story of the coopers’ dance (the Schafflertanz). According to local mythology, Munich was gripped by the plague in 1517. The coopers danced through the streets in an effort to bolster spirits.

Finally, a small golden rooster chirps three times to mark the end of the show.

The New Town Hall was built between 1867-1874, with city officials moving in shortly after. It has a neo-Gothic design.

You can go inside the building and go up to a viewing platform in the clock/glockenspiel tower.

Speaking of clocks, I loved the gorgeous golden hands on this one.

Over the entrance door to the New Town Hall, you will find Munich’s Coat of Arms. Monks feature heavily in the city’s identity. In the coat of arms the monk is wearing black and gold robes (the city’s colours) and holding a book in one of his outstretched hands. The right hand is stretched out as if making an oath or blessing. This figure has become a popular symbol of Munich, a mascot of sorts, and is known as the Münchener Kindl. Münchener Kindl translates as “Munich child” in the Bavarian dialect.

The Münchener Kindl can be seen all over Munich on a wide variety of objects such as beer mugs, manhole covers, and subway cars. The Kindl is often featured in Oktoberfest advertising where it swaps its book for a beer stein.

Originally a robed male figure, the Münchener Kindl has also been depicted as a boy, a gender-neutral child, a girl, and a young woman. For Oktoberfest, a young Munich woman dresses up as the Münchener Kindl and will accompany the mayor, the tent owners, and the brewery owners to the tapping ceremony on the opening day. She will also lead the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade on the second day while on horseback.

The Münchener Kindl appears at the top of the tower spire of the New Town Hall.

Another evil Protestant serpent can be found slithering up a corner of the building.

Inside the building, you can find these plaques depicting Munich’s partner cities.

The plaque below, installed on April 30, 1992 by the city of Munich reads: “On March 30, 1945, members of the US Armed Forces liberated Munich from the violent National Socialist rulers.” I fell down a Google hole and unearthed an interesting story, from Spiegel Online about one of those Allied members of the Munich liberating forces:

Wolfgang F. Robinow was 14 and living in Berlin when Hitler came to power in January 1933. He was a member of an organization that he describes as being “the German boy scouts.” One day, he explains, his troop leader explained that they would now be called “the Hitler Youth” and he needed to go home and get proof that “his family was Aryan.” He learned that night for the first time that all four of his grandparents were Jewish. He had to leave the Hitler Youth the next day (not such a bad thing, in retrospect). Although his family had lived in Germany for over 300 years, he ended up moving to Denmark and, in 1938, the United States. He later joined the military and that’s how he ended up on the front lines of the Allied forces that liberated Munich.

Lady Justice.

These are some of the buildings in the inner courtyard.

The Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) is situated on the east side of Marienplatz. The building was first mentioned in city records in 1310, and was the seat of the Munich city council until 1847, when the administration had outgrown the space.

Are you wondering what I was? Why does the Old Town Hall look newer than the New Town Hall? Well, the Old Town Hall was almost completely destroyed during the bombing in World War II, whereas the New Town Hall only had minimal damage. The Old Town Hall was rebuilt in the 1950s to the specifications of a Gothic redesign the building had undergone in the 15th century.

Today, the building still serves various municipal purposes for the Munich city council. It does have a dark moment in its history, though. The Grand Hall was where Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, delivered the speech on November 9, 1938 that instigated Kristallnacht.

The tower is older than the rest of the building. It dates back to the 12th century when it was part of Munich’s first city wall. It was the former Talburg Gate (Talburgtor). Today, it currently features a toy museum.

I fell in love with its beautiful blue and gold clock.

Various coats of arms for the city of Munich adorn its facade.

A few steps to the southeast of Marienplatz is Peterskirche. It was hard to get a decent picture of it without a wide-angle lens. The tower is really tall and I wasn’t able to back up far enough to get the whole church in one frame.

Peterskirche is located in the same area where the monks had their Benedictine monastery. It is considered the founding point of the whole city. A church has stood in this location since the 11th century, and so the Roman Catholic church is the oldest in the city.

Affectionally known as “Old Peter,” the tower has 299 steps you can climb up to the top for an amazing view of the city. Below, you can see the orange roof of the church.

The church was heavily damaged in WWII. Reconstruction was a long and costly process. The ceiling frescoes were only completed in 2000.

Below is the full body relic of Munditia. She was a martyred Christian saint; the year of her death was probably 310 A.D. In 1675 she was given as a gift to a Munich councilman, Franz Benedickt Höger. Munich was the recipient of quite a few relics because it remained steadfastly Catholic in the face of the Protestant Reformation.

