Oberammergau - Munich
Day 8 - Friday, September 23, 2005 Cont'd...
Our next stop on the way to Munich was Oberammergau, the Passion Play village. I had to admit, I'd never heard of the Passion Play before, though many of our group seemed to know exactly what Noel was talking about. Noel explained it for the rest of us. During one of the plagues, this village was one of its victims. The villagers prayed to God and swore that if He spared them, they would enact a play about the Passion of the Christ.
Well, although the village wasn't completely spared, there were survivors, and those survivors kept their word. Now every ten years the villagers put on the play which lasts a full day.
The village also has beautifully painted houses, like the one below.
Or this one here.
We first get a driving tour around the little village, which seems a little silly since the village is so small. But the theater is pointed out to us. The theater, though it has walls, it's roof is only big enough to shelter the audience, so the actors are at the mercy of the weather and may have to perform in the rain!
Again, here is another painted house, but this time with the ever present flowers on the balconies.
While we're there, we stop at a gift shop to try and find some souvenirs to bring back as gifts. In this particular shop one can watch an artist painting Hammel figurines while you watch. We also stop at another little store to get some ice cream.
It was a nice little stop along the way, but now we get comfortable on the bus as it proceeds to take us right to Munich and the Oktoberfest.
As we arrive in the city we can tell that this is a much more industrialized place than the others we'd seen. Also bigger than most of the other cities and a big contrast compared to the small villages we'd been visiting the past few days. We drive in along the highway, on the left we see a big BMW building, a column shaped thing with cars in the windows all around it and spiraling upwards.
As we get into the city, one can already see the signs of the Oktoberfest. A team of big draft horses pulling kegs of beer up the road. I managed to grab a picture out the window as they go by.
We have reservations at one of the beer halls for 5 o'clock and we arrive with plenty of time. For the first time, Noel rummages around in the luggage rack for something, an umbrella, which he then holds up in the air so we can follow him around in the crowds. Made us kind of feel like Japanese tourists, since they always had some kind of tall object that the tour guide would hold up for the people to follow along. But it was a good thing he took the umbrella since the place was absolutely packed that Friday evening. The whole place was a bit bewildering, I'm not a fan of huge crowds, especially when some of them are drunk.
We get to the beer hall, a temporary structure that gets set up and taken down each year, Noel goes inside to see if everything is in order. Turns out we had this opportunity because he actually knew someone involved in running the hall. This guy probably knows everyone, he's that kind of person. See, most people have to wait in long lines to get into one of these halls, and even then you may not get in. Very popular places, and pretty darn expensive at 50 euros a person. At least we got a meal out of it.
We were actually kind of reluctant to go, we knew it would be a kind of insane place, but it seemed that most of our group was really enthusiastic about it, that a lot of them actually picked this particular tour because the timing would bring us in Munich in time to check out the beer. In the end, everyone went, and I figured that I'd at least be able to claim that I'd been there, done that.
Here's a view of the inside of the place, behind where I was sitting:
And a view of the band, that was also behind me and to my right:
I suppose you expect that they played German drinking songs right? Umm, not exactly. American culture has infiltrated the world-over, including Munich, so were serenaded with "West Virgina" and other country classics. It was a little weird.
Though not as weird as the lady sitting next to me. A member of our tour group, she was a kind of loud mouth (every tour has one). Anyway, we all cram onto these long benches, at least 10 people on a bench (heaven forbid someone in the middle has to use the washroom!). We had just been served our roast chicken dinner when the band starts playing a song that lady decides she really likes. Next thing I know, she's trying to get us to sway to the music, fine-and-dandy so long as you're not trying to eat at the same time. And there wasn't room for her to sway without smashing (quite hard I may add) into the people sitting next to her. I got pretty annoyed after a while. And you can't blame the beer either, we hadn't been there long enough for her to drink much of it.
Overall, our group was pretty sedate. While the locals were cheering and dancing, we just sort of looked about with dazed expressions on our faces and ate our food. It was loud, crowded, and obviously not everyone's cup of tea.
Anyway, we find out that Noel knows more than just someone running the beer hall, he also knows one of the waitresses. It doesn't surprise us in the least when he starts dancing around with her.
Ah, wait. Can't let you go without seeing a picture of the beer, after all, that's what it was all about. That clear liquid was my water, which I ended up not drinking since it was fizzy. Apparently in Europe you have to specifically request flat water, otherwise you get fizzy water.
Well, after one drinks that much beer, one usually needs to use the facilities. So a group of us girls line up to wait. This is a fairly normal situation except that the bathroom doors are open, and we have a very clear view into the men's room. A little barrier give the gents a bit of privacy but the females in line can almost see all. But no worries there, these young German men love the attention, and soon one German guy and a Brooklyn born woman start going at it. He suggests that the line would go faster if some of the ladies joined him in the other room, he indicates that the stalls were empty, but adds that we can't use the empty urinal. The Brooklyn woman replies that anything a man can do, a woman can do too. He suggests she prove it.
Anyways, I don't remember all the lines, only that I was trying not to laugh too hard. Finally there's room in the girls side and my mother and I go in.
One thing I want to point out before I forget. A lot of young men and women, and some of the older ones too, were dressed in traditional garb. Girls in dresses, guys in lederhosen. That was supposed to be the new fashion trend, the cooler you were the more expensive your lederhosen. Being North American I couldn't help but think that those guys walking around in short suede pants with suspenders looked kind of geeky, but for them it was cutting edge style.
We finally get out of the beer hall, pounding headache and all, and join the crowd wandering the grounds. It's basically a main road with beer halls on either side, and a fairground in the distance. This is the beer hall that was opposite ours:
And to the right, the Ferris wheels, roller coasters and other rides. If one walked towards those rides for a while and then turned left, one would find shooting galleries and other contest booths.
This was not a North American's idea of what an Oktoberfest should be like. The only thing that seemed particularly German were the sausage stalls along the way. And the copious amounts of beer. It was probably about 6 or 7 at this point, and there were already people passed out on the ground being attended to by medics. But we probably shouldn't blame the Germans for that, lots of Italians come for this weekend, so many that Munich requested that Italy supply their own police.
And now it was time to find the bus and have it take us to the hotel. Here are the front gates, just to prove we were really there.
We walk around a bit, since the bus hadn't yet arrived at the pick-up point. We enter a nearby church, nothing memorable. We notice that the streets were not as clean as the Austrian cities, but then we notice that all the garbage was still localized around the overflowing trash cans. Even while they celebrate, the Europeans try to keep their cities clean. Coming from a rather dirty city myself, I wish the people where I live weren't such slobs.
Anyway, we rejoin the bus and find that we weren't the first to leave the chaos of the fairgrounds. Several others of our group were quite happy to be leaving. Of course, others had enjoyed themselves, perhaps a bit too much. They start making people getting on the bus after us to moo like a cow before being allowed to sit. Might I suggest that a bit too much alcohol had been consumed...
Just as we were getting ready to leave, we're caught. See, the bus was in a no-parking zone, and tour buses apparently don't get exceptions. I wonder how Noel was going to explain the parking ticket to his superiors.
We drive around the winding streets and make so many turns it seems like we must be lost. But of course we do make our way to the hotel eventually. Everyone is exhausted after this long day.