Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oktoberfest Review Guide: Part 2

Tent #2: Ochsenbraterei     Associated Beer:  Spaten

After the disappointed that was the Paulaner tent, we decided to move on to a more reliable brewer.  Spaten was one of the first beers I bought after turning 21 and it didn't disappoint then.  I hoped the Ochsenbraterei would continue this trend, and so long as they served me a beer in a 1 liter mug, they wouldn't.  Again this tent seats close to 6000 people, and it also serves up several different ox dishes (as is implied by the tent's name).  Walking in at 9:30am I could see the tent was already starting to fill up.  A good sign.
Spaten Tent at 9:30am on a Tuesday
Decoration was similar to the last tent, except that the animal head trophies were replaced with images of the traditional dress of towns across Germany.  A nice touch.  This early on a Tuesday it was easy enough to find a seat and get the beer maid's attention and finally succesfully get a beer.  Here there's no messing about.  Beer comes in a 1 liter glass mug, called a "mas" which will set you back about 9 euros.  It may seem expensive, but when you consider the atmosphere, the amount, and the price of beer at any other city bar, it's not so bad. 

Spaten tent detail
With 6000 people in 1 tent from all over the world you're bound to see and meet some interesting people.  On one side of you, a table full of ozzies in matching shirts with a petite little girl making her father proud by downing a full liter in 1 go.  On the other side, a group of Germans decked out in lederhosen.  In the middle, at the table with us was a german who's wife was the beer maid serving us drinks.  We picked a good seat.  A few things we learned after a couple liters: 
-beer maids are not official workers of the tents.  They work for tips, and if they drop a mug, it comes out of their pocket
-These talented ladies can carry 10 one-liter mugs at a time to roudy Oktoberfest patrons
-The Hacker-Pschorr tent has the most lively atmosphere in the evening.
-Due to rampant theft of the glass mugs, bags may be searched in and out of the tents.  They may be purchased for 5 euros however.

And I'm sure there were others that I can't remember at the moment.  After an hour or so with Spaten we decided it would be best to take a short break...

Spaten's Tent Rating:  7/10 beer steins.  Rating would probably be higher if it wasn't 10am and I had eaten the ox.  They served me a beer, that's all I coud ask for

to be continued...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oktoberfest Review Guide: Part 1

One thing you'll notice when you start to plan your Oktoberfest trip is that hotels are full and/or have high rates, and hostels are already full of drunken Australians.  So, whats one to do to insure you have a place to stay?  Well, aside from booking real early or sleeping in the train station, look outside of Munich.  Personally I stayed in Augsburg.  A nice city only about half an hour away by train, and trains are frequent. 

My morning starts off at the Augsburg train station where already I am greeted with friendly guten morgens from germans dressed in lederhosen and dirndls.  This is at about 8am.  On a Tuesday.  Don't they work?  I haven't even arrived yet, and it is clear that these Germans are ready to down a few beers.  I board the train only to find more ethnically dressed locals.  Suddenly I feel out of place in my otherwise "normal" clothes, but I can already see that this is going to be a good day. 

Deserted Oktoberfest?
If you are arriving in Munich for the first time.  Don't worry.  Though its a sizeable city and the capital of Bavaria, the sea of leather pants flowing out of the train station will all lead you to your desired destination.  One needn't worry about getting lost on this day (at least not on the way to Oktoberfest...).  On weekdays, Oktoberfest opens at 9am, and shortly thereafter, we arrived.  Clearly, though people were making their way over, some still needed time to recover from the previous night.  We, on the other hand, were in need of some refreshment.  As mentioned in the previous post, each of the 6 brewers have at least one big tent.  So we decided to focus on those.  I'm going to be providing a brief review and rating for each of those visited.

Tent #1:  Armbrustschutzenzelt.   Associated Beer:  Paulaner
heading towards tent #1

Apparently that mess of letters the germans try and pass off as a word means "Crossbowman's Tent" or something like that.  But that's not really important.  Walking in you are greeted with green and white streamers overhead and boar and deer head trophy's along the walls.  I guess the crossbowman name is fitting.  It's big and can hold almost 6000 people, but when we entered at about 9:30 am, it was practically empty.  This was not the atmosphere I had been hoping for, but as it was early I fully understood and was glad I could find a spot to sit.  It would be a good way to ease into Oktoberfest.  To order a beer, one can either walk up and get it themselves or call into service one of the many beer maids making the rounds.  However, to our shock and surprise, no one came to our assistance!  and on top of that, when we tried to buy a beer, they weren't being served!  C'mon, this is Oktoberfest!  Walking into a beer tent, at Oktoberfest, I expect to be able to buy a beer.  I don't care if it is 9:30 on a Tuesday.  Shame on you Paulaner.  Shame on you crossbowmen.  In our disappointed we walked out of there, in a straight line no less, and looked for another tent to wet our whistles...

