I had no idea that I would be in Munich for Oktoberfest, no really, I had not a clue, when I booked this tail-end trip, but so it was.
I realised as soon as I got off the flight from London that something was amiss. Torrents of men wearing leather shorts, some disgracefully small, and more women wearing costumes created in the style, shall we say of “Bistro Chic”. Many, I have to admit to in fairness, alluringly small. Something was amiss; I have travelled to Munich many times over the past decades, and its usual Bavarian decorum was clearly out of season.
It is a great festival. I understand from a friend here that the “tents” that serve eye-watering rivers of beer, thousands of bland sausages and pretzels by the ton can make about €1.5 million in the two-week extravaganza. Even allowing for a few weeks of preparation, a few strained moments dealing with overly indulgent staff, one can imagine that their houses have a Happy Christmas indeed.
And so it was that I flew to Munich for a day or so to catch up with an old friend and found myself with this dilemma. I realised that without a reassuringly tight pair of leather shorts, a frilly shirt with a pope-grade brooch, I would stick out like the tourist that I was; added to this that I am, at least by the standards of Munich beer tents, old, I would be targeted as an outsider, tourist and easy mark. Which, of course, would be completely fair, so I went to Nymphenburg instead.
Attracted, at least in part, by its evocative name, I headed out to this glorious 17th century castle. It is not overly crenulated, one has to say, and barely castle-like at all in the conventional manner of moats, keeps and damsels in distress. Think, rather, of a dramatic chateau of the French style, a magnificent building in overwhelming and micro-managed gardens. Imagine a long road leading to the chateau either side of a perfect canal, the gardens opening to show the full, symmetrical facade of the building, and as one passes through one of many arches a short gasp at the profusion of colour from the thousands of perfect marigolds lining the immaculate lawns.
Lovely; really lovely. And should you think that I had made a special trip here, to prove my cultural integrity, I didn’t. The friend that I was staying with lives on the northern path of the canal, so waking with a bit of a headache, and little inclination to fill myself up with beer and oompah bands, I took the high road and wandered to the Schloss.
Munich is really lovely; I have been fortunate to visit many times, and on each return I wonder at its prosperity, beauty and its situation. Lying as it does so close to the Alps, surrounded by lakes and gentle countryside, perfectly manicured villages and more micro-breweries than a chap can take, it is, in my humble opinion, an almost perfect city.
And so I found myself there, after a few days in London, about which I shall report in reverse order. I was in London to deal with my father’s estate, and despite days learning fast about English probate laws, trust obligations, the professional delineation between lawyers and accountants and trying to remember where I had put an important piece of paper, I did manage to have some fun.
Including a completely bizarre dinner at an African restaurant in Camden Town with my friend Joseph, a rush-hour whizz around the M25, an extraordinary curry with Ann, a mystifying but terrific breakfast at Euston and the everlasting bewilderment at how the Heathrow Express can get away with charging £18 for a fifteen-minute ride into London.
Watch this space.