Englischer Garten

Greetings from Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich, Germany!

Just moments ago, the first keg of beer was tapped in the Schottenhamel tent by the lord mayor of Munich, commencing Oktoberfest 2012.

We arrived in Munich late on a Thursday night and had somewhat of a rocky start but we made it! It was nearing restaurant closing time by the time we arrived at our hotel in the Schwabing neighborhood just north of the city centre.

We dropped our things in our hotel room and quickly set out on foot for a quick bite to eat. We thought why not head to the 7,000 seat biergarten in the Englischer Garten for sausage, potatoes, and beer? So that’s what we did.

As we approached the perimeter of the park, I noticed that it was quite dark and it appeared that the trails were not lit. We ventured into the pitch dark park a substantial way only to find out that the park “closes” at sundown which also meant that the biergarten closes at sundown and we were about three hours past sundown.

The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a very large park with an artificial stream running through it where people surf when the weather permits. It’s a peaceful place where people enjoy picnics and dogs chase tennis balls. It’s a lovely place during daylight hours.

Created in 1789 and with an area of 370 hectares, the park is one of the world’s largest urban parks. For comparison, it is larger than Central Park in NYC (341 hectares) and Hampstead Health in London (320 hectares).

The park began its life as a military garden. It was used by military members for farming and gardening during their military leave but the idea quickly transformed into a public park with the military garden reduced to a small section of the park.

The park was initially named Theodors Park after Charles Theodore who was a big wig in Bavaria but the park later became known as the English Garden due to its informal design and layout. The park officially opened in 1792.

In 1815, an artificial waterfall was created and in the 20th century, two additions were made to the park. The first was in 1952 when 30 hectares were added to the park and the second was between 1958-62 when another 67 hectares were added.

One main component of the park is the Chinese Tower (Chinesischer Turm). It’s a five-story wooden pagoda located near the south end of the park.

During WWII, the park was heavily bombed and the Chinese Tower burned to the ground. After the war, the rubble was cleared from the park and in September 1952, an exact replica of the original Chinese Tower opened.

Today at the base of the Chinese Tower is a 7,000 seat biergarten, the second-largest in Munich. The biergarten is cafeteria-style. Simply take a tray, go to the food stalls, select your food, and then go to the beer stalls and select your beer. Once you’ve got all of your goodies, skip on over to the pay station and pay.

You’ll find the best “country” potatoes in Munich at this biergarten but get there early because when they run out of potatoes, they run out of them for the day.

The beer and pretzels at the biergarten are pretty tasty too.

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