Friday, September 26, 2014

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!

     We went to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  We made it.  Since we have arrived in Italy, there have been few trips that require extensive planning--planning several months ahead of time, but this trip certainly falls into that category.  In January, yes, nine months ago, I began contacting hotels and rental properties in Munich to book a room for the famous event that is Oktoberfest.  And last weekend, all of my planning paid off.  We drove the five-hour route from Italy to Munich and arrived the night before the first official day of the fair.


     On the first Saturday of the event, this year it was September 20, the mayor ceremoniously taps the first keg at noon, and then the party begins.  Before noon, you are waiting in lines to get into beer tents while everything is still opening up.  But don't be fooled!  These beer tents are not tents, they are massive buildings constructed to hold thousands of people.  You can see the Paulaner tent below.

     At 9:00 in the morning, after walking around the grounds, were lucky enough to find a table in the Schottenhammel beer tent where the mayoral ceremony happens.  We saw some German celebrities, though I did not know any of them, and made some new friends while waiting.  Before noon you can order food, but the only drink available is sparking water!  Many vendors walked around selling pretzels and bread as well as Oktoberfest memorabilia.


      Shortly after the ceremony, which can be seen here, the beer starting coming out, and we enjoyed a liter with some Americans that were visiting Germany from Missouri and some friends from Italy that we ran into while walking around!

     Here you can see how massive the tent really is, and how many people are jammed inside dancing, singing, and drinking!

      After having a quiet dinner in the city of Munich, we returned to Oktoberfest to visit some different beer tents and ride a few of the rides before walking back to our apartment.  The next morning we watched some of the parade that marched through the town into the fair grounds.


     The rest of the morning we walked around, Stephen played some games and we people-watched (as you can see, there are a lot of people there to watch!). 


     We ate there in the park that night.  I had a currywurst in a tiny bun and Stephen had goulash.  I had to buy some of the candied nuts that were sold all throughout the grounds because everywhere you walked the beautiful smell of cinnamon wafted from these stands!  I also tried a giant marshmallow ball (cannot for the life of me find the German name of it) covered in chocolate and cake--it was disgusting.

     It was raining most of Sunday evening, but we enjoyed every minute of our time at this famous German event.  We arrived on Friday evening and left on Monday morning, and that was plenty of time to experience all of Oktoberfest.  Like any other fair, there were rides, games, unhealthy food, but here there was lots of beer!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ljubljana, Slovenia in Two Days!

     It is official, summer is already over and it feels like it never even begun!  Well, in the whirlwind of Oktoberfest planning and busy schedules, our short trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia got lost.  The trip was last-minute, and we only stayed for two nights at this capital city, but our second trip to Slovenia, the country just east to Italy, proved to be very different from our first.  Last winter we visited Bled, Slovenia and skipped over Ljubljana, but this time we skipped Bled and we visited Ljubljana in warmer weather.  Our first stop was a wine tasting at Klinec in the Goriska Brda region.  We enjoyed a wonderful view and had a few glasses of wine before heading off to our next stop before the capital.

     There are two major cavern systems in Slovenia, Postojnska Jama and Skocjanske Jame.  The first was described as a world famous attraction equipped with a train to take you through the first portion.  I decided that any attraction that began with a train through a beautiful natural landscape was not for me, and decided to book tickets at Skocjankse Jame.  After arriving, we took a walk around the area and found this gorgeous church atop the caves.

      Since there were no photos allowed on the tour, I've included some here from the Park website to give you an idea of our adventure.   


     From there, we drove into Ljubljana, another hour from the caves, just in time to get something to eat and walk around the city a little bit.   The next day we dodged rain storms while hiking up to the castle on the hill, and popping into all of the markets in the town.

     It was a nice place to visit for a weekend, but it certainly does not have the charm or appeal of the more historic cities of Europe.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Country and City in Piemonte, Italy!

     What was supposed to be a rainy weekend turned out to be a gorgeous opportunity for a weekend wine-tasting trip to the Piemonte region of Italy.  This northern region lies to the west of our town, only about two hours away.  Its landscape is similar to that of Tuscany, yet the vineyards are very different.  Many of the vineyards do not welcome visitors, but Stephen and I found a few to tour and taste.  We left on Friday morning after a coffee and arrived at Bruno Rocca after getting lost four times, asking for directions three times, and passing the establishment three times as well.  It isn't wine country if you aren't asking for directions!  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A night in Milan, and a weekend in Rovinj, Croatia!

     Last Wednesday night Stephen and I were invited to the Consulate in Milan's party to celebrate the departure of the current Consul General and the 4th of July.  We arrived at the Sforza Castle in the middle of Milan at 8:00 p.m. for the reception, and joined a long line of people waiting to enter.  Once inside we listened to an a cappella singing group from Yale and enjoyed some appetizers.  Most of the actual ceremony was in Italian, but they ended the night with a giant cake and miniature tubs of Ben&Jerry's ice cream.  We didn't leave until 11:00, so it was a late night for us since we had to drive to Aviano in the morning.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Road Trip in Belgium and the Netherlands!

     Buckle up, everybody, this is going to be a long one!  Several months ago, Stephen was invited to be a part of a good friend's retirement ceremony in Holland.  We decided to make the most of it and turn it into a week-long tour of Belgium and the Netherlands.  I had made reservations before May, so when the trip finally came time, I was pumped!  We flew into Brussels, Belgium, rented a car and we were on our way.  Brussels is a huge (and scary when you are driving through it for the first time), and as with many large cities, it .  Unlike cities like Rome and Paris, Brussels does not have a lot of icons everywhere you turn.  Instead, it is a working city with a nice history.  Our first night there we aimlessly walked around and found the Parc de Bruxelles with the Parliament across the street.  We walked back down into the Old Town and sat down in a small square where lots of people were enjoying waffles and fries.