Call me crazy, but I always assumed the famed Oktoberfest festivities were in, well, October. But after our time in Germany last fall, I learned that wasn’t the case. The bulk of the big ol’ party that Munich is probably best known for actually takes place in September.

So we missed it.

It’s probably best, anyway, considering that a) I’m not much of a party girl and b) I’ve never actually finished a beer because I hate the taste (the Germans would SO not be proud). What I was looking forward to, however, was the people watching during Oktoberfest. It’s the writer in me I suppose.

As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be Oktoberfest to spot a few rowdy souls—especially if you drop by Hofbräuhaus. A ginormous beer hall that’s frequented by tourists and locals alike, I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered a livelier scene. Not only do the large community tables force you to get to know your fellow diners (and we were seated next to a motley crew who called everywhere from Australia to North Carolina home), but everything from the rollicking house band (sporting lederhosen, naturally) to the free-flowing beer in the biggest steins you’ve ever seen, practically ensures there won’t be a dull moment.

I was probably the only one in the room who ordered sparkling water, a rookie move that made our waiter raise an eyebrow. And I’m not even kidding. But it was fun playing the sober observer, and the creamy potato soup I also ordered (another unconventional choice considering the bulk of the menu was comprised of caveman meat) totally hit the spot. Not surprisingly, Will didn’t opt for the sparkling water or the soup. Being a total carnivore, he couldn’t pass up the chef’s special—the pork knuckle. To this day, I’ve never seen a more barbaric cut of meat (and that’s something considering I live in the BBQ lovers’ paradise known as Texas), but it was definitely a favorite of the table.

In addition to experiencing some of the local flavor, we also had a fascinating guided tour of Nymphenburg Palace, the beautiful, Baroque home of past Bavarian royalty. We also hung out in Marienplatz, the medieval heart of Munich where the much-ballyhooed Glockenspiel is housed and passed by notable landmarks by bus including the Olympic Stadium and the chic Schwabing district.

Our time in Munich also marked a “halftime” of sorts. We were a little more than two weeks into our Euro adventure with two weeks to go, and Munich was where we said goodbye to our Go Ahead travel group. Will and I had always been reluctant about taking a guided tour, but even for fiercely independent types like us, it wound up being surprisingly fun. Not only did we have the coolest of all guides in La La, but we really loved getting to know the people we traveled with. Funny enough, I still stay in touch with a few of them. There’s almost a family-like feeling after an experience like this—one I definitely won’t forget any time soon.