Our visits from home continued last week with the arrival of Garrett and Kayla. Garrett was Richie’s college roommate, and I knew if anyone would make the trip to Europe to visit us, it would be him. If someone will spend a weekend in the exhausting Dallas heat to help your husband put in a pavestone patio, for nothing more than free beer and a bed to crash in, he’s probably willing to make a much more fun visit to Europe 🙂 Richie and Garrett both have birthdays in October, so it’s been a longtime goal for both of them to make it to Oktoberfest in Munich. With Budapest only a short(ish) train ride away, that goal was easy packed into their visit.
Garrett and Kayla arrived early Sunday morning via the night train from Prague, and since Richie didn’t have to go into work, we set out to conquer Gellert Hill. The hill has a pretty grotesque legend associated with it – Szent Gellert was apparently trying to convert the local pagans in 1046, and they rebelled against him, locked him in a spiky barrel, and rolled him down the hill. Having climbed the hill, I can say with certainty that if they had just pushed him off of it, it would’ve been punishment enough – no spikes required.
At the top of the hill is a liberation monument – in my previous post, I mentioned that all the communist monuments (but one) were removed to Memento Park after the communists were forced out of Hungary. Three of those monuments were located at the top of this hill, and they’ve since been replaced with new, less angst-ridden statues to commemorate the liberation of Budapest from the Nazis.
We wandered around the hill for awhile, trying to catch our breath, and came across this photo from the 1890s. The building shown on the right is our apartment building. It looks EXACTLY the same… except that the “Swift” store has been replaced with a TGI Fridays. (Plus, there are generally not horses outside our front door these days.)
On Monday, while Richie was workin’ hard for the money, I took Garrett and Kayla to see the typical sights in Budapest (the Matthias church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Parliament, St. Istvan’s Bazilika, etc). Tuesday dawned with a downpour that didn’t let up all day, so I introduced them to the awesomeness that is The Princess Bride. Garrett insisted he didn’t like it, but he started quoted it in his sleep later in the week, so I think it’s possible he enjoyed it.
We boarded our train to Munich on Wednesday morning and arrived just in time to meet up with my sister (Jenny) and her husband (Steven) for dinner! Jenny and Steven are going to be our third set of visitors – they are visiting a few cities in Austria before coming to Budapest. It was so wonderful to see them. We all went out to the infamous Hofbrauhaus for dinner, beginning several days of pork, sausage, and potato consumption.
We also began what became a nightly tradition of searching for the best apple strudel in Munich 🙂
Thursday was designated as an Oktoberfest day. The men had declared their intentions to acquire lederhosen, so we spent about 45 minutes that first morning searching for the perfect outfit. This was mostly due to the fact that the majority of the shirts in the store were between size XL and XXXL. We combed the store and found exactly one size small shirt and one size medium, perfect for Richie and Garrett. Kayla and I checked into the women’s outfits (which I have since been informed are called dirndl), but the store we were in was selling less-than-authentic dresses (the majority seemed to have leopard print somewhere on the dress… I can deal with a little inauthenticity, but leopard print? Really?!) so we decided to wait until we could hit up another store. In the meantime, so that I wouldn’t look TOTALLY out of place next to my husband and his hosen, I acquired a hat 🙂
Oktoberfest on Thursday was a lot of fun. We arrived a little after 10 am, just in time to take our pick of seats and order a round before the crowds started pouring in. I’m not normally a beer drinker, and neither is my sister, so we essentially sipped our 1-liter beer order all day long. (The minimum you can order at Oktoberfest is 1 liter! How crazy is that?) The men engaged in a bit of a competition and ultimately tapped out at around 3 liters over about 5 hours. In the meantime, we played cards and MASH (Garrett will apparently be wed to Olivia Wilde and live as a gypsy), ate lots of chicken, sausage, and apple strudel, and listened to people singing drinking songs.
At 3:30, our section of the tent was given over to people who had made reservations, so we decided to walk around the festival grounds a little bit and then head back to the hotel for a nap. Dinner was at Haxnbauer, which is famous for their pork knuckle, so once again the men engaged in a friendly competition to see who could best dominate the massive amount of pork and fat. Garrett was ultimately declared the winner with only a tiny piece left on his plate.
