O’zapft is? Yeah, we tapped it.

The first mass of the morning is always the best. 
Over time, after you’ve lived in a place for a while, you become in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. 

So as fall approached and the warm sun began to succumb to the inevitable nip in the air, we knew it was time to break out the dirndl and lederhosen, and practice heaving those maß beers high in the air.

Three years ago when we were just learning the Oktoberfest ropes, it wasn’t pretty: Out of the four in our group, three threw up and one was forcibly divested of his underwear – all before noon.

Not about to repeat our inaugural performance, this year we set about to plan a dignified, respectable day at Oktoberfest, where 6 million people consume nearly 7.5 million liters of bier, 500,000 chickens, 58,000 pork knuckles and countless pretzels over the course of 16 days.*

The dignified plan included several “nice to haves” we never considered in years past.

For instance, rather than crashing in the Turkish hotel (an unusually tall 1980s-era VW bus), we booked a hotel. We left all keys and unnecessary but easily misplaceable objects in the room.

A stellar example of dignified prosting.
We established a game plan at the outset for where to meet if we lost each other.

And since we arrived just after 9:30 a.m. and didn’t leave till about midnight, a comfortable “maß consumption” pace interspersed with water served us well.

Thanks in part to our mental preparation, Molly also conquered an arch-nemesis – the cantankerous, 80-year-old Toboggan Rutschbahn – which left her limping two years ago, and I even left with every article of clothing I brought (although the next day I was still removing glass shards from my lederhosen, a byproduct of some overzealous prosting).

All in all, we opened and closed Oktoberfest on the opening weekend with a sophisticated level of intoxication, and that’s more than we can say for the rest of the fest’s 6 million people. 

* From the Munich Tourist Office website. Additional interesting fun facts included the number of vendors (Germans actually refer one group as “carneys”) and the following lost items of 2012, which were listed under “curiosities”: leg warmers (a pair of dress pants and two pairs of “unusual” traditional pants), two wedding rings, five notebook computers, two license plates, sheet music, two French horns, a hearing aid, a handicraft box, eyeglasses with Swarovski crystals, a pair of leg cuffs, a baby phone, a ping-pong racket, a Playboy magazine (with a personal autograph from the current Wies’n playmate) and a dog. The delivery rate was 19 per cent.


The eyes have it

Metamorphisizing into 20/20

After 25 years of being called “four-eyes” – most recently by my husband who swears it’s a term of endearment – I have officially joined the ranks of the seeing community, sans glasses or contacts.

But it wasn’t my idea. I hadn’t even entertained the thought. It was all Steve Derr. He, too, had worn glasses/contacts for many years and was looking for a “surgery buddy.” I fit the bill. 

After finding a reasonably priced clinic in Munich, and after a few appointments to determine we were qualified for the operation, we prepared ourselves for Lasik last Tuesday.

Now, every person I spoke to who has had this procedure told me it was the best thing they ever did.
Last known shot of "four-eyes." 
Every single person raved about it. Not one, (seriously, not one) told me anything about the uncomfortable, burning, blurry, itchiness that comes directly after, not to mention the smell of burning eyeball you have to endure during the surgery. But all and all it was worth it. I’ve had a few days to heal and I rather enjoy waking up to a sharp husband rather than a blurry outline of what I have always trusted to be Jeremy.

The day of the surgery, however, wasn’t as clear. After lying down on a table, the doctor taped my eye open, then suctioned my eyeball straight. As he began to cut into my cornea, he repeated over and over again “don’t move, stay still, don’t move.”

Seriously? What if I had to sneeze? What would actually happen if I did move?

Then the laser came, and the “don’t move, stay still, don’t move,” was only amplified by a burning stench as my cornea was shaved down. (It sort of smelled like my hair was on fire).

The procedure itself took about 10 minutes and I  didn’t feel anything, really, just a bit of pressure peppered with an uneasy feeling in my gut. Post-op, you don a pair of goggles that must have come from the set of “The Fly.”

I couldn’t see a thing.

Luckily for Steve and me, Jeremy offered to be our shepherd for the day. He took us by the hand and guided us to our hotel room, where we tried our best to sleep off the pain.

But that’s all behind us though. Now we can actually focus on what’s in front of us. 

The next day: We are not trying to look cool. We are trying not to cry.


Hut, hut, hut, hike!

We were a motley crew. For four days we hiked, crawled, stumbled and climbed our way through the lush, picturesque scenery of Southern Germany, fueled solely by determination and sweat (and the prospect of more beer at the next mountain hut).

The hike wasn’t just a walk in the Alps either. After camping on Thursday night, we took a short, scenic boat ride to St. Bartholomew in the Berchtesgadener Land district of Bavaria bright and early to begin the journey. For the next five hours we climbed 10 kilometers of steep switchbacks, gaining more than 1,200 meters with 30 pounds of gear strapped on our backs.

Because there were nearly a dozen in our group, we inevitability split into various levels of speed and ability with “team cougar” bringing up the rear. (This would later be memorialized in a song).

The worst of the hiking was over as we reached the Kaerlingerhaus, and the views were absolutely amazing.

Mountain huts are a plenty in the Berchtesgaden. They offer minimalist accommodations - single bed in a room with fellow travelers, complete with pillow and warm blankets. They serve food and drinks and a warm shower for an additional cost (usually three euros for three minutes; freezing cold showers are usually free). The huts are only accessible by foot, so the other travelers you meet are often on a similar journey. 

Day two was relatively low key, but that didn’t make strapping those 30 pounds onto our backs again any easier. We started out early and made it to the next hut in less than three hours.

The scenery was drastically different from the first day. We bouldered our way over a moonscape of sizable white rocks for the seven kilometers, sprinkled with an alarming amount of Lord of the Ring references.

We woke up on day three to torrential downpour and, after accepting the inevitable, trudged 7 kilometers, gaining more than 950 meters of altitude, en route to our next hut. We were climbing through a barren landscape of slippery rocks.

Our small group of six, who became known as “Family von Crap” due to harmonious flatulence, managed to stay together the whole time. We sang as we climbed, attempting to get the most annoying song in everyone’s head. “Never Gonna Give you up,” had the lead with “Mmmm Bop” coming in as a close second, although our rendition of “Day-O” was pretty spot on.

We made it to the Ingolstaedterhaus in a modest three hours and warmed up with schnapps and hot chocolate. This was by far the best night and the best mountain hut. Jeremy and Mike lugged their ukuleles on the hike and this proved to be a fabulous idea. We sat in a circle and jammed all night, singing Johnny Cash songs and serenading the room with a loud, off-key version of “Country Roads.” Everyone sang along. If there is ever a way to win over a room full of Germans, John Denver works every time.

We made friends with the kitchen crew and partied well past our bedtimes.

Waking up Monday morning was bittersweet. As our adventure neared its end, we prepared for the more than 1,900-meter descent before us.

Walking downhill may not be as physically taxing, but it does a number on your knees. It took more than five hours to climb back to our original destination and we were collectively sore and exhausted.

 Jeremy and I agreed that this was one of the best trips we’ve taken this year. The scenery, the sense of accomplishment, the exercise, all was great, but most of all it was the company. Our rag-tag team came together, everyone bringing a unique perspective to the group.

Hiking in close quarters with someone really solidifies a relationship. So does snuggling up next to them in a mountain hut, listening to them snore and watching them cut loose at 1,500 meters up.