Party hearty in Munich

After walking around a bit, we got into the Paulaner beer tent for the main attraction of Oktoberfest – eating, drinking, and carrying on with a thousand of your closest German friends.  The atmosphere inside the tent was very much like a wedding reception.  Lots of food and drink, a band playing on a platform in the middle of the room, and people standing up on the long benches and tables to sing and dance.  Well, maybe it was a little more energetic than most wedding receptions….






The drinking vessel of choice for Oktoberfest beer is the Masskrug – a one-liter monster of a glass mug.  Dear readers, I drank a liter of beer from my Masskrug, strictly for reasons of scientific experience.


We also ordered up one of the classic Oktoberfest dishes – Schweinshaxe, which I regret to say translates to grilled ham hock.  Yes, the leg of a pig.  It was served with knoeldeln, which was a quivering tennis-ball sized serving of potato, somehow pressed into a perfect sphere.  It was buttery and delicious.


I bought a couple of the Masskrug to bring home with me, a decision I would regret once or twice because those glasses are heavy.  You can see them in my hand in this picture with my SAP friend Sebastian.  Note that Sebastian is wearing the lederhosen, and also that the left side of my body might be sagging under the weight of the glasses.


There was one more stop on the Oktoberfest tour for the night – the Weissbier-Carousel, a simply brilliant idea.  On the carnival midway, there is a traditional carousel, only with all of the horses removed.  In their place is a bar.  The carousel now spins very slowly – maybe one circuit every 5-10 minutes – and is full of happy people drinking beer.



Here are my hosts for the evening, Sebastian and Giovanna.  We used to work all together in the same department at SAP; we all still work there, now in different areas.  Giovanna lives in Munich, and Sebastian lives near Heidelberg, but comes from Bavaria, so this was a homecoming for him.


We also met new friends on the Carousel – a bunch of seriously drunk Austrian guys, who were wearing matching green polo shirts with their first names printed on the back.  (You can see a couple of them in the first picture in the sequence below.)  One of the guys, Manfred, took a liking to me and my kindergarten-level German.  Before I knew it, I ended up getting a hug.




The Oktoberfest starts to shut down for the night around 11:00 p.m., so the Carousel was pretty much the end of the night for us.  I headed back to the hotel with plans to meet up with a group of folks for Bavarian breakfast the next morning.  More on that next time.

Happy weekend to all!

At the Wiesn

Before the pictures and the story, a little history: The Oktoberfest in Munich dates to the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in 1810.  Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, and there was a citywide celebration in front of the gates to the city.  The fields in which the original celebration occurred came to be known as Theresienwiese (“Therese’s meadow”) in the years afterward, and from that, the locals now refer to Oktoberfest as Wiese or Wiesn.

See, travel is educational!

What surprised me about the Oktoberfest is how much it reminded me of a state fair in the US.  I thought there would just be a collection of beer halls; in addition to those, which were much bigger and more elaborate than I expected, there were also food and drink stands along a midway, and a huge area of carnival rides.  There were drunken packs of young guys, sure, and there were also families with kids.



The beer “tents” themselves are remarkable – tents in name only, and absolutely vast.





The shenanigans out on the midway conformed to stereotype – German men and women, wearing the traditional lederhosen and dirndl, singing and having a good time.


Kids were clambering all over the place, riding rides and perhaps wondering about the sloppy good moods of all the adults around them.



Tomorrow: Inside the big tent.

Going to Oktoberfest

I had a business trip to Germany the other week, and the timing of the trip worked out such that if I flew over a day or two early, I could go to the opening weekend of the Oktoberfest in Munich.  Tough gig, right?  I secured a hall pass from my darling wife, and flew over to Frankfurt on a Friday night, arriving late Saturday morning German time.

