Ein prosit! at Oktoberfest

This item appears on page 55 of the May 2011 issue.

My wife and son and I attended the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, with BayernTrips (Ironwood, MI; 888/686-4240), which we found on the Internet. BayernTrips owners Scott and Vonia led our 12-day “Connoisseur’s Trip,” Sept. 11-22, 2010. The land cost was $2,500 per person, with single supplement $495.

After everyone in our small group arrived in Munich, we set off to visit Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery. Its outdoor courtyard was the perfect spot to sample many regional beers.

We spent three nights in the charming town of Füssen. The location of the small, family-owned Hotel Ruchti was ideal for exploring Hohenschwangau Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle and Wieskirche, the Pilgrimage Church of our Scourged Savior.

We soon realized that Scott and Vonia were at home in Bavaria. We felt like we were traveling with and amongst an extended family and were able to meet and visit their local friends.

Scott is fluent in German and enjoys showing others the best of Bavarian culture. One highlight of our trip was attending a Vieh­scheid, a village festival celebrating the return of the cows from the mountain pastures. The parade of decorated cows was a unique sight, and joining the celebration in the festival tent was one of our favorite experiences.

On our way to Regensburg, we made the pilgrimage to the amazing Kloster Andechs, the “Holy Mountain.” There we explored the beautiful Benedictine church and sampled the beer and food.

Another day was spent on a river cruise. An eye-popping sight — we climbed the spectacular Hundertwasser Tower at the Kuchlbauer Brewery in Abensberg and looked out over the Hallertau countryside.

For the final days of our trip, we returned to Munich for a glimpse of the festive Oktoberfest parade. Scott had obtained tickets, which also covered beer and food, for three different beer tent seatings over three days.

Our night seating was at two large tables in the balcony of the Augustiner tent. The tent was filled with thousands of people drinking, eating, singing and dancing. “Ein prosit, ein prosit…” (“To health, to health...”). I joyfully raised my glass and sang with friends and strangers alike in a celebratory toast to camaraderie. We also had a seating in a special historic tent commemorating the 200 years since the first Oktoberfest.

There was plenty of time to wander throughout the festival grounds, ride the Ferris wheel and enjoy the carnival atmosphere. Our hotel, the Alter Wirt, in nearby Grünwald, was reachable with public transportation.

Scott and Vonia worked hard to make the trip a fun and unforgettable experience. It was all we anticipated and more — good folks, great beer and sausage and the best of Bavaria.

As a side note, although the trip was oriented to those travelers who wanted to sample the Bavarian beer, non-beer-drinkers could easily enjoy the trip and feel included in the activities.

Santa Ynez, CA