Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ich liebe dich, Deutschland.

It's been about four days since I left Germany... and for the past four days, all I could think about is how badly I want to go back. 

Be it a certain je ne sais quoi, there's just something about German culture that's got me saying, "Ich liebe dich, Deutschland!"

For starters, Munich is legit. The buildings are beautiful, the transportation is easy enough, there's tons of stuff to do, and the people are actually friendly. What a concept! Paris, I hope you're taking notes...  

Secondly, the German's definitely know how to throw a party. Oktoberfest may as well be the end all, be all.  Seriously-- how can one go wrong with endless beer, baked goods, and lederhosen (I still regret not buying my own). 

To boot, beer halls like the Hofbräuhaus make American dining look more like a snoozefest than anything else.

On the down side, the food is 95 percent meat. For those who don't know, that's a healthy chunk of the food pyramid that I tend to avoid. I'm about to attempt some math here so bear with me. Of the 95 percent meat-based food, about 91.5 percent are sausages and/or wieners, but call it what you like. The rest are potatoes and schnitzel. But the remaining five percent are lip smacking, good old-fashioned carbs, sugar, and butter. Needless to say, in a country of carnivores I did not feel the least bit deprived.

Now that I've given you ample reasons as to why you should book your own trip ASAP, I'll provide you with some words of travel wisdom-- all from personal experience. And let's just say, I took one for the team. 

Tip #1: Become acquainted with your accommodations before you leave. This means that if you're staying in a small hotel, don't over-pack; if you're staying in a hostel, don't forget a towel; and if you're staying in a campground, just don't. 
 Usually, (and I have both Mom & Troop 160 to thank for this) I'm a happy camper. I know my way around a tent, and most of the time I actually enjoy it. However, without the proper supplies, camping can be downright miztown. Add freezing weather to the mix, and "down for whatever" becomes "down in the dumps." 
 The expressions on our faces when we walked up to "Weis'N'Camp" must have been photoworthy. For some reason, we thought we had booked a hostel. In reality, we had paid $120 each for a 4X4 Coleman tent. No pillows, no blankets, no beds. Just us, a tent, and about a thousand other Oktoberfesters. 
  I spent the first night bundled in whatever I could find to stay warm-- extra T-shirts, multiple pairs of pants, my windbreaker as a mattress, my luggage as a pillow, and a towel as my only source of coverage. With a scarf wrapped around my head, we quickly realized that surviving the night would be impossible without blankets. Lexi and Amanda thankfully sprung for the eight euro ones that the camp was selling, and we put our faith in the power of body heat. With Bear Grylls as our guardian angel that night, we made it to the morning.

Tip #2: Timeliness is everything. Even after waking up at 5 a.m. and hightailing it outta the camp, we didn't make it to the festival until about ten. Which entitled us to a nice big table outside the beer hall, but also provided an entirely different scene from the hubbub inside. This could have been both a blessing an a curse. 
  Apparently, sitting inside the beer hall is absolute chaos. Since we were at the most famous and oldest beer hall at the festival, Hofbräuhaus was essentially mayhem. The tent has a holding capacity of almost 10,000 including the outdoor seating. I'll give you a moment to process that...
Tip #3: Always anticipate challenges. In the case of Oktoberfest-- Head to the bathroom before your bladder even tells your inebriated brain it's time. Let's do some simple arithmetic now. What does 10,000 people + 35,000 liters of beer + 2 outdoor bathrooms + 1 indoor bathroom get you? One answer-- wet pants.

Tip #4: Take advantage of your assets. Even though the campsite ended up being a bust, we still walked away with a free T-shirt, beer stein, and free drinks from 1-5 at The Clubhouse. Plus a really great story to tell the grandkiddies. A wise man once said, "Do it for the story."

Tip #5: Blend in with the locals. In Munich's case, that means buying a lederhosen. Also known as traditional German garb-- it's definitely a fashion-do in the Hofbräuhaus. Ignore the occasional double-take, those people are probably as jealous as I was. One step inside the festival, and you'll instantly be in tune with your German forefathers. I felt out of place in jeans, so I opted for one of these cool hats. But either works.
Tip #6: Enjoy yourself. Nothing ruins a trip like unnecessary stress. My advice? Leave the drama at the door and remind yourself of what a special and unique opportunity you've been given. I wasn't sure if I'd make it to Munich this semester, but I sure am glad that I did. Sometimes the most unexpected journeys end up being the most memorable. 

*For more pictures from the trip, visit my facebook page!

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