The high altar.

The organ.

A short walk to the northwest of Marienplatz will bring you to the Frauenkirche or the “Church of Our Dear Lady,” as Frau translates to “Lady” in German. The current building was constructed between 1468-1488. The double onion-dome towers are a distinctive part of the Munich landscape. A city regulation prohibits buildings in the city centre from exceeding 99 metres in height.

The original design called for a pair of pointed spires, but the domes were put in as a cost-saving measure. I think this gives the church a more unique character. The towers are currently under renovation, hence the scaffolding in the front-facing pictures below. When completed, visitors will be able to climb to the top of one of the domes for another great view of the surrounding cityscape.

Again, because of the spacing of the buildings around the church it was hard to squeeze it all in one photographic frame.

The church also suffered extensive damage from World War II bombing, and underwent extensive restoration work. (Unsurprisingly, this is a common theme of many German landmarks).

St. Michaelskirche is located west of Marienplatz and is the largest Renaissance church located north of the Alps. It is a Jesuit church, and was built between 1583-1597.

In the late 18th century the Jesuits were suppressed and banned from most Catholic territories. The church then became the property of the Wittelsbach family, who ruled Bavaria at the time. This is why the front of the church contains statues of the Wittelsbach family.

There is also a small crypt beneath the church that contains the remains of many Wittelsbach deceased, including King Ludwig II (also known as “the Mad King”, “the Fairytale King”, or “the Swan King” – I’ll talk more about him when I finish an upcoming post on the Munich Palatial Residence).  People still leave flowers for Ludwig II. He is definitely a romantic, even tragic, figure.

The crypt was interesting, but we were asked not to take pictures while we were in there. You’ll just have to see for yourself!

The enormous barrel-vaulted ceiling was the second largest in the world at the time of its construction, following only St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. William V, the Duke of Bavaria, intended the church to be a representation of the triumph of Roman Catholicism during the Counter-Reformation. To make room for the church, he had 87 houses in the area destroyed.

The high altar.

The organ.

In addition to the two Town Hall buildings and these three churches, the Viktualienmarkt is just a few steps south of Marienplatz. If you want to get a good feel for Munich, Marienplatz is a great place to start.

In the next post, I’ll go a little farther abroad in the city with details on two fortifications dating back to the original city walls, a trip to a famous beer hall, and we’ll delve into the city’s dark history as the home of Hitler’s rise with the National Socialist party in the 1920s.

Germany Landmarks Munich

Munich Viktualienmarkt

The Viktualienmarkt is a daily market in downtown Munich with 140 stalls and stores that sell a diverse range of goods such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat, herbs and spices, flowers, wine and spirits, crafts, and much more.

There is a beer garden with a spread of picnic tables where people can enjoy beer purchased from a stall in which the 7 different Munich breweries take turns selling their product. There are a few food vendors available for those who might want a hot sandwich or pretzel to accompany their beverages.

I can’t find a date for when the market first started. The earliest date I found was 1807, the year in which the market outgrew its current location in Marienplatz, the popular and central square in front of the two town halls, and was moved a few metres away to its present location. It was some time after this move when the “green market” or “food market” became known as the “Viktualienmarkt.” Victual is a Latin word for food.

A towering maypole is a central feature of the market. The maypole is decorated in the traditional colours of Bavaria, white and blue, and is also adorned with paintings that depict the trades and crafts of this part of Munich. The official Munich website states that maypoles “date from the ages of general illiteracy and served to represent a village or later, as in this case, a borough and its trades to traveling salesmen or traveling craftsmen looking to learn from a new master to learn from.”

Neil and I also overheard a tour guide saying that a tradition between rival towns is to steal each other’s maypoles. I’m not sure how this is possible – maypoles are tall and it seems like they would be a little… unwieldy.

You might have heard of the Bavarian Beer Purity Law. This law was enacted in 1516 so that only beers made with three ingredients –  hops, barley malt, and water (yeast was unknown at the time) – could be labelled as being a” pure German beer.” Beer was a staple in the diet of people of the Middle Ages and so it was important that it be of high quality at an affordable price. This law continues today. There were earlier versions of this Purity law, and the sign on the Maypole below references a Munich Beer Purity Act of 1487.

The market square also features memorial wells for folk singers and comedians.

Overall, it’s a lovely place with a great atmosphere, and definitely a city highlight. I half-jokingly said to Neil that I would move to Munich just for the market, which is open six days a week (not on Sundays).

