Munich Oktoberfest September 19, 2016

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016 3:54 AM

Guten tag from München!

I left my hotel at Brühl/Phantasialand right on time. Everyone there told me Munich was a 4 hour drive, so I timed my trip to meet up with my group around the time they should be at the hotel. When I got in the car Maps told me 5 hours. Uh oh.
Driving from the Netherlands to Munich was a pleasant trip, even though it wound up being about 5.5 hours. The autobahn in Germany has posted speed limits, but they're more like a suggestion. Turns out nobody cares how fast you or anybody else drives. I'd occasionally look down to see I was driving 150, 170 kph then look in my rear view to see someone whiz by at what had to be twice the speed. Jeezy! I'm in a Fiat 500 and the rubber bands can only whir so fast. But with some construction delays I finally made it.

Munich is a beautiful city, and so full of history I'd forgotten. A lot of WWII played out here, and it's where the madness started. Our tour guide spoke a lot about Hitler, his regime, and events that took place around the city. He also took us to the BMW headquarters, (amazing place, car lovers) Olympic park, and old town. And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that in spite of the wonderful tours, the great food, and the amazing scenery, I was about to bust in anticipation of our trip to the famed Oktoberfest.

I've spoken frequently about my bucket list, and this little item has been sitting at the top for most of my adult life. I somehow have carnival blood in me, and I always viewed it as my personal nirvana. I like beer and food well enough, God knows, but there's more rides there than you can shake a stick at. And the big s**t, too, with not a crappy Scrambler or Tilt a Whirl in sight.

We were blessed with reservations in a beer tent, Paulaner, for 5:30, so sometime in the afternoon we all headed out. I should mention we bought the appropriate gear with the men in authentic lederhosen and the gals in dirndles and I'll say we all looked very Bavarian. We also had our umbrellas.

Did I say it poured rain the entire time we were in Munich? Yessss, as luck would have it. I was worried to death- would rides be closed? Would my anticipation turn to disappointment? (Or in my case, straight up grief?)
We alit from the taxi and my heart was pounding for the three block walk to the grounds. Finally ahead I could see the enormous ferris wheel and a few other high rides flipping through the air and I was relieved of my fears.
Admission is free, and security was tight as you can imagine. Police were everywhere at the gates, scrutinizing incomers. Only small bags, purses, etc are allowed and searches were performed. I was ok with that, and there was no delay whatsoever.

And there it was in front of me. I broke away from the group and did a personal walking tour of the midways- several city blocks worth of rides and food laid out in several rows. It was the largest traveling show I've ever seen and it puts our state fair midways to shame. Huge European flats, many of which we don't see here in the states. Enormous, elaborate fun houses and dark rides that we for sure don't see here. And coasters? Holy crap. The world's largest portable rides were all gathered in one place for me. Olympia Loop, Alpina Bahn, and Höllenblitz are the big ones, and there are other smaller ones as well.
And actually, this year's Oktoberfest is a reduced version due to an international agricultural exhibition that comes along every few years or so to share the platz, but I wouldn't know the difference. It was massive enough for me and I couldn't imagine more.

We all met back up in front of our beer hall and settled in for dinner, music, and beer. Oktoberfest is actually a beer festival, celebrating Germany's national drink and heritage. Each brewery, large and small, hosts a beer "tent" with a non-stop party in each one. And the term "tent" is laughable. The structures are enormous, elaborate beer halls designed to hold thousands. And each one is built from the ground up and torn down again after the three week run is over. The facades of these tents are beautiful, with towers, turrets, flowers, signage, and mechanical figures. It's mind boggling.
Service in these places is a well-oiled machine- the fraulines and herren bring the beer in 2 litre glass steins by the dozen, and delivery is a practiced art. The food is incredible, too. When you go, get the chicken. No, the pork. Anyway, it's all delicious.

Ok, on to the rides.
A few in our group decided to leave the table for a while and join me for some rides, something they would usually not consider. (Whaaaat?) Even though I prayed really hard, rain was still present but had reduced to a drizzle.
Our first stop was Sky Fall, the world's largest portable drop tower at least 250 feet tall, maybe even 300. We were all antsy in line, a couple of them has never been on a ride like that and I was just plain nervous. Once we were seated the revolving vehicle made it's slow climb to the top, stopping every once in a while then after a few revolutions continuing. It really built the suspense and provided spectacular views of the city. At the very top the ride paused for another minute, then finally- drop! It was every bit as thrilling as what you might find in a theme park anywhere.

I took them on Toboggan, an old fashioned spiral slide where riders jump on a fast moving conveyor belt to get to the top. I've seen similar rides years ago in the states, they're usually known as Cakewalk. It's a real spectator attraction, as a crowd always gathers to watch the pratfalls as drunks struggle with the belt. It's hilarious, and I'm proud to say my attempt didn't disappoint the crowd. Even though I thought I knew what I was doing, I fell on my ass so hard, spun completely around, and rode to the top on my back like a beached whale. All I could hear was laughter, which drowned out my screams and groans. I'm sure I'm on a video somewhere....

