Munich – Hofbrauhaus

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The second of my Autumn jaunts was to Munich with a group of friends for the world-renowned Oktoberfest. This had been booked and planned many months in advance as tickets for seats in the festival tents sell out pretty much within days of them going on sale. It had all been arranged by my brother (Richard), he’d recruited me and his brother-in-law (Simon), a friend we’d both known since childhood (Duncan), and four friends of mine from RBS – Alan, Martin, Rob and Dave. In terms of Oktoberfest experience, we were a varied group; Richard, Simon and Duncan were our veterans with 15 or so visits between them; my one previous visit 25 years earlier was a fond yet distant and somewhat hazy memory and Alan, Martin, Rob and Dave were our team novices, but all with a heightened and energised keenness to give it their best.

Team Bee-r

Having all checked in to our hotel (Ibis Munich East, modern, clean, friendly, no frills, but none needed) and after introductions over a beer in the lobby, it was time to make our way into town and start the fun. Like many large European cities, and particularly those in Germany, Munich is rich with good, reliable, clean and efficient public transport, comprising bus, tram, train and underground services, all of which co-exist and integrate seamlessly, to the extent that a single ticket can be bought for multiple people, covering multiple days and can be used on any or all of the services. For us it was a tram into the city centre and then a short walk to our location for the evening – the Hofbraubaus.

The Hofbrauhaus was built about 500 years ago and is one of the oldest breweries in Germany and whilst the beer is now brewed in large modern premises on the outskirts of the city, the original building from the 16th century remains open. Its three beer halls and beer garden can seat over 4,000 people making it possibly the largest pub anywhere in the world. The word “seat” is important here, as you can only be served if you are seated as there’s no bar to go up to and you’re not allowed to walk around or stand and drink – unless you’re at a standing table… Now I agree that this may sound harsh and restrictive, but the reality is the opposite as there’s no queue jumping, the risk of bumping into folk/spilling their pint is much reduced and walkways/paths are kept clear so that folk who need to move can do so much more easily.

The ground floor being full, we headed up to the 1st floor beer hall and found enough space at the end of one of the long tables for us all to get seated and got our order for 8 steins in. It wasn’t long before we realised why we’d found the space so quickly, we’d bagged the places nearest the stage where the band was due to resume the evening’s entertainment. When I say band, I don’t mean rock band or jazz band, oh no no no, this is the full-on German oompah band – trombones, clarinet, sax, tuba and accordion etc – and boy can they make some noise. Then, the moment we’d been waiting for, our beers arrived. The evening was about to get messy, ahem, fun.

We had a great night in the Hofbrauhaus, the steins kept coming (a stein is a litre), we sang along with the band (when we knew what was being played, we chatted to all the people around us and joined in with the regular toast:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit,

Gemütlichkeit

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit

Gemütlichkeit

Which loosely translates as

A toast, a toast

To friendship and good times

A toast, a toast

To friendship and good times

Yes, I know, simple stuff, – but let’s be honest, it’s got to be…

After the toast has been sung, everyone takes a large swig from their stein and as this happens roughly every 20 minutes, you soon learn the words and etiquette.

We stayed for about 4 hours before we agreed to call it a night, after all tomorrow was the big day and being in at least reasonable shape for the main event was a priority. Out we all trooped, some felt need for food and others who could hear the siren call for bed, headed straight for taxis back to the hotel.