Here is a photographic tour of the different things you can find at the market. Let’s just say, in addition to my usual obsession with flowers, I’m going to be in so much trouble when the official Christmas markets start springing up.


So cute!

Mmm, schnapps.

It’s decorative gourd season, guys.

Decorative cabbages are definitely a thing here. I love it!

Decorative artichoke, anyone?


Neil caught me standing by my favourite market stall (the one with all the flowers and Christmas ornaments).

These made me think of my sister-in-law, Pauline, who makes beautiful Christmas wreaths. I like the cute little elves in the corner, too.

More decorative cabbages. (You could probably eat these ones too, but why would you?).

These are gorgeous.

They make wreaths out of everything!

Silly goose. (Geese).

So many beautiful and delicious things. Definitely worth a visit.

Germany Munich

Oktoberfest Beer Tents

Oktoberfest reminded me a lot of the Calgary Stampede. There are parades, the city has a general air of celebration surrounding it, everybody dresses up in fun rural-themed outfits, and there are temporary rides and carnival booths to enjoy. Sure, there’s no rodeo, but there are a lot more beer tents!

There is no entrance free to wander the grounds of Oktoberfest. You can also enter the tents for free. You’ll fork over some cash if you want to buy some food or refreshments, go on a ride, play a carnival game, or buy a funny hat. It’s largely a cash-only site, but there are ATMs available.

Bags and backpacks are not allowed on the festival grounds. I brought a really small purse on our first day – it held two mini-umbrellas, my wallet, a cell phone, and a small point-and-shoot camera. I was asked to open it at the entrance of each tent I went into, which is no big deal. On the other days we were there, though, I left the umbrellas at home and just carried the other stuff in the pockets of my rain jacket.

There are 14 large and 20 small tents at Oktoberfest. Each of them has their own personality. There are large tables inside each of the tents and your best bet is to see if you can find one with some empty space to sit at. There are sections where you can reserve a table, but then you have to reserve the entire table at a specific time and that costs a lot of money. If you’re just a couple of random tourists, like us, you can be strategic and/or just try your luck at finding empty space to park your bums.

Lots of people say that it’s best to go during the week and/or during the day, rather than on the weekends or in the evening. That is good advice. But with that in mind I would say, don’t let that limit you. We ended up at the Oktoberfest grounds on three days, all of them weekends (1 Saturday and 2 Sundays) and were able to find a place to sit down when we wanted.

With one exception: we didn’t even try finding a space on the opening Saturday. A lot of people staked out their claim early in the morning and then had to wait hours until the mayor tapped the opening keg. We watched the Tent Owners and Breweries Parade, grabbed some food from one of the many refreshment stands, and then left. We would have stayed and gone on some rides or explored the fairgrounds further but it was pouring rain, and we had been standing in it for a couple of hours already. But we were happy with what we had already seen, and knew there was plenty of time for us to come back another day.

There are so many tents with indoor and, weather permitting, outdoor seating that you’ll eventually find somewhere to enjoy yourself. Don’t be shy! If you see a table with some room, ask the other occupants if you can join them. The worst thing they can say is “no” or “nein.” (I’m one to talk of course – this is where having my extrovert husband comes in handy). Most people in Germany speak at least a little English, and chances are good you’ll probably end up sitting with another tourist anyway. It’s a warm, friendly atmosphere and everyone is there for the same reason you are. Everyone wants to have fun!

There are several measures in place to make sure that Oktoberfest stays fun and family-friendly without it becoming a drunken nightmare. Each day until 6 pm, only live bands playing folk music are allowed to play in the tents, and they are limited to how loud they are allowed to play. You’ll get kicked out if you’re caught bringing in your own alcohol. There is always lots of food circulating to discourage solely liquid meals. There is a strong security presence. I got the impression that the serving staff don’t put up with a lot of nonsense. Good behaviour is expected if you want to stay in the tent.

If you find yourself entirely crowded out on the main strip, you can go check out the “Oide Weis’n/Historical Oktoberfest” section of the grounds. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the festival in 2010, this special festival area was designed to capture the spirit of what the older, more traditional Oktoberfest would have been like. It proved to be so popular that it has continued to be a regular feature, except in years when the Central Agriculture Festival is running (since it is set up on those grounds). There is a 3 euro admittance fee, but it does have in/out privileges. It features historical rides and attractions, a cotton candy stand, beer tents, an animal tent with a petting zoo, a museum tent, and some children’s programs. The rides in this area are also only 1 Euro each, which is much cheaper than the rides found elsewhere. Neil and I didn’t get the chance to explore Oide Weis’n, but I’m hoping to do so when we go back.

