When going to another country for the first time, there are all sort of preconceptions and expectations that run through the mind. If going to Thailand, maybe you picture yourself floating on a long tail boat over clear blue waters or wandering through the markets stuffing yourself to the brim with mysterious street food. Planning a trip to Iceland, you think of the volcano that erupted in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (one of my all time favorite films) or wading into the ever so popular Blue Lagoons as steam rises up all around you.
Sometimes these preconceptions are realized as misconceptions as they are not what you thought they’d be or maybe, once the experience is over, you forget all about what stereotypes and assumptions ran through your mind. Maybe the food you experienced and the beauty you saw and felt leaves you with an indelible mark on your heart, soul and mind – and possibly on your body, depending on how crazy you got!
Before the last few days, I would have never thought I’d feel so strongly about Germany. I didn’t even know what to expect for my first time in this country of beer and wurst, besides drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of wurst – which you know I did!
It happened one afternoon, the moment I realized that Germany is a place that I want to visit over and over again. My sister, Paige, our German friend and I were having a much needed glass of bubbly and had food on the way, so you know my spirits were already high with the imminent arrival of scrumptious things. Out of nowhere, it started pouring rain! It took a few minutes for everyone to realize we weren’t going to stay dry, even though, we were under a full coverage of various large and sturdy umbrellas! Little by little, the patio that was filled with relaxed patrons just a few moments ago had cleared except but one table of insouciant women! I am not certain whether or not there was something in the air that day or if Germans are always like this… but no one seemed particularly angry about this interruption to their lunch. The vast majority were laughing, trying to grab their adult beverages and run for cover. Soom we were all wedged like clowns in a car in the tiny restaurant watching the rain fall. The employees began to play vivacious music loudly over the speakers, lightening the mood even more!
Walking the streets post lunch, the air felt and smelt amazing as it usually does after a good rain cleansing. We spent the rest of the afternoon roaming through Nuremberg’s old town with an alacrity for adventure, stopping every so often for photos and to listen to the myriad of street performers that were speckled throughout. We gawked at the Gothic Fountain (below left), trekked our way up to the Kaiserburg Castle (below right) and felt dizzy trying to soak in everything happening around us.
**Tip: Like most of Europe, drinking is allowed anywhere, anytime in Germany. Whether it’s a bottle of Champagne or just a beer. Cheers!**
It may seem like any other day, but there was something in the air that day that made me feel so enthusiastic to be there and be alive. I’m sure my fellow shenanigan-seekers can empathize with me on this!
The rest of my time in Nuremberg was gloriously eventful. My sister and I ate our first meal of sausages and sauerkraut together. We accidentally stumbled our way through Nuremberg’s red light district – who knew it was even a thing – where we were the only women around besides those in the windows! We smoked hookah. We made new friends. We fully enjoyed ourselves.
Then we met up with two of our German friends, Florian and Fabian, where we trudged our souls through the Reichsparteigelande (Nazi Rally Grounds). You could almost picture the thousands of soldiers, forced or otherwise, standing in front of Hitler as he eloquently plotted death and destruction. There were some people taking pictures where Hitler used to stand for his speeches. I found that inappropriate as scaling the bleachers was dark and eery enough without standing where he stood – the hair on the back of my neck raised as I imagined how the events unfolded where I was sitting and the horrendous results that were to come. What was even more seemingly unorthodox is that this is a place where people come to hang out at night… to drink and smoke and laugh and listen to music.
**Tip: Don’t even joke around here because the Nazi Salute is illegal all throughout Germany.**
In hopes of raising our spirits back to their normal levels, we headed to a restaurant on the lakeside to eat our feelings in schnitzel (thinned fried meat), spätzle (soft egg noodles, ours had veggies and pork with it) and sausages and drink a lot of beer!
Success! By the end of our dinner we were definitely feeling better, as delicious food, good beer and great company tends to do.
Munich was next, and I did not know what to expect. We arrived after a long bus ride.
