Two Days in Munich- April 17th and 18th (pt. 2): Frülingsfest
Monday, April 18th
When we got back to Munich, from Dachau concentration camp, we headed to Marienplatz again to have lunch. For those who wonder, Mairenplatz is named after the Mariensäule, a Marian column that was erected here in 1638 to commemorate the end of Swedish occupation. Marian columns are religious monuments that depicted the Virgin Mary at the top. These types of columns were a common act of religious faith by Catholics in Europe during the 17th and 18th century.
Marienplatz has been Munich’s main square since 1158. Its most prominent feature is the New City Hall, which looks a lot like a huge Neo-Gothic church. Adding to its church-like appearance is its famous glockenspiel. The top tier of the chiming clock depicts the [two weeks long!] 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine with life- sized figures. Wilhelm is famous for building the first brewery in Munich– the world famous Hofbräuhaus. The lower part of the clock depicts dancing coopers (barrel makers) dancing and twirling. This is based on a legend that after the plague in 1517, the coopers lured the frightened townspeople from their homes with dancing and joviality. Thirty-two figures and 43 bells bring the story to life everyday at 11 am and 12 pm (and 5 pm between March and October). Large crowds gather daily to watch the spectacle. But, it’s really high up, so the best view is from across the street on the third and fourth floor of the Hugendubel bookstore. Unfortunately, we got back from Dachau too late to see the earlier ‘performances’ and left Marienplatz before the 5 pm performance.
This square is surrounded by a lot of stores and restaurants– so Marienplatz is essentially a huge shopping and tourist area. One of the oldest if not the oldest restaurant here is in the basement of the New Town Hall: the Ratskeller München. It is common in Germany to have a bar or restaurant in the city hall basement, so they have a name for it: Ratskeller. Rats is short for Rathaus or city hall and Keller means cellar. The Ratskeller München opened in 1874 and has been in continuous operation ever since. We considered eating here, but decided against a formal sit down meal since we planned to eat at the Frülingsfest later. So, we ate at a little imbiss stand (street food) instead. The food was good, but Christian seems to be cursed to get uncooked food and the schnitzel on his schnitzel sandwich was undercooked, but the owners replaced it.
After we ate, we decided to go shopping. My favorite clothing store when I lived in Germany was and still is C&A. My second favorite is H&M. Although they are all over the U.S. now, I used to only be able to shop at H & M when I visited Germany. There are two H&M’s in Marienplatz: H&M Woman (which is a women’s fashion boutique store), right across from C&A, and a regular larger H &M around the corner from the smaller one.
After a couple of hours of shopping, we set out to find the Frülingsfest. It was in a huge field– Theresienwiese’s famous Oktoberfest grounds. Frülingsfest (Spring festival), is sometimes called the “Kleine Wiesn” (Little Oktoberfest).
When we arrived at the fairgrounds, I was circling looking for a parking spot and a woman whipped in to the spot in front of me as I was parallel parking! I then whipped around and parked right behind her (if you read my previous post, this reaffirms the reason my husband made me drive). I just sat there giving her the stink eye. She was so intimidated that after getting her child out of the car, and meeting with her husband by the entrance a few feet away, she stood there with him waiting to see if we were going to get out and do something to her sweet Audi. I told my guys to take their time getting out of the car because I wanted her to experience as much angst as possible. I thought it would be funny to look over at her and point so that she thought I was saying something bad about her in English. It was mean, but I wanted to get her back with a little psychological torture for being a parking spot thief.
As can be seen in the pictures above, it was just dusk as we walked into the festival. It was a Monday night in April, so not very many people on the broadway. However, when we got to the beer tents, that was another matter. There are two large beer halls and a beer garden at the Munich Frülingsfest. Most Americans assume that beer halls are a part of all German culture. However, beer halls are a Bavarian (southern Germany) tradition. Berliners live a more cosmopolitan lifestyle and thus consume beer in beer gardens, not bierhallen. As a matter of fact, all the popular German stereotypes come from Bavaria: lederhosen, dirndls, beer halls, yodeling… Assuming these things about all Germans is like assuming that all Americans wear cowboy hats and boots and chew snuff.
We went to the first bierhalle, the Hippodrom and it was full, so they turned us away. Then we went to the Bayernland tent, which was pretty full, but not to the brim. I’m not much of a bier drinker, so I had a soda, but the guys all enjoyed huge Oktoberfest-sized mugs of cold Augustiner bier.
We enjoyed the live entertainment (on stage and all around us) while eating and drinking. Speaking of the people seated around us…we witnessed a disturbing incident while people watching. Ivan noticed that the man seated at the table behind us was manhandling his wife (Nathan, Christian and I were seated on the bench facing Ivan, but he was seated facing us and thereby, the couple behind us). Each time the woman tried to get up, he forced her back down. Ivan yelled at him, then we all began turning around and gesturing and telling him with our facial expressions that we were pissed at his behavior. Of course the man could not understand what we were saying, nor did he seem to care.
Christian had been working with International Justice Mission, so he was pretty determined that we figure out how to get someone in authority to help. He was also torn about going over and forcing the man to let her go. But we knew due to the language barrier, it would just look like he attacked the man for no reason. We all agreed that we could not leave until we had helped this woman escape. The guys stayed put, to watch the man, and hopefully intimidate him enough to keep him from hitting the woman. I went outside and got one of the guards that was posted at the entrance to bier tent. He did not understand me fully, but found someone who did. They were not sure what to do, so they asked the man something and he rudely shooed them away. I sat back down, not knowing what to do. Christian reiterated that we could not leave until we got someone in authority to at least acknowledge what was happening. So, I went and asked the guards if they could please try to get the Polizei (police). We sat and waited for a long time, glaring at the man, who was still holding her wrist with one hand and had his other arm around her shoulder (effectively preventing her from moving).
Finally, the Polizei arrived and I explained to them what was going on. They questioned the guy and he was still rude and belligerent to them, but they asked the woman if she was okay and we urged them to understand that she wanted to leave. At this point she decided that she was okay and that she wanted to stay there! So, we wasted 30 minutes trying to get this woman some help and she threw it away. We could do nothing else but pray he did not hurt or kill her later that night.
After this, we were no longer in a party mood, so we only briefly walked around the fairgrounds, then headed back to our car. It had been a long day anyway, and we had to get up early for tomorrow’s road trip.