Oktoberfest – yes, with a 3 month old!
My huge thanks and appreciation to Have Baby Will Travel reader Steph Brentnall for sharing this wonderful story of bringing her little guy to the world’s biggest festival of beer! Steph and her husband are yet another example of new parents not being afraid to see the world with their baby in tow – and how much will Baby Tobias love these pictures when he’s older?!
“You’re taking a 3 month old baby to a beer festival?!” was the shocked response from most of our friends when we told them of our plans to visit Oktoberfest in München, Germany. Arriving on Familienwochenende (family weekend,) the last weekend of Oktoberfest when parents traditionally take their children to ride on the fair ground attractions and gaze at the traditional costumes, the scene was definitely more children’s theme park than the stereotype presented in the film Beerfest.
After spending a year living as ex-pats in Duisburg, Germany we decided it was time we ventured south in to the beautiful scenery of Bavaria to visit the cities of Heidelberg and Munich (München.) So that we could both relax on the journey and entertain our 3-month old, Tobias, we decided to take the train. A car journey from our neck-of-the-woods to Bavaria takes approximately 8 hours as opposed to just over five hours from Duisburg to Munich on the ICE high-speed train network. We decided to break the journey up – first travelling to Heidelberg, which took just over 3 hours. The train journey couldn’t have gone more smoothly! As well as both being able to admire the fairytale castles on the route, we were automatically allocated a ‘family cabin’ by Deutsche Bahn at no extra cost. This was certainly a benefit of advance booking our tickets and meant that all 3 of us could comfortably sit side-by-side with the partition doors closed and nap in peace on the journey.
We enjoyed a pleasant, sunny day in the fairytale town of Heidelberg, hiking up to the castle on the hill (for those who don’t appreciate the challenge of pushing a buggy uphill, there is a chair lift to the castle) and exploring the little cafes and shops in the old town.
After a restful night spent in the Hotel Elite in Heidelberg, we put on Trachten (traditional German dress) and caught the early train to Munich. We even managed to buy Tobias a traditional Bavarian shirt!
After only a 3 hour journey on the ICE train (which again went smoothly, thanks to booking our tickets in advance and therefore acquiring our own cabin), we arrived at Munich station and followed the throngs of people to the Wiesn meadows, where Oktoberfest is held each year. As we anticipated a busy crowd, we decided to to carry Tobias in his Baby Björn instead of using the buggy. This turned out to be a wise decision as it meant we were free to stroll around as we pleased, but there was certainly not a shortage of buggies amongst other family guests. The Oktoberfest organisers even provide a station where you can drop off your buggy if you prefer to. As you can see in the photo below, Tobias slept for most of our visit to the beer festival in his carrier, leaving us free to sample a Paulaner beer and a Bavarian Weisswurst hotdog.
We decided to visit the festival in the morning and left before 5pm in order to avoid any revelers taking advantage of the last evening of beer drinking. However, I can honestly say that I did not notice any over-intoxicated guests and there really is a warm, friendly, family atmosphere during this last weekend of the festival. Throughout our day, we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who cleared a path for us, seeing that we were heading through the crowds with a baby.
We spent the night at the Münchener Hof Hotel, which was well equiped with travel cots, high chairs and a good buffet breakfast plus the added advantage of children under 1 year of age staying without charge. We spent the day exploring the beautiful city of Munich, the highlights of which were the Rathaus (town hall) with its chiming bells and Glockenspiel, performing a magical show, the Toy museum (if only Toby were older, he would have loved to see those displays!) and strolling through the Englischer Garten (English Garden) park.
After a wonderful long-weekend in Bavaria and a relaxed experience of the family-friendly side of Oktoberfest, we decided to brave the 5 hour train journey back to Duisburg. With the luxury of a pre-booked family cabin, Toby was able to sleep through most of the journey, with Mummy and Daddy getting a little shut-eye after a busy weekend too!
Again, big thanks to Steph for sharing this wonderful snippet of Germany with her baby son. My experience with Germany was hanging out with my cousin on the British Army base, drinking beer and eating imported crisps, so one day I hope to return to see the castles with my daughter and watch Bub polish off a Bratwurst. I *might* hoist a stein as well