August: The Munich adventure begins

Munich is gearing up for the biggest piss-up, I mean Beer Festival in the world. Still a month to go yet they've already been working there for weeks and are flat building a town within the city for the festivities.

First Impressions

Touch down in Munich mid-afternoon after a pretty good journey. Liverpool Street, Stansted Express, no queue at check-in and only 10 minutes to get through security leaving me plenty of time for breakfast at Wetherspoons. Had the sausage sandwich, I figured it would be the last time I'll get a decent sausage from here on in I'll be on the wurst. Flight half an hour delayed which isn't bad for Stansted but by quarter to three German time I'm at baggage return. So much for German efficiency, half an hour to get our bags.

40 minutes plus another 20 minutes walk and I'm in my hotel. Unpacked and crashed out, totally knackered. Too many late nights packing and DIYing and too many early mornings working (which I'm not used to) add in a long day's travelling which is always tiring. I check out the TV, some good news and some bad news. Absolutely no English language channels, but I have got the Sports, Films and 'Erotic' subscription channels for free!

In the evening headed into the Altstadt for a look around. Just a very touristy bit, reminded me of Amsterdam around Dam Square. Soon it started raining so I ducked into the Augustinerbräu a massive beer hall. A couple of light beers, a dark beer and a big plate of pork, chicken and potato dumpling and I'm feeling a lot better and ready for as a bit of 'Subscription TV' and bed. A rerun of Fulham beating Arsenal on the sports channel, not what you're thinking!

My first impressions of the Germans from people watching in the Beer Hall. Germans having fun are funny. they just doesn't seem natural somehow. German stag nights are as loud and drunken as any in the UK and judging by how it looked at 9pm they can get very messy. They certainly like their beer and their meat.

A look around town

My first big explore of Munich and it's fantastic. The fact that the weather was great helped but I'm really impressed. It's a chocolate box village on a very big scale. I walked around Munich for about 7 hours today and not once did I see a dirty, scruffy or run down area. It's just mile after mile of beautiful old buildings wide avenues and open green spaces. Not a lot of cars or people, well not compared to London anyway. It feels so uncrowded. Add to that the fact that it's so clean. No rubbish, no graffiti, the buildings are clean, the roads are clean. There are no high-rise buildings and I think I only saw one crane all day whereas in London you can always see at least 5 wherever you are. If only they gave up on the stupid idea of having their own language and spoke English it'd be a perfect city.

There's always a fly in the ointment, for me in Munich it's going to be work, it really gets in the way of all the beer drinking and pork eating. I'm working for Allianz Corporate and Speciality on some of their systems migration projects. I'm working on mainly German systems converting onto the core Genius Insurance Admin System. Thought I'd better write write that so that if anyone asks my Mum what I'm doing she'll have an answer ;-)

It's a bit strange working in small 4 person offices rather than open-plan. In fact this week it's only me in my room as the other Business Analysts are working from the London office. The other strange thing is using a German keyboard. The 'Y' and the 'Z' keys are swapped and all the punctuation characters are moved around to make space for the Ä, Ö, Ü and ß keys.

This week I've been busy flat hunting, saw a few and I've taken one, I move in 1st September. The most important thing when looking for a flat was getting a south facing balcony on a floor high enough to be able to put up a satellite dish. I'd never settle if I couldn't get a bit of Eastenders every week. The flat's in a decent area and close to the Theresienstraße U-Bahn (tube). I think I mentioned before the U-Bahn is good but my commute is great and something you'd never get in London. I'll be taking the U2 to Innsbrucker Ring and then changing onto the U5 to Neuperlauch Zentrum where the office is. But at Innsbrucker Ring the tubes coincide in both directions so you never have to wait. Every time I've been through there so far the trains have arrived no more than 5 seconds apart. Very organised, very German.

Friday my first big night out in a Beer Garden, the Augustiner Keller near Hackerbrücke. A fun night with some guys from ToyTown a Munich ex-pats group. Started early went on late and we were drinking Maß (steins). Suffice it to say Saturday I had my first Munich hangover. I spent the weekend exploring Munich some more, again with perfect weather. Everyone says it rains here a lot and that you should always carry an umbrella but so far it's been not stop sun shine. Munich is great when the sun is out. With wide streets and all the bars and restaurants spilling out on to the pavements it feels a lot more friendly and inclusive than London. It definitely earns its nickname of the 'Biggest Village in Germany'.

Sunday, I've held out for more than a week but today I succumbed and hit the Irish Bar, Villa v Liverpool was too much to resist, pity the game was so bad. When I say Irish Bar it's actually a half Irish, half Australian Bar. They share outside space and the downstairs cellar bars have been knocked through. Most importantly they show a lot of sport and serve cider at a reasonable price. Today the Killean's was showing the Gaelic Football and Ned's the Liverpool game.

On the left is the Neues Rathaus, built around the turn of the last century in Neo-Gothic style so my guide book says. At 11am and 12 each day the Glockenspiel pays with little figures dancing and playing, very Alpine!

Weather update: 1st September - It's raining!

September 2008

Wandering around Munich

Munich is great for wandering around. There is very little traffic and each time you turn a corner there's something of interest, cobbled streets, quiet squares, beautiful buildings or yet another beer hall. I've been really lucky and had great weather for my first few weeks here a welcome relief after the terrible summer in London.

