Week 5, Day 1
It’s Oktoberfest day!!!!
A brief history on myself to explain my love for this holiday: I grew up in Germany as a military brat… my father did two tours abroad so the bulk of my childhood memories prior to high school originate over there. As an adult I have been back quite a bit and have attended Oktoberfest in Munich three times. So the prospect of going to a alpine-themed town only 1.5 hours from where I’m staying is greatly appealing. And the fact I have a adventurous suitor to share the experience with is the cherry on my sundae.
We agreed to meet at 10:30am so we could get the most out of the day as there are a lot of non-Oktoberfest related activities that I’m keen to do prior to imbibing in good ole german beer.
As I head north the hilly nature of my city slowly transitions to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and I feel myself getting giddy. The drive is quite straightforward so I’m able to take in the scenery without worrying about my GPS yelling at me. The roads become windy and curvy, I find I’m losing myself in nostalgia as memories of childhood road trips spring to mind. There’s a juxtaposition, a amalgamation of my childhood memories melding with my more recent memories of trips abroad and I’m truly in my happy place.
I hear from my date MM when I’m 20 minutes out and he instructs me to enjoy a leisurely drive through town and to then stop at the last restaurant I see so we can enjoy a nice breakfast before starting our day. The town is small and easy enough to cross through, bavaria-meets-theme-park style buildings dot the main strip and I’m both enamored and humored by the locals in their outfits/costumes.
Our breakfast stop is easy enough to find and MM and I show up at the exact same time, excellent. I’m impressed that he took the initiative to suggest this place. We see each other and wave and he grabs us a seat outside on the patio, the weather is perfect up here at this time of day for enjoying fresh air.
I walk up for a hug and the first thing I spot on our table is a pack of cigarettes, and for a moment a storm cloud floats across my happy bliss. But then I remember that I was going to make this trek solo had MM not asked to meet me up here so whether we work romantically or not, he can be my partner in crime for the day. After all, just because a date doesn’t work as a match, it doesn’t mean he can’t become a friend.
We work through the initial awkwardness that first dates bring and we get along great. Once I ascertain that he is not a creepy serial killer I text K & D so they don’t have to worry about me. Man I love those two.
He’s very creative by nature and is excited to see the town (where he’s been before) through my nostalgically tinged eyes. We finish a hearty breakfast and while I excuse myself to use the restroom he wanders off into the parking lot to smoke a cigarette.
We park our cars closer to town and decide to explore a bit before hitting the hills to discover waterfalls. I notice that he has a habit of introducing himself and shaking hands with everyone that crosses our path, and I’m not sure how he keeps all of the names straight. The gentleman that was manning the parking area, the woman working the wine bar where I purchased some local wine, the couple we end up sharing a bench with to watch the town parade over a small stein of beer… and this is just the beginning of the day.
After a small tour of town we head back to his vehicle and ride to the first of our hikes: Anna Ruby Falls. It’s a very easy hike and very popular with many ill-equipped for hiking (ie, families with strollers and those pushing 70), but in the gift shop is a map of all the area parks and falls and after MM finishes ascertaining trail preferences from several rangers (as well as shaking their hands and introducing himself) we jump back in the car and head to the next trail.
On our way to the next trail we’re side tracked by a dilapidated flea market with an adjacent rundown snack bar and even more run down go-kart track. MM decides he’s hungry so he grabs a hotdog and soda while I wander through the two shops that bring to mind various mountain folk based horror movies (think “Wrong Turn”) with it’s creepy dust covered farming equipment, questionable bottles of various liquids and cast iron kitchen items affixed to the ceiling. The owners (a older couple) make sideways glances at us as we’re clearly the wrong clientele but MM happily shakes hands and introduces himself and next thing I know we’re hopping in the most run down go-carts known to man and racing each other around a track. I have to add, MM was asked to sign an emergency waiver before we were allowed to race the go-karts and when prompted for a emergency contact to use I suggested “911”.