On Friday, we took a day trip with Mike’s Bikes to Neuschwanstein Castle. It basically involved a 2-hour bus ride to the castle area, where we first went up a cable car to the top of a nearby mountain to check out the views:
We then ate a quick lunch and began hiking up to the castle. I’m not joking when I say hike – the guide referred to it as “strenuous at times”, which was quite the understatement. I have a hairline stress fracture in my foot, and I had also just spent several days eating really fatty foods, so I arrived at the top huffing and puffing and cursing my lack of fitness. I have a feeling I’ll be hitting the gym extra hard once my foot heals…
It was absolutely worth it, though, because the waterfalls along the way, the bridge at the top, and the views of the castle were breathtaking!
Sadly, photography wasn’t allowed inside the castle. I did, however, muster up the courage to take some surreptitious video footage of our guide, because wow, this guy was nuts. He reminded me of Todd from Wedding Crashers…. Among other things, he kept randomly pausing to caress his face while speaking. I’ll have to update this with a link because it’s too big to upload, but rest assured, it is not to be missed.
On Saturday, Jen and Steven departed for Salzburg, and Kayla and I decided it was time for a girls’ day. The guys were heading back to Oktoberfest, and since we weren’t sure that we wanted to endure the crowds on basically the last day of the fest, we slept in 🙂 We started off with some coffee and sightseeing in the Marienplatz area. I had read somewhere that the church tower across from the New City Hall is the best place to see the Hall’s glockenspiel performance, and while I couldn’t remember what time the performance was, we figured noon was as good a guess as any. We climbed the tower at 11:45 (I think I did more hiking/climbing in the past week than in the past several months combined!) and set ourselves up right at the center. Luckily for us, the glockenspiel does indeed do its thing at noon, and we caught the whole performance.
We popped into a few churches nearby, and in one of them we were treated to a little choir practice in the church loft. There is really little better than hearing a professional choir in a gorgeously decorated church. The music was so beautiful that it made my heart hurt a little bit – I miss singing. Sigh. But what makes a girl instantly feel better? Shopping, of course! We found a store that sold much more authentic dresses (no leopard print in sight) and started the arduous process of getting an outfit put together. At one point, I had to step out of the dressing room to ask a woman for assistance, and before I could even say “Am I doing this right?” she stuck her hands inside the dress and started re-arranging it. Apparently I had not, in fact, done it right. I had no idea how I would possibly put it together again once I took it off, and when I mentioned that to the woman, she said “Just wear it right out of the store!” Okay, then. I stuffed my normal clothes into a bag and walked around the rest of the day wearing the dirndl.
Kayla hadn’t found “the one” like I had, so we stopped at a few more shops on our way to meet up with the gentlemen. Sadly, none of them were just right, so we decided to head to Oktoberfest to see how Saturday stacked up to Thursday. I had an idea, based on the texts I was receiving from Richie, that it was going to be a bit more than we could handle. I was definitely right. For those reading this with a delicate stomach, turn away now – and don’t go to Oktoberfest on a weekend! I have never seen so many people passed out, puking, or peeing in public (some of them doing all three at once, impressively). The three Ps of Oktoberfest, apparently. Some people were so out of it that strangers were posing with them for photos, moving their arms and legs about into various positions without ever coming out of their beer coma. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Oh, watch out for that pile of …” as we were walking (or, eventually, just a chorus of “EWWWWWWWW” that led me to cross the street quickly). Needless to say, Oktoberfest Saturday was not the scene that either Kayla or I wanted to endure, so we opted to meet the guys at the hotel.
Despite the grossness of Saturday, we had a fantastic time in Munich, and I am absolutely up for going back next year. I kind of have to, now that I have this dress, right? I will just make sure to stay far, far away on Saturdays 😉 Richie and Garrett have already pledged to return, so if anyone has an Oktoberfest line on their bucket list, it would be SO fun to get a large group together for next fall! Let us know if you want to join.
Here’s a link to all the photos I posted on Facebook from our Munich trip – I think you should be able to see it even if you don’t have a Facebook account, but let me know if that’s not the case.