All right, on to the beer tents! Neil and I sat and enjoyed ourselves in 3 of the 14 large tents, and took a quick walk through 7 others.

On our second day at Oktoberfest, a Sunday, we went to the Löwenbräu-FesthalleThis tent seats 5,700 people inside and 2,800 people outside. The lion is animatronic and occasionally drinks from his beer mug, which is kind of hilarious. The tent serves beer by the Löwenbräu Brewery.


The guy photobombing us in the above picture makes me laugh.

We sat down at a table with 2 Aussies (they’re in the checkered shirts in the lower right of the above picture). Once you sit down, a server will come by. You can order from a short list of beer that the tent’s brewery makes (regular, dark, or radler – a mix of beer and lemonade) and a food menu. The food and drink menu will vary based on the tent, but popular items for lunch or dinner just about anywhere include roasted chicken, pork knuckle, bratwurst, macaroni, salad, and maybe some vegetarian items? We didn’t order any food so I can’t quite remember. But you won’t go hungry. There are roaming food vendors with baskets full of pretzels, pastries, and all sorts of other goodies to tide you over while your server is busy with another table.

A piece of advice: tip your server. Let them know when you pass them your cash how much change you would like back (with the difference being their tip). They deserve it. These tents are a zoo, and they are your (mostly) patient, hard working keepers.

Leah drinks a litre of beer. A story in three acts.

Hey, look! I’m halfway.

Nope. Turns out I wasn’t. Now I’m halfway.

Done! I deserve some sort of reward for this. Right?

Every now and then, someone will stand up on their bench and chug their beer to mixed results. If they succeed, they will be celebrated with hearty cheers and applause. If they falter, pieces of pretzels will be flung at them. Regardless of the outcome, security will come over and escort them out of the tent. It’s entertaining, but this is the kind of behaviour the festival tries to discourage in order to keep the place feeling safe. It’s totally understandable! But we still have fun when someone decides to give it a go.

It’s extra exciting when a woman makes the attempt because, as you can guess, it’s mostly young guys trying to impress their friends.

After the Aussies left, a group of Portuguese men joined our table. They were all visiting from Switzerland, where they are working. One of them spoke English. Neil was able to speak French to the rest. They were a lot of fun!

Löwenbräu was a fun, friendly introduction to the beer tents.

And I got my reward for drinking a litre of beer. A flower crown!

We returned to Oktoberfest to celebrate Neil’s birthday, also on a Sunday. We started off with the 5-loop rollercoaster, which is a good way to feel very alive very fast.

We then went to the Armbrustschützenzelt-Festhalle. This translates as “the Crossbowman’s Tent”, in reference to a competition that has been part of Oktoberfest since 1895. This tent seats 5,839 people inside and 1,600 outside. This tent serves beer by the Paulaner brewery.

As you can see, this tent was a little quiet. We finished our beers and decided to go tour the other tents to see where more fun was to be had.

Lots of eagle imagery in here.

I’ll go through 6 of the tents that we toured alphabetically, then end with the final tent that we sat in.


This tent sits 6,000 people inside and 2,500 outside. It serves beer from the Augustiner brewery. Locals favour this tent because it serves Augustiner beer from individually tapped wooden kegs rather than the stainless steel vats used by the other tents. This is considered the friendliest tent at Oktoberfest, and on Tuesdays they host a “kid’s day” with low prices. (For beer? Nah, it’s gotta be for just the food).

A pair of columns with these trumpeters stand outside the tent. This was where Neil and I agreed to meet each other if we ever got separated. (Thankfully we didn’t).

Käfer Weis’n-Schänke

This tent seats 1,000 inside and 1,900 outside. It serves beer from the Paulaner brewery. The tent is known for its gourmet (and expensive) food. While all the other tents at Oktoberfest are only open until 11 pm, this one is open until 1:30 (weeknights) and 3:00 am (weekend nights). However, the limited space means it’s unlikely you’re going to get a seat after 11 pm (unless you are a celebrity or have connections, the official Oktoberfest website notes).

This is the smallest of the big tents at Oktoberfest and, apparently, the tent most frequented by celebrities. That’s probably because the inside is very dark. We took a quick tour and got some video footage, but there wasn’t enough light to take any decent pictures. The outside patio was decorated very prettily, though!


