Locals and tourists enjoy rindswurst smothered in tomato sauce and mustard and washed down with beer at the 200-year-old food market, Viktualienmarkt located in the old town.
Locals and tourists enjoy rindswurst smothered in tomato sauce and mustard and washed down with beer at the 200-year-old food market, Viktualienmarkt located in the old town. Michelle Buckman

Munich's a sight to beerhall

"EIN prosit, ein prosit, good cheer and good times! I'm toasting, I'm toasting, der gemütlichkeit. ONE, TWO, THREE, DRINK UP," we all shout in unison swinging our steins high in the air.

Thousands sing, shout, talk and laugh while the brass band plays traditional Bavarian music.

Waiters busily deliver orders and young ladies sell pretzels as big as dinner plates.

A photographer takes our photo. Fifteen minutes later, she returns holding a handful of key rings with our faces on one side.

"How much?" I ask.

Smiling, she hands me the key ring and replies, "5 euros."

It's a ridiculous amount but a priceless memory, so I hand her the cash.

It feels like the roof is about to blow off amid the laughter, cheer and beer-fuelled energy levels.

Enormous servings of schnitzel, pork knuckle, suckling pig and sauerkraut pass us and the intoxicating smells knock me out.

We grab the menu, browse the list of Bavarian specialties and place an order. All of the dishes are freshly prepared.

This is not a production line throwing out plates of food. It's quality dining with a focus on traditional Bavarian specialties.

We are at the Munich Hofbrauhaus; the world's most famous beer hall in the old town.

It's about 7pm and very crowded. There is seating for about 3500 people including 1000 places reserved for regulars.

We walk until we see spare spaces and nod at the young couple who motion us to sit.

The tourist train pours down the centre isle. Hundreds of people walk through the building to soak up the atmosphere.

Suddenly the band kicks in and loudly sing "Ein prosit, ein prosit, good cheer and good times! I'm toasting, I'm toasting, der gemütlichkeit. ONE, TWO, THREE, DRINK UP".

We swing our steins from side to side and sing the words without the band before clinking with our new neighbours.

The atmosphere is electric. All types of people are here, locals, tourists, babies, teenagers, rowdy tables of young male tourists and families.

A stranger joins out table and orders a beer. When it arrives, he holds his stein up to toast with us.

The atmospheric volume control gets turned up slowly as time passes. It's unrelenting and exciting. There's a contagious buzz in the air.

The waiters do everything from taking orders, pouring beers, clearing plates and preparing the bill. The service isn't fast but it doesn't matter. There is so much to see while you wait.

We sit at a big chunky timber table with matching timber bench stools. Names and initials have been carved into the top.

Like so many others, we pinch a couple of the HB branded beer coasters.

The band plays for about 10 minutes, finishing with the toasting song and then stops for about 10 minutes.

The pretzel lady passes holding her merchandise of pretzels and gingerbread hearts.

Suddenly the band fires up with "bang, bang, bang" of the drums, then stops. Everyone cheers, "Gut".

The music stops and the Italian boys from Bologna arrive. It's a buck's party.

This group is loud, emotional, tipsy and being watched by the waiters. Like naughty boys, they pick up the beer coasters and throw them before being stopped.

Our food arrives. It's outstanding. Suckling pig, schnitzel and potato gratin. The high quality of this well-priced food is a refreshing surprise.

By 9.45pm, the crowd has changed. The families have gone and more young men arrive. The tourist train down the centre isle is relentless.

At 11.15pm, the beer starts to kick in so we leave. We've enjoyed a three-hour taste of Oktoberfest.

Munich is a wonderful city to explore.

There are lots of cobbled lanes, cafes, restaurants with outdoor seating and boutique shops.

The aroma of German and Italian cuisine smacks your nose everywhere you turn.

German men wear lederhosen and their leather hats with a feather in the side.

"Michelle, in Oktoberfest, we wear this traditional dress to work," my friend Michael explains.

"Then after work, we go straight to the Oktoberfest beer hall."

In the next three days, we discover hidden gems.

We spend hours in Globetrotter, a monster outdoor clothing store with an exciting range of clothing and shoes, before heading to the BMW museum, the Olympic stadium and the Deutsches Museum.

For lunch in the central marketplace, we eat a rindswurst sausage smothered in tomato sauce and mustard, washed down with local beer.

We discover Shirokko, a CD shop specialising in everything from lounge, jazz, punk, electronic, world and classical.

"My wife Silvia and I opened this shop 40 two years ago," Gerhard Ruhl, the owner, explains.

"Every day we open the shop as though it's the first time. I have opened this shop over 12,000 times. Our main motivation is meeting people and there is no better way to communicate with people than through their music."

Leaving with a bag full of CDs, we visit Cafe Centrale, a few doors down.

This Italian bar is full of beautiful people in expensive clothing but the atmosphere is low key and casual.

Before leaving Munich, we walk to the English Gardens, one of the largest city parks in Europe.

A fast flowing river runs through the centre. Locals lie in the sun, swim and enjoy picnics. Others ride bikes and play games.

At one end, we are stunned to discover young men surfing a single wave under a bridge.

They take turns surfing from one side to the other. It's a dangerous sport banned until only recently.

I vow to return one year to Oktoberfest, a 16-day festival that began in 1810.


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