The Frankfurt airport is perennially under construction, so remote parking stands and buses have become the norm:


While walking through the terminal to the train station, I came across this beautiful Lego model of the new Airbus A380, the monster double-decker jet that has just entered service in the last couple years.  Lufthansa has several of them now, though I haven’t been on one yet:



Frankfurt’s airport has a relatively new train terminal attached for long-distance trains – the Fernbahnhof.  It’s a sleek, spaceship-looking building, perfectly suited for the sleek, spaceship-looking Inter-City Express trains that come through:


The trains are fast, comfortable, and beautiful inside.  The ride from Frankfurt to Munich takes about three and a half hours.  I was lucky enough to sleep for 4-5 hours on the flight across the pond, and I added to my tally with a nap on the train.


I arrived in Munich right around 5:00 in the evening.  Sunny skies in Frankfurt had given way to clouds and the threat of rain down south, but I was pretty well-rested for the first day of a European trip, and I was excited at the prospect of seeing the famous Fest.  I checked into a hotel in a Munich suburb – small but comfortable room – and set about meeting up with some friends from SAP for the big event.


Tomorrow: In the valley of the beer kings.


Science Party for Anna

While we were traveling out West this summer, Anna and Chelsea decided that they wanted to do a science-themed birthday party for our girl this year. Friday before last, that party took place on a beautiful evening after school. Anna had about a dozen kids who joined her for a couple hours of scientific hijinks.


Chelsea did an amazing job cooking up activities for the kids. This is a look at some of the ‘experiments’ she laid out.



Everyone had a wonderful time!

Downashore: Bright summer sun


We had some beautiful, perfect weather in the middle of our week at the beach. The first day or two we had some clouds and light rain, and then we settled into several days of bright, cloudless days.

Our friends the Lesters were at the beach for the same week, so one day we went up to their beach and hung out together for the afternoon.


We brought our big-pile sand castle technique with us, and this time the kids also decided to try and dig through to China, perhaps to help my dad shorten his travel time.



We had nearly a dozen kids working together at one point, making me feel like the Pied Piper:


Chelsea, meanwhile, found a cute baby to hold:


It was a lovely day, one of several we were lucky to have.

This programming note: I will not be posting next week (September 19th) because of some business travel. Posting will resume on the 26th.

Happy weekend!

Downashore: Making sand castles

We spent a week at the beach in August – well, six days – and I’ve been remiss in reporting on our time at the shore. Let’s start with sand castles. I got some new tools for us to build, and for the first time we started using the technique of building up a big pile of sand and then whittling away from it – more like sculpture than plopping down molds filled with sand. It’s a different way of building.

First thing is to make a big pile.


We use painting and spackling tools to work with the pile of sand.


This is one of our first attempts. It was fun to make!


The coolest thing about building this way is that it gives us an excuse to bring a really big shovel to the beach:


More Shore tomorrow.

Sportfest Sunday

This past Sunday, Anna’s soccer club had its annual Sportfest, which is a fundraiser that brings together games, food, crafts, and even an Oktoberfest-style biergarten. Anna’s team paraded into the main area and then spent the afternoon playing carnival games and jumping in the moonbounce. Maria tagged along for the event and we persuaded a few of the girls’ friends to come meet us at the event.

Here are the girls in the car. See how much personality I have to contend with? These two crack me up.


Of course, they came by it honestly:


Lining up for the parade:


Anna likes to get her picture taken as much as she likes people talking about her… not very much:


Here she is coming off the moonbounce obstacle course:


Back to school, soccer season starting again… now we need some colorful leaves and Halloween!

Back to school

Last week the kids all started back to school. Family tradition dictates a picture on the front step before they head out to face the new year:


They’re huge these days. All three of them.

Happy birthday!

Eight years ago, our youngest girl made her debut at the bright and shiny hour of 2:30 in the morning. That sweet little baby is now a brilliant, beautiful, energetic third grader. Time flies.


Happy birthday, Anna!

We need more kids!

No, not in our family – just on the blog!

While Chelsea and I have been out enjoying the social scene, the kids have been getting ready for the new school year, and generally growing like crazy. Anna, our craft virtuoso, has been learning how to make flowers using duct tape. They’re beautiful. What I love is that she learned how to do it by jumping on YouTube and watching some instructional videos. When this girl gets older and more ambitious… look out, world!



Happy weekend!