This tent seats 3,200 inside and 1,000 outside. It serves beer from the Spaten-Franziskaner Brewery.  It is the newest of the big tents at Oktoberfest. Marstall is the old German word for the royal riding school, which is why the decor is themed around carved wooden horses and an indoor carousel.

This was a beautiful tent. The colours felt very romantic.

This accessory vendor struck it big with this table! Look at all those hats!

They also have a giant bottle of champagne or wine on that table. Can I join this party?

The beautiful indoor carousel with a live band.


This tent, also called Hacker Pschorr-Bräurosl or just Bräurosl, seats 6,000 inside and 2,200 outside. It serves beer from the Hacker-Pschorr brewery. The name translates as “Brewer’s Rosemary”, and is named after the daughter of the original brewery owner (Rosi Pschorr). On the first Sunday of the festival it hosts a hugely popular gay and lesbian party, Rosa Weisn. The tent has been managed by the Heide family for 7 generations. The tent features a yodeler, in addition to a live folk band.

The decorations in this tent were also beautiful.


This tent is the largest tent at the festival, seating 6,000 inside and 4,000 outside. It serves beer from the Spaten-Franziskaner Brewery. It began in 1867 as a beer booth with 50 seats! This is the tent where the mayor taps the first keg on opening day, so it could be considered the most important one. The tent is very popular among young people. A portion of the tent is reserved for student fraternities (a certain form called Studentenverbindungen) and so the tent it outfitted in their colours and coat of arms.

Also gorgeously lit and decorated on the inside.


This tent seats 4,442 inside and nobody outside. It serves beer from Löwenbräu. Food is a highlight at this tent, including suckling pig prepared in a traditional Bavarian manner and served with potato salad.

I liked the warm colours used in this tent.

These people had the most amazing charcuterie spread. You can kind of see it in this picture.

Winzerer Fähndl

This tent seats 8,450 inside and 2,450 outside. It serves beer from Paulaner. Winzerer is Bavarian for “Winebrewers.” Apparently, this is also a hot celebrity spot. “Gemuetlichkeit”which translates as “relaxed, fun feeling” is a feature of the tent.

So, after a tour of all these tents we settled on Hacker-Festzelte for our final watering ground. This tent is also known as Himmel der Bayern, which translates as “Heaven of the Bavarians.” It seats 6,900 inside and 2,400 outside. It serves beer from Hacker-Pschorr.

The interior is beautifully decorated so that there is a blue sky with stars and clouds. The sides of the walls feature buildings and parks from around Munich.

When we first wandered through this tent, it seemed like people in here were having the most fun!

This guy flipped the bird especially for me, lol.

The live band was fantastic! There is a popular song that is played a few times an hour in each beer tent that we went to. I think the song was “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” which translates as “a toast to cheer and good times.” Every time it’s played, everyone sings along and then toasts their neighbours.

Our server looks kind of like a good friend of ours from back home in Vancouver. Can you guess who it is? At one point, Neil offered him a beer and he happily drank a sizeable portion of it!

Look at that food!

The infamous pork knuckle.

We chatted with a friendly Brazilian couple, as well as a pair of American flight attendants from D.C., and a couple of locals.

This was definitely our favourite tent!

Oktoberfest was a blast, and we definitely want to go back. There is so much that we didn’t see, including 4 big tents and all of the 20 small tents!

The 4 big tents we missed were: Hofbräu-Festzelt (the counterpart to the famous Hofbräuhaus in downtown Munich, which we did visit); Weinzelt (the wine tent!); Ochsenbraterei (it offers roasted oxen dishes); and Fischer-Vroni (which specializes in fish dishes).

Of the 20 small tents, I would love to see: Bodo’s Cafezelt (it offers exotic cocktails, prossecco, champagne, coffee, doughnuts, ice cream, pastry, and strudel. This definitely sounds like my kind of tent); the Glockle Wirt (it is decorated with oil paintings as well as antique instruments and cooking utensils, which would be really cool to see); and the Wiesn Guglhupf Café-Dreh-Bar (it’s a slowly moving carousel bar!)

We’re thinking 2018. Anyone interested in joining us? Let us know!

Germany Munich


Oktoberfest is an annual 16-18 day folk festival that has been held in Munich since the early 19th century. It is a celebration of Bavarian music, food, dress, community, and beer. Lots and lots of beer.

And pretzels!

And bratwurst!

