First day in Germany! We arrived in Stuttgart and took the train down to Munich. I talked my buddy Karel into joining me for this year’s Oktoberfest festivities. At the beginning, Karel said, “I don’t even want to go to Germany.” But by the end of the trip, he was blathering on about how their highways were soooooo much better than the US.

We met up with a large group who make it to Oktoberfest every year. For context, Oktoberfest is held in a park called the Wiesn by the locals. It has a carnival/fair atmosphere with carnival rides and games of chance throughout the park. Karel and I went on a ride which tosses your stomach near your throat. In this park are large “tents” that accommodate thousands of people at once. These are temporary structures that take a month to erect before the event and then deconstructed afterwards…just to be reconstructed the following year.

The first night our group searched for a beer garden that had enough tables available for all of us. We eventually found a spot and served beers from a traditional dressed waitress…of course carrying multiple steins. It was a great introduction to the big event the next day. Good company and lots of laughs. After stumbling out of the park, we walked ourselves back to the hotel and crashed.

The group bought tickets for the Marstall tent and we were assigned a specific time that we could attend. The ticket allowed us three steins of beers. Mind you, this isn’t 2-3% suds, but rather 6-7%.  :-0   I couldn’t even finish three. I drank 2-1/2 by the end of our allotted time and I was definitely not walking straight.

After our assigned time was up, we begrudgingly left the tent and staggered to a nearby bar and met a couple of locals. It just so happened that one of the “locals” was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and was living in Hamburg currently. So we swapped a few Texas yarns. After that, we meandered into another tent…basically, bar hopping Oktoberfest-style. :-)

Then it was back to the hotel for a night cap at the hotel bar (and some late-night local cuisine down the street). It was a great evening out with a fine group of people. Prost!

We said goodbye to old and new friends in Munich and headed down to Füssen, Germany, a small town that is near two popular German destinations, Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle. It feels like a ski town also. It is surrounded by mountains, so Karel was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get out of the city and see some mountainous terrain.

Karel and I spent the first day getting settled and then drove to Linderhof Palace, where I had arranged a photo shoot. We scouted the grounds for prime spots for the next day.

A few behind the scenes shots from the Linderhof Palace shoot. Ooooh, aaaaaah.

The day of the photo shoot was long and tiring. Karel and I were spent, so we took our time getting started the next day. Karel was itching to climb a mountain and I was in the mood for a more leisurely activity, so I toured Hohenschwangau Castle.

We spent one more day in Füssen. Karel and I walked the town and stumbled upon a cemetery where Karel honed his photography skills. Füssen is a quiet little town. It is worth visiting if you want a restful experience.

I should also point out that the dinner we had at Madame Plüsch was probably the best of our journey throughout Germany. Excellent food and drink with a romantic atmosphere. It was so romantic I kept trying to grab Karel’s hand. :-)  But seriously forks, excellent food.

We ventured from the mountainous terrain of Füssen to the waters of Lake Constance. A fellow traveler recommended Lindau Island and so we packed our bags and decided to explore. Upon arrival, we decide to upgrade our accommodations and enjoy the finer qualities of life. Had a spectacular Italian dinner at Osteria Shardana where the service was incredibly personable and the food was superb. Their house wine is a fine choice.

Karel and I found different activities on the second day at Lindau Island. He rented a bike and peddled along the shoreline of Lake Constance while I walked the cobble stone streets and took in the history of the town. I pampered myself with a relaxing massage and therapeutic steam. For dinner, Karel and I met up with some fellow travelers for dinner at a rather uninspiring restaurant of traditional German food. The food was blah, but we had good company.

Packed our gear, then off to Stuttgart for our final German destination. Neither Karel or I had any specific expectations of Stuttgart and were surprised at what the city had to offer. It was quite a diverse experience. Our hotel was located on the Königstraße street, which is lined with nothing but medium to high-end retail, but within walking distance of the Schlossplatz park area.

The first evening, Karel had a hankerin’ for the opera. I don’t attend too many theater performances, but wasn’t against seeing Madame Butterfly. However, I found the performance to be completely abstract. It was sung in Italian and there were German subtitles displayed for the audience, which didn’t help me at all. It was a contemporary take of the story, which left me mystified as to what the story was about. Excellent performances, but direction left me bewildered. With that said, the Staatstheater was breathtaking inside. The structure was completed in 1912 and is impressive.

From one spectrum to the other…after the opera house, we stepped into a burger joint called, Hans Im Glück. The restaurant is an interesting mix of club music and burgers. The interior was incredibly creative with trees throughout the restaurant. Had a nightcap there and called it an operatic night.

We dove into some more culture the following day at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, a multi-level museum of contemporary art. I have to point out a very impressive piece of the their jazz exhibit. An artist by the name of Stan Douglas of Vancouver, Canada, created a jam session of artists that Karel and I found to be absolutely mesmerizing. The artist recreated a ’70s scene with period wardrobe and set construction. I was in awe at the level of detail of period props and instruments. The exhibit is a 6-hour film on a loop of amazing music. I think I could have pulled up a chair and watched/listened to all six hours. There is a 5-minute clip that can be seen here. Captivating.

Our next experience took us by surprise. After the museum, we explored the Schlossgarten area. We had seen some subdued demonstrators earlier, but didn’t give it much thought. We approached an open area (not far from the Staatsheater opera house) and found hundreds of mounted and riot police chasing demonstrators. There was a gay rights demonstration and some of the arguments had spurred the police to scatter the debaters. I spoke with some of the demonstrators and actually heard both sides of the argument. The debate wasn’t much different than gay rights debates here in the US. Hundreds of demonstrators and police were involved, it was quite a sight to see.

Later that night, we visited our last haunt in Germany, Schwarz Bar. The capacity for this small bar was probably a dozen people. Incredibly small and incredibly smoky. Karel wasn’t sure if he could handle the cigarette smoke when we walked in and we definitely smelled of it after we exited. It was incredibly dark, but had an attractive atmosphere. The bartender was definitely a master of drink and spirits…a distinctive experience.

The next day we sped off to the airport and hopped on the plane for the 10-hour flight back to the US. I had an engaging conversation with a German citizen, Florian. We talked cars and travel. Overall, it was a diverse experience in Germany. Thank you to all who made it so. Prost!