After that the group asked me to take them on a coaster, so we headed to Olympia Looping. I'm sure you've all heard of this famous, monstrous Schwartzkopf creation so you know. It's huge and the trains just rocket around the course. We sat toward the back of the train, and when we left the station the rain was coming down pretty good. Damn. But the ride was one of the best loopers I've ever ridden, the loops were near grey out experiences, the swooping drops were sudden, and it was fast right up to the final brake run. And the extra thrilling thing for me was that I finally got to experience a coaster that I had only read, watched, and dreamed about. I was in heaven.

After that we rode Parkour, a huge flat ride. It's similar in motion to our Monster ride, or more like a Polyp, but the seats are suspended. I've always wanted to try it, but it turned out to be more of a torture device than anything. Unlike what we know, rides in Europe have long cycles, and I'm talking at least four minutes, sometimes six. Yikes! And they should, as they can cost anywhere between 4 and 7.50€. Coasters were around 9€ , so it ain't cheap.

We were soaked and my non-enthusiast friends headed back to the party and the beer. I said "f-it, I can get a beer at home" so off I went for more.
I tried Alpina Bahn, another Schwartzkopf creation owned by Oscar Bruch. It was large, but had no inversions. After Olympia Looping it seemed tame.
Another really interesting coaster was Höllenblitz, the world's largest portable indoor coaster. It debuted years ago as Space World, but has since been re-themed and renamed. It has a long train with many 2 seater cars that spin. It was fun, (and dry...) and I got a couple of good, hard spins. Effects inside were minimal, as one might expect- some lasers, spot lights, smoke, and strobes. I enjoyed it a lot, and if it hadn't been for the cost would have gone again.

After that I returned to the tent and our table of merry makers who were well on their way. I had some catching up to do. And I would have made more of the ride side if it hadn't been such crappy weather. There were plenty of other flats and unique fun houses I would have tried, but really, it's all good. Maybe if I'm ever blessed with a return trip I can do more, but for now I'm well satisfied.

Beer tents close promptly at 11 so it was finally time to go. The drunken crowd had spilled onto the midways, the rain had all but stopped. Jim and I took our final ride on the enormous Ferris wheel for a beautiful view of the lights of Oktoberfest and the antiquities of Munich from above.
I am so grateful that one of my lifelong dreams finally came true.

Next stop: Europa!
You know the Cedar Point fans are pissed off that Europa took the prize again. Whatever. But never fear, I'll go there myself, make the determination, and will let everyone know.

See ya soon!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:02 AM

Is there anything better than drinking a beer and eating a pretzel in Bavaria?

I haven't experienced Oktoberfest but am glad to hear one can experience it without the drunken madness it is often described as. I need to get back to Germany; thanks for the inspiration. Prost.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:34 AM

Nice report. For as much as I love parks, I never even think about riding the carnival rides if I am at a fair here the US. That said, I have always been interested in this event, as those Schwarzkopf coasters alone seem to be worth the trip - let alone all the German food and drink!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016 11:22 AM

Um... For the record I was eventually part of the drunken madness. I suppose it's possible to not be.
Like I always say, when in Rome....

Oh, and to the gentlemen. If you plan on wearing real leather lederhosen, practice with them at home and loosen up those button holes. It will benefit you greatly come pee-pee time, trust me. Which will be frequently.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:48 PM

I've always wanted to go to Oktoberfest. Now I have questions.

Does everything close at 11, or just the beer tents?

You mentioned reservations at the Paulaner tent. I've heard that if you're not there early, or do not have reservations that it's very hard to get in to a tent. Did you find this to be the case? Can you go in and out (giggity) once you've had your reservation, or do you give up your place once you leave?

Any way to do a "tent hopping" pass?

Are there convenient places to stay in relation to the area? I imagine it's fairly busy. Are you relegated to staying in the outskirts and taking a taxi if you don't plan way ahead?

The only German I know is from watching Hogan's Heroes. Is that sufficient for survival?

Sounds like a great trip. Have fun!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016 12:34 PM

I have answers, so I'll be glad to help.

Like I said, we were blessed to have a reservation. I hear they can be more than a year out. Which is amazing considering how many millions of people they entertain in that three weeks.
I mentioned somewhere back that I'm a tag-along on a tour, and two of our members have family in Germany with connections. So it worked out for us with much shorter notice.

And I've heard without one you can do this:
There's two seatings, we were in the 5:30-11 group. If you show up bright and early for the 1st one and look pitiful and ask nicely maybe they will find you a spot, even with someone else. But when your time is up you have to go.
Once you're in you have to stay, even just one person to hold the table. You get a wristband to get into your section and you have to show it to get back to your table.
Now, having said that, all of the beer tents are open to all. You can roam the aisles, you can purchase souvenirs and things to eat, and you can use the bathroom. You just can't sit. Security is heavy, they check everyone, and they don't put up with shenanigans. I saw a lot of guys get tossed out.
As another last resort, there are outdoor small beer gartens that people can use too. But you don't get the atmosphere, you don't get the music, and I think it would be kind of a drag.