The festival began as a celebration of the October 12, 1810 wedding between the Crown Prince (and later King) Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. (Fun fact, Ludwig and Therese would later become the grandparents of the infamous King Ludwig II, whom I’ll talk about in a later post). Festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates on October 18, and all of the citizens of Munich were invited. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honour of the Princess. The event began with a parade of 16 pairs of children dressed in costumes that honoured the royal Wittelsbach family and the nine Bavarian townships and regions. A horse race followed, with beer and wine tastings taking place in the grandstands. A student choir then performed to close out the event. It was such a success that it was held the next year, and then the next, and so on until we get to this year, the 184th!

In 1811 an agricultural show was added to the festival to promote Bavarian agriculture, and it continued to grow year after year. In 1818, carnival booths were set up. In 1819 the city of Munich took on the management of the festival and it became an official annual event. The starting dates of the festival were pushed back into September to take advantage of the warmer weather. The horse races continued until 1960, and the agricultural show takes place every four years.

Below is a picture of Oktoberfest being celebrated in 1823.

The Bavarian statue has presided over the festival since 1850.

Below are pictures featuring part of the Oktoberfest grounds in 2017.

Two parades take place at today’s Oktoberfest celebrations. The Tent Owners and Breweries Parade, which first marched in 1887, starts in downtown Munich at 10:45 am on opening day, and winds its way toward the Oktoberfest grounds. The Parade is led by the Münchner Kindl, the Munich city mascot, and is followed by the horse cart with the Mayor of Munich. The owners and staff of the tents and breweries come next on horse carts and beer wagons decorated with flowers, interspersed with marching bands.

The lively music was a fun way to get everyone’s spirits up on the rainy opening morning!

I loved the flowers on all the carts and beer wagons, of course.

It was funny watching all the people on the parade floats drinking their morning beers.

Getting up close with the flowered beer wagons.

Since 1950, the festival has always opened the same way. At noon on the opening day (a Saturday), the first keg is officially tapped by the mayor of Munich, followed by a 12-gun salute. No beer can be consumed until the Mayor has tapped that first keg and cried out, “O’zapft is!“, which means “It’s tapped!” in the Austro-Bavarian dialect. Then, the revelry officially begins. I overheard a tour guide say that the tapping is broadcast live on television and, while two attempts to tap a keg are acceptable, a third tapping certainly means the mayor won’t get re-elected. Luckily, this year I think it only took one tap.

There was no way we would have been able to get into the crowded beer tent where the tapping was happening. You can pretend instead that these people are kicking off the event (and this section of my post) by blowing these horns.

Below is the official art of the 2017 Oktoberfest. This year, 6.2 million guests attended and drank 7.5 million litres of beer! (We helped with a few of those).

If you’ll recall, a children’s costume parade took place at the wedding reception in 1810. In 1835, a second parade was held to commemorate the royal couple’s 25th wedding anniversary. Since 1950, the Traditional Costume Parade has been a regular event. It takes place on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest. Marching bands, dancing routines, horse drawn beer wagons, costume clubs, flag bearers, and even a group with a riding whip routine that snapped in the air to the beat of an accordion song, make for a very entertaining spectacle.

I seriously geeked out over the old fashioned bicycles.

Beautiful dresses!

The bikes might have been my favourite part of the parade.

On a side note, don’t go to the Oktoberfest grounds to watch the parades. By the time they get to the grounds, the parade is mostly over, and it starts to disperse. We did that the first day for the Tent Owners and Breweries Parade and almost missed it because we were standing in the wrong spot. For the Traditional Costume Parade we went downtown, and enjoyed it much more. We then followed the parade route to the Oktoberfest grounds.

This guy reminds me of a few Vancouver friends back home.

Instead of candy, people on the parade floats were throwing small gingerbread cookies. Someone came up and gave this police officer one. Then he stood there wondering what to do with it. He made me think of my brother being stuck on parade duty.

Ooops. Totally busted taking his picture.

Pretty flowers!

Now watch me whip. Watch me… (how is it possible that I know how this song goes even though I’ve never listened to it?)

Let’s take a minute to talk about costumes.

Tracht refers to the traditional garments of German-speaking countries, usually Bavaria or Austria. The dirndl (for women) and lederhosen (for men, although I did see a few women rocking them as well!) are the most popular outfits seen at Oktoberfest.