Armbrustschutzenzelt Interior
Paulaner's Tent Rating:  -5 beer steins.  No beer? for shame...

to be continued...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oktoberfest Review Guide: Intro

It's October again.  The time of year most Americans wrongly think Oktoberfest is celebrated.  While the festival does end the first weekend in October, it actually takes place primarily in September.  Thanks to the neck on the Sam Adams Octoberfest I am enjoying at the moment, I can tell you the tradition dates back to 1810 when Munich decided to brew a special beer to celebrate their Crown Prince's wedding.  This celebration lasted 16 days, and still does to this day.  It is perhaps the most famous beer festival in the world, and any beer drinker worth his (or her) weight in beer will tell you that experiencing the pilgrimage to Munich in September is something that should be experienced at least once in one's life.  I myself was fortunate enough to take part one year and had a great day (at least as far as I can remember), which I'm sharing with you.  What will follow these next several days is El Guiri's review guide of Munich's famous Oktoberfest.  Prost!

First off, Oktoberfest is more than just beer.  Basically it is a big fairground with carnival rides, food, beer, etc.  The main focus here though is still clearly the beer, and lots of it found in the numerous beer tents.  There are at least 6 big hitters when it comes to tents, and they are all associated with one of the official Oktoberfest brews.  To be an official Oktoberfest beer, it has to be brewed in Munich, and it has to conform to the famous German Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot.  Try saying that one 6 times fast...  Anyway, the 6 beers are, in alphabetical order: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten.  Stay tuned for the next entry where I'll begin my day as Oktoberfest opens at 9am.  Tschuss!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Office Gripes: 5S Plants

Today on "Outside the Box" I'll step away from the travel aspect for a segment I'll call "office gripes."  Well, at least until I come up with something better.  At one place of employment, the office implemented a Japanese system known as 5S.  Basically it's a method for keeping a clean and organized work space.  While I'm all for a tidy and orderly working environment, this example just kills me:

The white zone is for plants and their water only

Seriously?  Do I really want to spend the majority of my waking hours in a place that tells me where I can and can't put my plants?  I don't even have a plant, but the fact that there are cubicle zoning laws is just too much for me to handle.  That sickly plant reminds me a bit of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray"  (or at least my perception of the story from having merely scanned through cliff's notes).  Watching that poorly taken care of plant wilt is like watching a plantification* of my soul as it rots in such a working environment.  Life is too precious and short to be a serf toiling in such a field for the lord of the land. 

If you or someone you know have any workplace gripes you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.  So feel free to send your story/photo to and I'll try and get to posting it on here.  Workers of the world unite?!

*(may have made that one up)


Before I get into it, let me introduce the concept of this blog.   It all started during my summer engineering internships, where I soon realized that engineering isn't quite like it's advertising to a burgeoning youth in high school.  They tell you, "Hey, as an aerospace engineer you'll get to build the next space shuttle!"  Cool!  Where do I sign up?  Well guess what, the space shuttle has been retired.  Also, what they don't tell you is that it's not like playing with a bunch of legos or building something out of your garage.  No, you're cooped up in a padded box working out the nitpicky details of a lightswitch and arguing with a factory in China (that only wants to cut corners) why a lightswitch actually needs to 'switch.' 

They often told us when we were growing up to "think outside the box." As I watched the cubicle plants slowly dieing, I realized that there must be more to life outside this padded "box" of a cubicle.  So I broke free, and decided to travel, to experience what else is out there, and to do it in a manner not befitting a tourist.  What will follow are my experiences, reviews, what I learned, and opinionated "facts" about living and 'retiring' outside of the 'box.'  For those still in the office, this will be your daily time waster (or one of many).  You'll get to travel without ever leaving the comfort of your own ergonomic office chair.  You're welcome.  I travel so you don't have to.  I hope you'll enjoy the ride.