Cut to the track and the husband sits on the side and watches with amusement as I learn to work the cart and turn the sharp corners (it was my first time), and after 8 minutes the fear of tipping/flipping the cart subsides and I start “drifting” like MM has been trying to teach me. We’re having such a great time that the husband adds an additional few minutes to our allotted 10. What seems like a short time feels like a very long time to me as I’m too short to reach the steering wheel and have to hold myself up the entire time. #ShortPeopleProblems.
After all of that excitement we head to the next park which I do a great job of locating as the designating navigator (pats self on back) and we get to hiking. This park offers more of a true park experience and we lose ourselves in chit chat as we wander along the various paths. Our tastes in TV shows is very similar and we reminisce over funny episodes while at the same time sharing bits of our lives. For instance, I expounded on my penchant for klutziness to explain why I kept one eye on the path at all times.
While back tracking to the path that leads to the parking lot we decide to walk up the side of the river some and soon find a very small path that leads directly to the river bed. We ditch our shoes, (he rolls up his pant legs) and we walk into the water. It is by far my favorite part of the day. The water is cool enough to feel refreshing and the river rocks have a gloriously smooth polish that my feet and toes enjoy walking over. The bed seems to sparkle from all of the mica embedded in the rocks as well as the rays of sunshine that peak through the tall trees. It’s magical. I’m lost in the moment and his creative eye is as well… we’re both in our own worlds, desperately trying to capture the moment to the best of our abilities with our cameras. I could have stood in the river for hours and felt at peace.
But we were burning daylight and we still had Oktoberfest to explore, so back to town we went.
During our early trip to town MM spotted a small hole-in-the-wall bar with a happy hour sign that we decided to partake in and it was a wonderful idea. This small, dark, smoke filled bar was full of the most legit german beer I have ever seen in the states. It was also home to the friendliest bartender/owner AND was currently being used as the headquarters for a local couple whom was hosting a party for their out of town friends; and these people partied like true Oktoberfest Germans.
There was dancing on tables, benches, chairs… singing, debauchery… general craziness, and it was awesome. We made friends with the people and joined in on the mayhem and then brought newcomers into the fold. This is what I was hoping for; the camaraderie that festivals such as this inspire. I honestly can’t remember how long we were there, all I know is I hit the point where I needed a giant pretzel and the outside bar that reeked of tourism (it was sponsored by Miller Lite after all) had some surprisingly amazing pretzels to nosh on. So away we went.
At this outside venue was a very talented singer/guitar player whom we had heard play earlier in the day and MM set about to making this man his friend. Of course. And I set about making a giant pretzel my meal. Time passes, songs are sung, more beer is drank and I have a conversation about cigarettes with MM as he’s been sneaking away to smoke once an hour since the start of our day (because I asked him not to smoke them around me). See, my grandmother passed away from smoking and I can’t understand why anyone with someone else to live for would choose to poison their system in such a manner. I asked him if he has ever considered e-cigarettes and he said he prefers the real thing. Fair enough, it is his own body after all.
He declares he needs more caffeine and we get him the tiniest espresso I’ve ever seen and then make our way to the Festhalle. Time flew by so quickly that the festhalle has shut down its restaurant with my intended dinner of choice and is busily becoming the kind of party you would find at a Elks Lodge, so we wander over to the local hotspot that looks like a building from Bavaria but sounds like a drunken karaoke bar. It’s actually both.
There’s no food to be had so I enjoy a soda and we chat over more personal items. Come to find out MM is extremely freshly divorced with a 1-year-old child and is eager to reclaim the years, life, happiness that had been out of reach for so long. I admire him for shaking off the old to wander into the light… like a much more extreme version of what I was doing. He’s been wanting to start fresh for so long and that explains how when he takes in a scene that he likes… he’s truly taking it in, absorbing it like someone denied water would do after a walk through the desert.
As thought-provoking and eye-opening as the conversation is, I start to get sleepy and realize it’s already 11pm and I have an hour and a half drive to get back home ahead of me. He walks me to my car, we share a chaste kiss that mildly tastes like tobacco and I’m on my way back to ATL.
I had such a wonderful day and shared it with someone whom was loving life just as much as I was… and it was truly an experience. I plan on staying in touch with MM, but I think he needs to continue seeking out what makes him happy for a while before settling down again. Plus, cigarettes… ew.