Lederhosen are short, leather breeches. There is a longer version of these pants that come down to the knee, but these are usually called Bundhosen or Kniebundhosen. These leather breeches were once common workwear found across central Europe. Traditional lederhosen are made of tanned deer leather, which makes the fabric soft and light, but strong and extremely tear-resistant. They were very valuable and could last a lifetime, so could even be passed down in families. They were popular for riding, hunting, and other outside activities. Their popularity dropped in the 1800s as they were seen as “uncultured peasant clothing.” However, in the 1880s an interest in preserving traditional rural clothing styles led to their resurgence. Stockings and a classic white or checked shirt complete the outfit, with the optional addition of either a vest or a SENSIBLE! CARDIGAN!

The “sensible cardigan” was my running joke while we were in Munich because it was cold and rainy. I kept encouraging Neil to get one.

A dirndl consists of a bodice, a low-cut blouse with short, puffy sleeves, a full skirt, and an apron. The dirndl originated as a form of dress worn by domestic workers in Austria. “Dirndlgewand” means “maid’s dress.” The Austrian upper class adopted the dirndl as high fashion in the 1870s. The more decorative form of the dirndl appeared in eastern Switzerland in the 1890s and spread throughout southern Germany, as well as other regions, shortly thereafter.

Different styles were worn in different regions, and different clothing materials are used based on different seasons (lightweight cotton in the summer, heavier wool in the winter).

This outfit was my favourite. If we weren’t at the beginning of a year-long trip living out of only a carry-on backpack, I would have definitely bought it. (Note the sensible flower cardigan).

There is a wide range of quality in the outfits that were worn to Oktoberfest. Regular attendees tend to invest in tracht made of better material with more personal touches.

Ladies, stay away from large groups of guys dressed in identical outfits. Unless, of course, that’s what you’re into.

Of course, if you want to get in on the fun, there are lots of opportunities at many different price points – with varying degrees of historical authenticity.

Blue and white are the colours of Bavaria, so you have that!

A flower crown was my self-anointed reward for drinking 1 Litre of beer in an Oktoberfest tent.

I didn’t even notice the jewelled headbands at the bottom at the time!

Merchandise sellers make it easy in the tents to purchase various accessories… after a couple of beers have brought your inhibitions down.

The chicken hat, with motorized dancing chicken legs, definitely increases in attraction as a viable purchase as the day/night wears on.

Oktoberfest is a very family friendly event. A large fair ground and carnival games offer fun for people of all ages. There is delicious food, drink, and treats (chocolate covered everything) to be enjoyed by everybody.

Chocolate covered strawberries. Yes, please!

A 5-loop rollercoaster is best enjoyed before you do any drinking.

This guy kind of looks like Nicolas Cage.

These gingerbread cookies are everywhere. “Ich liebe dich” means “I love you” in German.

Their value is mostly in how pretty they are, just as a word of advice. They don’t taste bad, they just don’t taste as good as you (meaning I) would like.

All right, I hope this post gives you a good overview of what Oktoberfest is like. In the next post, I’ll take you on a tour of the different tents!


Das ist eine guter hund

It’s a rainy day in Munich, which is appropriate because I like to listen to the sound of rain when I’m writing. It’s a good day for Neil and I to stay inside (for a little while, anyway) so he can work and I can do what it is I keep saying I’m going to do (write, blog, edit pictures).

I haven’t finished the Marseille posts yet, but I am jumping a little out of order with this post because I feel inspired today to write about the German language. I hope it doesn’t get too confusing.

We arrived in Munich last Friday. Neil declared that he already loved Germany even as we were still making our way from the airport to our apartment. There’s definitely a shift to be felt as you’re transitioning from France to Germany. The streets are wider and cleaner. There is more green space. There are more people riding bicycles. The climate is cooler (we’re definitely not in the Mediterranean anymore!). Unlike French, the language is consonant heavy, but both languages have their own musicality. German is like the percussive beat of a marching band whereas French is like a swaying lullaby.

Neil and I are both studying the German language and building our vocabulary, even if we’re still a little shy with actually using it to speak with others. In France, I was painfully conscious of how very little French I actually knew. I have a basic grasp of French vocabulary, but I had great difficulty with constructing my own sentences or understanding what others say. If I am given some time (and I also have the patience) I can slowly piece together what is being said or what has been written down, but anything at the speed of actual life exceeds my comprehension.

In Germany, I know even less! I find myself wishing I had even half of the knowledge of German that I do of French. On one hand, it makes me feel better about my French. On the other hand, I have a lot of studying to do.