**Tip: DON’T EVER take Flixbus. If anything goes wrong, they do not have your back, the drivers are all surly and seem to hate their lives and there seems to always be something broken on each bus. Just research some trains because, as we found out too late, they’re not all too expensive like they originally looked for us. We only chose the bus because it came out cheaper.**
Home of the Monks as the name of Munich or München means. It is the largest and capital city of Bavaria and has its name derived from the activity of monks. This activity was granted in the form of a market via the Duke of Bavaria, Henry the Lion, in the 12th century. Granted it may have been but in a bit of a backhanded way, as he destroyed a main bridge that was used for trade to build his own bridge for the profits. Obviously, this pissed off some other influentials, so agreements had to be made and profits reluctantly split.
That tidbit of history is only a small example of the information I acquired on a bike tour I took that I found on trip advisor. It was only $36 for 4-5 hours of awesomeness with Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich. If y’all want a fun way to see Munich, I highly recommend doing this on one of your first days in this city, because it’s very historical, and it gives you many ideas of what you can do for the rest of your time there. Click here if you’re planning for Munich and want to look more into it!
I had to do this bike ride all by my lonesome since my sister wasn’t feeling well, but it worked out just fine as I found a few friends with whom I hung out with all day and well into the night/next day as we had quite a few Maße (singular form is pronounced “mass”; it’s a beautifully large mug for beer)! Haha. Y’all know by now how much I enjoy meeting cool, new individuals that share my same passion and attitude towards life, so when I find some, it really makes each trip that much better! These fellows are Australian and are some of the most genuine people I’ve met, and they know how to have a good time. They taught me an Australian drinking song and other quirks of the country which was fun amidst all the German words and cultural characteristics I’d been soaking in!
Next day, we went back to Frankfurt for one night as our flight home was the day after. We spent our last night relaxing and reminiscing over the events that just occurred and dreading going back to the USA after realizing how vehemently we love Germany.
Here are some other fun facts and tidbits I learned:
Fashion is very eclectic; they have a way of dressing casually classy and usually throw in a pop of color. Don’t be afraid to dress like yourself; just wear it with confidence!
Oktoberfest has been happening in Munich since the public wedding celebration of Ludwig and Teresa in the early 19th century. When you visit Oktoberfest (which is actually starts in late September), you can hear locals cheers “to Ludwig!”, and don’t forget to wear your Lederhosen or Dirndl.
Tipping is a thing, but only about 10% is expected.
“Dankeschön” is the polite/formal version of thank you, and “bitteschön” is the same for you’re welcome (can also be used for “please” such as “prego” is in Italian). Yes, the vast majority of the population speaks English, but they do appreciate you attempting to speak some German – I got nothing but smiles when I tried my best to not butcher the language!
Germans are a very polite, straightforward and trusting people, and I love them for it.
If you buy a plastic water bottle, there’s not usually street recycling. You are supposed to return it to the location where you bought the bottle or you can recycle them at a machine in a grocery store. Keep your bottle in tact as the machines scan the barcode!
Even though I’m more of a dark beer drinker, all of the beer is delicious and worth drinking, but that’s clearly just my opinion!
Must try foods in Bavaria include, schnitzel (makes sure it’s made with pork as this is the traditional way: below right covered under the mushroom cream sauce), spätzle (below right next to the schnitzel), flädlesuppe or pancake soup (such a great flavor and not at all weird: see below middle), sauerkraut, schweinshaxe (pork knuckle – freaking delicious), any and all sausages (especially the Nuremberg sausage if you go: see below left) and, of course, apfelstrudel (apple strudel!).
The jaw-dropping, beautiful, gothic building that is the Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall: below) is one of the few original structures left standing from the air raids of WWII, as about 70-80% of Munich was destroyed.
It was used as a point of reference from the air, which is why it remains. When you go to Munich, you can see that many buildings still have an older look to them. This is because they were rebuilt to look this way; Munich is very protective of their culture and love expressing it, which is why wearing your Lederhosen or Dirndl is more accepted here than in other parts of Germany, like Berlin.
As sad as I was that we didn’t have more time to stay, I couldn’t help but smile at remembering our adventures.
George Bernard Shaw once said “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” I hear that, George. Regardless of not being able to speak the language, I felt incredibly comfortable in Germany, and I can’t wait for my next trip to Deutschland. If you have any recommendations for me, please share!
I made a short video of my time in Germany. Check it out on YouTube here.
Here’s to our travels, the people we meet, the knowledge we gain and the way we begin to feel closer to the world around us.
*Do you love Europe? See how I got hooked in “How I Studied Abroad in Italy“!*