I can see the weather dominating my blog. This week it's been 25 degrees and sunny all week. But the weather here turns quickly, Saturday 14 degrees, Sunday 7 degrees and Monday 6 degrees. I can't believe it's winter here already! Was talking to a guy last night he says that it's common in January to have days where the maximum temperature is -10. They often get a foot of snow and 3 years ago they had 5 feet of snow in one 24 hour period. The last two winters have been mild so they're due another cold one ;-(

Now it's the middle of September and I've put the heating on!

Neues Rathaus on Marienplatz

The domes of Frauenkirche probably the most famous landmarks

Am Platz one of Munich's many squares with seating outside all the bars and restaurants; the Hofbräuhaus in the foreground

Augustinerbräu; Munich's wide streets with plenty of space outside, a great place for people watching

The beer garden of the Hofbräuhaus, Munch's most famous beer hall; it's full of tourists and locals drinking to the sounds of the brass band


The Oktoberfest is here. 16 days celebrating the Beers of Munich. It all starts with a parade to the Oktoberfest grounds. Each tent (12 in all) parades through town with a cart full of beers barrels accompanied by a marching brass band. It's quite a spectacle with everyone dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls, but it has a home made, fun feel to it. More Bideford carnival than Rio!

Video of the Oktoberfest opening parade

Sunday 21st - A day in the Schottenhamel Festhale

Never been to the Oktoberfest before so I decided to break my duck in style. Down to the grounds at 8am to meet up with 50 other Toytowners for a day of Beer, Chicken and Brass Band music. At 9am we rushed in and claimed 6 of the unreserved tables and settled in for the day. Steins all round and off we go. In fact they only serve steins and only beer which is 6%, 1% more than usual and water. One girl on our table asked for a Radler (shandy) and was told they only serve lemonade in the beer garden!

The whole experience felt just like going to The Church in London. Turn up early and queue early on a Sunday morning. Get in and there's a couple of hours of drinking time before the band come on and the place comes alive. The Schottenhamel tent is a very tradition tent so pretty much all the music was traditional Bavarian which all the Germans seemed to lap up, singing along, smashing their steins together, sloshing the beer over each other.

In the tent things were far more chaotic than I expected. I'd always heard that in order to get served in a tent you have to be seated at a table. That only holds true in its very loosest sense. The tent is split into reserved and unreserved tables. The unreserved tables soon turn into a mass of people standing on the benches around the tables. Far from needing to be at a table to get served if you're in the tent without a beer you're basically told to buy one or get out! Responsible drinking is positively frowned on. Marvellous!

Tuesday 23rd - An evening in the Winzerer Fähndl

After work Paul, Dak and I headed down to the Oktoberfest. After a bit of a wander in and out of a couple of very busy tents we ended up having a stein at the Augustiner-Festhalle outside in the beer garden. We chose the Augustiner because it's generally considered the best tasting beer and I agree. Time to get into a tent and join in the mayhem. We decided to try the Winzerer Fähndl which is described as one of the more 'cosy' tents. Cosy my ass! Officially room for 8450 inside, must've been over 10000, which all the table and walk ways full of people drinking and singing along to the band. The band were great, part brass, part rock band with drums and electric guitar and playing cover songs all night. Country Roads, Sweet Home Alabama, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, fantastic ...

But the night didn't quite end there. Later on a guy climbed up onto our table fell into our group and I went flying. Stuck out my arm to break my fall, smashed my wrist into the lip of a stein with the full force of my weight behind it. The glass didn't break but my skin did. Massive gash across my wrist. Anyway straight to first-aid, who sent me off to hospital. Thankfully no bones, tendons or arteries broken. Some serious needle work and off home with a drinking injury and I'm sure a decent scar to remember the Oktoberfest by! Oh and I've lost all feeling in the outside half of my little finger. Doctor said it's nerve damage, it should repair itself in time, hopefully.

Those big white roofs are on the Festhalle (Beer Tents) each one holds between 5000 and 8000 people. This is a BIG event.

The fair ground at the Oktoberfest. These photos are taken from the Big Wheel the only ride that I'll go on! The ride at the end you sit in a seat like a swing in the park and it goes up and up and round and round quite quick. Not for the faint hearted.

Sunday 28th - Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Zugspitze

Munich is just too busy during the Oktoberfest and on the middle weekend it's manic, the sun was out and so were the crowds. I popped down on Saturday afternoon but didn't stay long. Far too many people, no chance of getting into a tent. I headed back to Ned Kelly's for some Magners and Premiership football. German beer is supposed to be the best in the world but it's not half as good as cider. Football was great too, watched the Arsenal Hull game with Paul from work who's a Gooner. I wonder what the German for 'Schadenfreude' is.

The weather was great so I decided to make the most of it and got out of Munich for the day and headed down to The Alps. 90 minutes by train and I'm in Garmisch. I'd forgotten how big and majestic The Alps are. I took the cog-wheel train through Eibsee to Sonn Alpin and then the cable car to the 'Top of Germany' Zugspitze. The weather was perfect and I could see for miles, the mountains going on and on in one direction and the valleys and forested hills in the other.

At the top I crossed into Austrian Tirol for a few minutes before returning to The Free State of Bavaria. I love the way they always call themselves 'The Free State of ...'

October 08: After the Fest