But it’s exciting! Almost a year ago, I started listening to a podcast called “The History of the English Language.” With this podcast, I am learning about how English is a blend of German, Latin, Norman French, and Old Norse. After the Romans withdrew from Britain in the 5th century, Germanic tribes invaded Britain. The Angles and the Saxons were the most dominant of these tribes, and the language spoken by the blending of these two groups (Anglo-Saxon) is known as Old English. Consequently, Old English is very Germanic. Later invasions by the Norman French and the Vikings would also heavily shape the English language. But those early Germanic influences are at the heart of the language we still speak today. The podcast suggests that one think of the English language as an oak tree. Germanic influences make up the roots and the trunk of that tree. The earliest words that we learn as children (and therefore the most basic, everyday words that we use) have German as its source. The top 25 words used in the English language (I, the, and, a, to, is, have, you, that, he, it, of, in, was, for, on, are, as, they, at, be, from, with, his, this) have Germanic origins. In fact, of the top 200 words that English speakers use, 183 are Germanic. It’s not until number 42 on that list, the French-influenced word “use”, that we encounter a non-Germanic word. So the rest of that oak tree, the branches and the leaves, come from Latin, French, Old Norse, and other languages. These words supplement our basic everyday vocabulary. In fact, English is remarkable for the sheer number of supplementary words that it has absorbed.

So what does that have to do with us being in Germany and learning the language? Well, it’s interesting for me to see some of the discussions I’ve been listening to in the podcast come to life. Also, English and German have a lot of cognates; cognates are words that are the same or similar between languages.

Some examples:



A book I’m studying suggests that if you’re trying to translate a certain English word into German, use the less formal version of that word. It’s highly likely that this more basic version has a German cognate.

For example, to translate the phrase “I consider” into German, think is the less formal version of consider. Denke is German for think. It’s spelled a little differently, but sounds similar, so it’s still considered a cognate. The similarity of cognates make it easier to remember when you’re learning German and trying to beef up your vocabulary.

Interestingly, referring back to the oak tree example of the English language, “comprehend” is a supplementary word that comes from French. It’s a leaf!

It’s nice that Neil and I are on the same level when it comes to learning German. It could be a little disheartening trying to practice my French because it seemed to me like Neil was miles ahead. He was always very kind and patient when trying to help me improve, but we were definitely not at the same skill level. But now with German we can help each other learn at the same pace and practice with each other. Neil is a little obsessed with German, and he’s very excited to learn it. It’s a little fun to see him out of his element (sorry, Neil) because he so rarely seems to be there.

In Europe, you meet a lot of people who know multiple languages. For instance, the flight attendant for our flight from Marseille to Munich gave instructions in French, German, and English. At Oktoberfest, we sat down with a group of Portuguese men who lived in Switzerland. They knew Portuguese, German, French, and English. I think it’s really cool to know more than just your own language and I hope that I can enhance my language skills, even just a little. I’ve heard that learning German is like a stepping-stone into learning Swedish. I would really like to learn some Swedish for when I go to visit my family there!

One thing that is nice about German is that it is very phonetic. French and English have mysterious and vague rules about what letters are pronounced in a word when. German words can be long but they are matter of fact. If the letter is in the word, you pronounce it!

Some words look like English, and some words look like they come from outer space. One thing I do know about the word in the picture below is that you would probably pronounce every single letter.

Spaß mit deutsch!
Fun with German!

(Pronunciation notes: the ß letter indicates a double “s”. Straße (street) is said like strasse. The letter J is pronounced as a Y, so if you’re familiar with my family name, you’ll know why I appreciate that! The letter W is pronounced as a V. The letter F is pronounced as a V).

Das ist eine guter hund.
That is a good dog.
(I looked this phrase up while we were walking through a park and I was falling in love with everybody’s dogs).

Ich liebe dich.
I love you.
(I looked this one up after I looked up the phrase about the dogs, but meant it in reference to Neil. Honestly).

Apfelwein means apple cider. (Apple wine!). Blumen means flower!

Wer bist du? (Who are you?)

Ich bin Leah.
I am Leah.

Ich komme aus Kanada.
I come from Canada. 

Wir reisen für ein Jahr in Europa.
We’re traveling for a year in Europe.

Ich lese gern und schreibe.
I like to read and write.

Ich mache gern Fotos.
I like to take photos.

Ich lerne Deutsche.
I am learning German.

Ich möchte pizza essen und apfelwein trinken.
I like to eat pizza and drink apple cider. 

Warum willst du Deutsch lernen?
Why do you want to learn German?

Ich möchte Deutsch lernen, weil, na ja, es macht spaß!
I would like to learn German because, well, it is fun!

Ich möchte die deutschen historischen Stätten fotografieren.
I would like to photograph the German historic sites.