September 26, 2016

Güten tag! I just returned from Oktoberfest in Munich right in time for my first class in London, "Contextualizing Cultural Policy." Decided to be a bit of an overachiever and get a head start on my first assignment by attempting to Contextualize the German art of beer drinking ;)

What a weekend! It was full of long journeys (an attempt on the part of me and Hannah to be economical) and many memories. While we eventually met up with a larger group of Wake Forest friends in Munich, the plight began on Friday morning, with Hannah and I making our way to Gatwick Airport outside London for an EasyJet flight to Stuttgart, a random city in Germany approximately 2.5 hours from our final destination of Munich. It was much cheaper than the alternative so we went for it.

For some reason a plane with ".com" printed on it
seems a little less trustworthy but that didn't stop us!

We opted for random seating on this flight (it was extra money to pick seats) and I was lucky enough to be entertained by my seat neighbors, a groom and his groomsman who were headed to the Stuttgart Oktoberfest for their Stag Weekend (British term for Bachelor Party).

Alex (middle), Steve the groom (left) and I became fast friends. I would say 50% of this friendship was due to their fascination with my American accent and the other 50% likely due to the heavy amounts of jäger they were consuming from TSA-friendly bottles. Their friends, even more intoxicated, spent the duration of the flight rows rows behind us yelling inaudible joke/insults at Alex for "chatting up an American." The flight was quick and before I knew it, we had landed in Stuttgart and I was bidding farewell to the stagsmen and their entertaining rowdiness.

Hannah and I made our way to the bus station, a quick walk from the airport terminal and waited for our £5 per person bus to Munich to arrive. It was delayed which made for a long period of sitting in a bus station and trying to communicate with the German employees about when the bus would arrive, but we were pleasantly surprised when we boarded it and connected to the free Wifi. We were also excited to see some of the beautiful scenery as we wove through the mountains and made our way to Munich.

the view in the middle of
nowhere Germany
When we reached Munich around 9pm, we hopped in a cab and headed to a hotel to meet the rest of our group. Exhausted, I grabbed a prepackaged muffin from the hotel shop and hit the hay, with an alarm set for 5 am. We heard that getting into the tents at Oktoberfest was quite competitive and weren't about to come all this way for nothing.

The next morning, we woke up, got our dirndls on and headed for Oktoberfest. As we walked out of our hotel just before 6 am dressed in our traditional German outfits, we walked by a local man who said in a very thick accent, "you are all crazy." Fair. We managed to navigate Munich transportation despite the ridiculously long and unfamiliar words on every sign and arrived in the freezing cold as the FIRST ONES in line for Oktoberfest! Not sure why we were shocked because after all, the sun wouldn't be rising for another hour and a half.


We waited and waited and waited some more behind one of several doors leading into the tent, which opened at 9 am. Well 9 am hit and much to our dismay, the doors didn't open. At this point, large lines and crowds of people had accumulated behind us. It was madness as we left the spot we had occupied for hours and joined in the stampede through the main entrance.

Once inside, we quickly grabbed one of the last open tables and ordered two massive pretzels and nine even more massive beers. The energy in our tent was unreal, with chanting every few minutes as some dedicated people would stand on the tables and chug an entire stein. Even more fun was seeing countless familiar faces of other Wake students who are also abroad and came to Oktoberfest. We all congregated in the Hofbrau tent (a favorite of American study abroad students). 


A group of us opted to leave the tents after a few hours and explore the carnival portion of the festival. We got Nutella crepes and walked around taking it all in (like the cutest toddlers running around in lederhosen)! We decided that beer and amusement park rides were probably not the best combo and called it a day by the late afternoon. 

The next day, several people had early morning flights but Hannah and I had time to explore. We met up with her high school friend Katie and Katie's friend Sarah and visited Dachau, the former site of one of the largest concentration camps. It was definitely somber but I am thankful for the perspective it provided and I learned a lot about the Holocaust that I couldn't have gotten out of class or online research.

We took a long, scenic walk through Dachau to the train station and rushed to make a train that would get back to Munich to catch our bus back to Stuttgart. After running with luggage in tow (and a low blood sugar) my sweaty self and Hannah made it on to the bus and embarked back to good ole Stoogs.

By the time we arrived we hadn't eaten all day and were starving. With plenty of time to spare, we went to the airport grocery store and split a family sized bag of potato chips and some Babybel cheese while sitting in 5-minute massage chairs, which we were too cheap to pay for so we didn't even get massaged. Only the best for these world travelers.

We felt disgusting and joked that we looked homeless but that didn't stop people from coming up to us. A man with a young daughter asked us something in German and I instinctively nodded even though I had no idea what he was saying. It was only after he started walking away that we realized he was having us watch his daughter while he used the bathroom. We ate our chips and stared at the girl since we couldn't communicate with her. Terrible babysitters. Once he came back we were approached by what we presume to be a Slovakian scam artist who asked us to help him pay for his 75 euro bus ticket to Slovakia but pleasssee!! We knew from experience that bus tickets were dirt cheap and sent Borat on his merry way.

After clearing security, we ate part II of dinner in a fab airport Italian restaurant. We killed the rest of our time by sampling every perfume sold in Duty Free. Finally boarded our EasyJet flight back to Gatwick in time for the first week of classes in London to begin.

It was quite the adventure and I loved every minute of it. I'll be dreaming of pretzels and steins of cold Hofbrau during my first week of classes for sure. Auf wiedersehen for now!


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