There is no tent-hopping pass, but you're cute for asking. Truthfully, they are all about the same. And once you are in one it's fun and you don't want to leave. If you want to check out the others you can do so, like I said, but there won't be any table for you there. I stopped into several and took pictures, the interior is decorated and they are all fun to see. The beer is really strong. I think I had a total of four or 5 litres and I was hammered. So staying put has its advantages.

As for accommodations, no, there is nothing close. It's in the city. I've heard that many of the people that live around the area move out for the time. There may be an Air B&B situation, and that may be worth looking into, but once again it's probably well in advance. We stayed at a holiday inn a few miles away from the grounds. From most places it's an easy Uber or train ride to get to Oktoberfest. We were too far to walk. I liked our hotel because there were a lot of English-speaking guests there and it was easy to strike up a conversation. There was also a big time in the lobby bar, which was quite large, each night.

As for the rides, they are expensive. The lowest I saw for a small flat or a fun house was 4€. Olympia Looping was 9.5. Sky Fall was 7. When we left the tent at 11, the rides were still open. It was raining so we went on the large Ferris wheel and got the hell out of there. (Did I say we were hammered?) I don't know how late the rides run, but the rule is NO one on the grounds between 1:30 AM and 6 AM each night. So my guess is if there's money to be made, they stay open.

So put it on your bucket list, too! Maybe you'll have good fortune to be able to go like I finally did. It's well worth it.

Oh, language. About half the people I've come across here in Germany can speak at least some English. The Netherlands was much better, everyone spoke English there. But I stuggled along with my few phrases and everyone was very nice and polite about trying to help us. You can ask for an English menu at Oktoberfest, but the hard thing for me is that every single thing you come across is written in German. So it's hard to know what to do for trains and stuff like that. But we got along and we're all still alive.

Last edited by RCMAC, Wednesday, September 21, 2016 12:37 PM
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016 8:59 PM

I really want to go now.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016 11:02 PM

Sounds like a great place for American teenagers! (For those that don't know, Germany's legal drinking age is 16)

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Thursday, September 22, 2016 1:04 PM

Hey, I am in Munich all week! We went to the fest on Sunday, and it was a great time. Was too busy drinking at the Braurosl tent to hit any rides that day, but I knew I'd have time to get back later. I, too, have always wanted to ride Olympia Looping and now I have! I'd say that spending a little more time here helps out with the language issues, and most people I've encountered spoke some english and I speak a tiny bit of german (Ein Maß, bitte!). Glad you enjoyed it despite the rain. :)

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Thursday, September 22, 2016 9:34 PM

kpjb said:

I really want to go now.

Me too. Definitely two coasters I've been wanting forever in Alpina Bahn and Olympia Looping...

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Friday, September 23, 2016 7:06 PM

What a small world... I was at Oktoberfest in Munich the last 3 days, and it was amazing! The beer is great, the women are beautiful, and there are quite the collection of rides. I only forked over the money for Olympia Looping, but it was indeed a great, great looper. I'm amazed that all of this stuff gets put together for a 3-week festival. It's definitely worth the trip, should you be considering going. But if you don't have a reservation for a tent, make sure you get there early to secure a spot at a table, and also make sure you're in a tent for the evening. It's a party like no other.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016 9:34 AM

I'd pay good money for that video after the description.

Loving your play by play of this whole trip. Makes me want to go to Europe. Keep em coming.

Last edited by TheAcrophobicEnthusiast, Sunday, September 25, 2016 9:35 AM
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Sunday, September 25, 2016 10:35 AM

As it turns out there IS a video one of my buddies shot from the top of that conveyor belt. It's embarrassing but hilarious. (I tend to be a little self-deprecating anyway, so whatever.)
If I can figure out how to post it here I will. And since you're willing to pay that will be after I open my Go Fund Me account.

Thanks for the good words, my last extensive chapter is posted, finally. It took two days because the wifi in most of the places I went completely sucked so my Internet usage was limited. I already have a huge bill to pay on this phone just from every day piddly stuff, Maps, etc. Ugh.

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Monday, September 26, 2016 3:43 AM

Great TR again RCMAC! I don't drink, so the tents are of no interest to me, but the rides sound like a blast.

You were quite lucky to catch Olympia Looping at the Oktoberfest as its owner is starting to slowly retire her from the fair circuit. She spent the summer in Vienna at the Prater and after Oktoberfest, she will spend the month of December in London, UK. Next summer? Who knows.

For those who love Schwarzkopf rides, might I also suggest a trip south of the border? La Feria de Chapultepec in Mexico City is home to two: El Cascabel, the ex Laser Loop from Kennywood (Flywheel Shuttle Loop) and the incredible Dreier Looping, here called Montana Triple Loop. What it is is the older "cousin" of Olympia Looping, with 3 powerful loops and operated all out at La Feria. Schwarzkopf had originally designed a mid course lift hill to slow things down and keep the G's down in the second half. Guess what La Feria did? Removed the tires on that lift hill, allowing the ride to run all out and with no shoulder restraints.

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