I arrived at the Gray Line Tours gathering spot opposite Hauptbahnhof, Munich’s central train station on a dull February morning in plenty of time to get nice and cold before the bus arrived. With my ticket in hand for the trip to Neuschwanstein Castle I joined the already long line of travelers. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 8:30am and at 8:45am I grumbled to the couple from Baltimore in front of me “So much for German efficiency!” By 9am our unhappy group decided to disband and we headed on mass to the Tourist Information Center located next to Munich’s ultra modern train station. “Ah, the castle is closed today for our pre Lent celebrations –“Fasching” we were told. Before scattering to the four corners of Munich my new bus lineup friends and I made plans to meet up later that evening to help the Germans in their celebrations at Munich’s oldest and most famous Beer Hall, the Hofbräuhaus. I love how life balances out sometimes – a destination disappointment on one hand and a new group of friends to drink beer with on the other hand. A pretty good trade off, I thought, as I headed out to explore Munich and join in the Fasching festivities.
Like Mardi Gras, Munich’s population dresses to impress for the occasion, on ‘Fat Tuesday’ the city’s central square, Marienplatz, is full of people sporting blue, green, neon yellow hair and outlandish costumes to match. The volume slowly increases as the crowds get larger and the partying begins in earnest. Bands pop up on giant stages all along central Munich, everyone’s having a good time dancing, drinking and singing, personal space is nonexistent. After a few hours I was covered in confetti and had decided that I didn’t want to see another pastry for a very long time. Oh, did I forget to mention the donuts, the crepes, the chocolate buns, the hundreds of food stalls all calling my name, taunting me with their cocoa smells and sugary sweetness?
I had heard that the place to be at 11am was Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s central food market, for the dance of the Marktfrau (marketwomen) but being directionally challenged I didn’t find the market until 4pm even though it’s just around the corner from Mareienplatz. By that time the Viktualienmarkt was stuffed like a German sausage with party goers and I decided it was time to head back to my hotel and relax a bit before heading out to meet my new found friends at the Hofbräuhaus.
While in Munich I stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in Westpark. The hotel is easy to get to on Munich’s U-bahn urban rail system, it’s only a short distance from the center of town on the U4 or U5 line (two stops) and is perfect for a woman traveling on her own with the subway exit maybe 10 feet away from the front lobby of the hotel. Cold and tired, I headed straight for my room and a hot bath. I loved the soaker tub at the Sheraton and would really have liked to take one home with me but decided that it wouldn’t be accepted as carryon on my flight back home. Refreshed, and with the confetti on the floor instead of me, I headed over to the Club section of the Sheraton. Silly Sheraton had decided to allow me access to this member’s only area of the hotel. During my two day stay I sampled all the salads, sandwiches and pastries made available in the Lounge area. I was also very excited to find that wine and beer were also available in the Club Lounge and must admit that I took full advantage of that fact. It’s a good thing that the hotel is located right next to one of Munich’s large urban parks – Westpark with its extensive jogging and walking trails! If you stay at this Sheraton hotel be sure to visit the Wellantis Spa, with onsite massages, facials, a solarium, whirlpool, and pool, this is the place for serious relaxing and pampering for women travelers. After a couple of relaxing hours at the hotel, well fed and rested I tore myself away and headed out into the evening.
I met up again with my Gray Line buddies and after strolling through much of downtown Munich in our efforts to locate Munich’s most famous beer hall, via the ‘follow the IPhone method of directions’, we were hit with a wall of noise – we had arrived. The Hofbräuhaus has existed since 1644 and delivers the goods – copious amounts of beer, heavy German food, plenty of photo ops for tourists, oom-pah-pah music, and Lederhosen. The place was packed and we joined in the revelry. If you’re expecting fine dining and attentive waiters this is not the place for you. To truly enjoy this place you’ve got to be able to go with its strengths, which is beer and plenty of it. The Hofbräuhaus is a rough and ready beer drinking establishment and it’s the best of its class in the world. We secured a table after searching through the cavernous hall and settled down to business – beer and pretzels were quickly ordered and delivered – a perfect German meal!
If you’re ever at the Hofbräuhaus you’ll notice that things start to get exciting and time begins to blur when the band plays this song:
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus: Eins, zwei, … g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus: Eins, zwei, … g’suffa!
Da hat so manche braver Mann: Eins, zwei, … g’suffa!
Gezeigt was er so vertragen kann
Schon früh am Morgen fing er an
Und spät am Abend kam er heraus
So schön ist’s im Hofbräuhaus.
A loose translation in English is:
In Munich stands a Hofbräuhaus: one, two … cheers!
There run out so many steins: one, two … cheers!
There are so many brave men: one, two … cheers!
Show what he can endure
Already early in the morning he begins
And late at night he comes out
So beautiful it is in the Hofbräuhaus!
Everyone in the beer hall joins in on the chorus and on the words “Eins” and “Zwei’ hundreds of the huge 1 liter beer steins are hoisted through out the hall and clinked with their partners at the tables. On the word g’suffa everyone takes a big swig of beer. This chorus is repeated 4 times in the 4-minute song. A word of warning, after a few renditions of this song, check that all nearby cameras have been put away to ensure that no incriminating photos can be taken!
I’ve had an incredible time on my three week European trip from a football invasion at my hotel in Warsaw to a crazy pub crawl in Krakow, falling in love with Prague and now this – the party of parties in Munich. How will I be able to return to normal life back home? And when is my next trip to Europe?
* Accommodations provided by Sheraton Hotels and transportation by RailEurope.