Munich is a big city, but at Oktoberfest it gets full. My weekend started off badly with a 5 hour train crowded with Swiss getting an early start on Oktoberfest, followed by rain and a city full of drunk tourists. Having the hotel right next to the train station scumminess didn't help.

As an antidote to all this drunken chaos we headed out first to visit Dachau. Germany has done an excellent job grappling with the horror of its recent history. It's worth visiting one of the concentration camp memorials, both to remember the history and to see how contemporary Germany reflects on it. Very bleak.

The next day was still rainy and drunk-full, so we went to the Pinakothek, Munich's art museum complex. We went to the Moderne, but while I generally like contemporary art their collection was tedious. Happily Ken insisted we go to the Alte Pinakothek where I learned about Albrecht Altdorfer, a painter from the same period as Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymous Bosch. Absolutely amazing dense canvases with beautiful control of light combined with phenomenal detail. Visiting the Battle of Alexander alone is worth the trip.

We finally hit the Wies'n on the last day of Oktoberfest, a holiday Monday when most of the non-Germans had gone home. I was afraid of the crowds and drunks, but I hadn't considered the Gemütlichkeit. Bavarians truly are a friendly and welcoming bunch, particularly after everyone's had a couple of beers. If by "couple" you mean "several litres", spaced over a whole day with roast chickens to cushion the blow. My favourite beer: Augustiner Edelstoff.

Oktoberfest is simple. A bunch of giant tents house thousands of people each who sit down, pay 7,10€ for litres of beer, listen to traditional Bavarian music, and sing and chat. This kind of giant drinking party would be a total disaster in the US, but in Germany folks handle themselves well. It was a wonderful day.

Munich is a big and fairly sophisticated city, worth several visits. I'd like to go back in the late spring, when there's beer garden weather and Oktoberfest isn't distorting things. BTW, the traditional greeting in Munich is "Grüss Gott". It means roughly the same thing as "Allahu Akbar".

  2005-10-21 07:27 Z