RSS

Tag Archives: munich

Summarizing an Unforgettable Year in Germany

Hello All!
I am currently writing this entry on the airplane from Frankfurt to Calgary, after experiencing a very stressful morning sprinting between gates in Frankfurt. I have made a discovery while on this flight: if you have 8 hours with no internet access and minimal other distractions, blog writing gets a heck of a lot faster!
I could tell I was on a flight to Canada when I noticed someone wearing a lululemon t-shirt at the airport: I have been going to the gym in Berlin for 9 months and haven’t seen a single item of clothing from there. It’s a bit strange to be surrounded by English speakers again, since now I can understand every bit of chatter going on around me. I had gotten used to only understanding bits and pieces of what people said in nearby conversations, since it was always out of context. However, I have had a few conversations with Germans in today’s flights, and I feel that I am way more confident now that I would have been in September. Learning a language is basically an endless process, but I like to think that I am as fluent as I hoped to be when I began taking German classes three years ago.
I set out to write this particular blog entry as a summary of what I have experienced this year. It feels as though my time here has flown by, and yet when I look back at everything I’ve done, it feels like I’ve been here for an eternity. I know that it is practically impossible to summarize my experiences completely, so I’ll try to keep it brief. (Upon my completing this blog and transferring it to wordpress, I must admit that it is anything but brief. Prepare yourself!)
At the end of August 2013, I gathered my courage and boarded a plane to Berlin for nine months away from home. Unlike a lot of people who take on courageous new adventures, I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend waiting for me at the arrival gate. We spent three days in Berlin before driving to Köln (Cologne) so that I could begin my orientation for a year of working at a German High School. I had been part of an orientation the summer before, and was expecting a miniscule group of students; instead, I met hundreds of people from around the world, and got to bask in accents from Ireland, England, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia. Everyone was welcoming and friendly towards everyone else, and I created a group of lifelong friends. The people from that orientation that I have stayed in touch with has changed over the year; while about 15 of us went to Oktoberfest together, there are about six of us that have remained close. However, I like to think that there are many people that would get in touch with me if they ever came to Canada, and this orientation had a much larger influence on my year than I would have ever expected

German Orientation 410  German Orientation 433 German Orientation 480.

My work contract ran from September 1st to May 30th. In the first month, Sebastien helped me to deal with technicalities such as obtaining a bank account, registering where I lived, obtaining my proper visa, and joining a gym. Beginnings have always made me panic a bit, but everything went very smoothly. The other day, I was able to cancel my bank account without any issues (I like to think “I’m moving back to Canada” is a great reason to give for cancelling a bank account!) and Seb had the foresight to store my moving-out documents in a place where we could easily find them and send them to the right people once I left.
The end of September resulted in a slew of Oktoberfest activities – I went to an Oktoberfest in Berlin for two separate weekends, and also spent three days at an Oktoberfest in Munich. For the longest time, I didn’t think the trip to Munich would happen, because of the expense and the fact that there was hardly anywhere to stay. But thanks to the research of one of my British friends, we were able to pull it off by staying in tents and going during the week instead of on a weekend. The experience was unforgettable (feel free to read my blog all about it, if you haven’t already!) although I don’t think I will ever need to repeat it. Sleeping in a tent in October is not necessarily the nicest experience, and it was amazing how good it felt to sit on a cushioned bus seat instead of a hard bench by the end.
OKTOBERFEST 077 OKTOBERFEST 121 OKTOBERFEST 131 OKTOBERFEST 152 OKTOBERFEST 167  OKTOBERFEST 185 OKTOBERFEST 205 OKTOBERFEST 325 Berlin Oktoberfest 011
Since the first two weeks in October were a holiday for High School Students, Sebastien and I took the chance to take a short trip. We had a lot of different options in mind, but settled on Barcelona, Spain. We spent almost three days there, and were able to pack in lots of sightseeing. We hiked to a few good viewpoints, walked through the narrow streets, went to the beach, and enjoyed the fantastic weather. It was a great vacation for the two of us, and ironically enough it was one of the few chances we had to take a mid-week trip together (after that, I would either have work or he would have school).
Barcelona 120 Barcelona 185 Barcelona 253 Barcelona 314
At the end of October, I was feeling slightly depressed about missing out on Halloween, but was in for a treat when Sebastien and I went to a German Halloween Nightclub Event. I had always heard that Germans were not as much into Halloween as Americans are, but in general their concept is quite different. Instead of a mixture of all sorts of costumes, the Germans who chose to dress up were all gruesome and frightening. With fake eye-contacts and more fake blood than you can imagine, and a mixture of stapled-on faces and torn wedding dresses, it was obvious that they take their costumes very seriously. It was certainly different from any Canadian Halloween I had experienced!
At the beginning of November, Sebastien and I took a road-trip using his parents’ car. Our first stop was the city of Weimar, where we were able to see the amazing Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek. After that, we continued on to Erfurt for two nights, during which time we went on a hike and were able to walk around the city at night enjoying the sights. The slight nip in the air by then, along with the gradual setting up of Christmas markets, made me start to get excited for the holidays. The next day, we continued on to Eisenach and the fortress at Wartburg where we were able to see where Martin Luther once spent time while translating the bible. I had visited these places once before with my eleventh grade class, but this trip was different – not just because it was only two of us instead of 110, but also because I had learned a lot more about history by that point.

Road Trip 2013 October 025 Road Trip 2013 October 029   Road Trip 2013 October 204  Road Trip 2013 October 234  Road Trip 2013 October 307    Road Trip 2013 October 380 Road Trip 2013 October 402
When I first arrived in Berlin, I had joined an orchestra with Sebastien’s mother, playing the double bass. I had not played this since High School, and even then it was only in jazz bands as opposed to with a bow in an Orchestra. Early in November, this Orchestra hosted a Christmas concert. I played my bagpipes for one song, and managed to keep up with the band on my bass for the rest. It’s been quite a while since I performed, and I forgot the satisfying thrill that comes with playing for an audience. I was presented with flowers at the end, and was so happy to have had this chance to play music.
Orchestra Concert 004 Orchestra Concert 021  Orchestra Concert 064 Orchestra Concert 098
I was also asked to play my bagpipes for the Christmas concert at the school where I worked. I was extremely nervous before the event itself, but had a lot of fun getting involved in activities outside of the classroom. My mom was in town for my actual performance, and she accompanied me for my practices and came with me for dinner before the big show. Her and Sebastien were in the audience for the performance itself, and I was once again exhilarated at the opportunity to perform for such a large audience.
As I just mentioned, the arrival of December coincided with the arrival of my mom in Berlin. It was so great getting to explore all of the Christmas Markets with her, and getting to show her all of the different aspects of my life in Germany. During the second weekend of her visit, we went with Sebastien’s parents to Dresden. While this trip was accompanied with extremely cold weather, it was also an amazing cultural experience. It was easy to get into the Christmas spirit with booths selling handmade goods and glühwein, and we walked around the Christmas Markets for hours. We also got to see a bit of Dresden besides the markets though, with visits to churches and a tour of the Opera House. I was sorry that I would not be with my parents for Christmas Day, but it made a lot more sense for my mom to visit a bit earlier in the month. Flights aren’t very hectic at the beginning of December!
Mum's Christmas Visit 104 Mum's Christmas Visit 143 Mum's Christmas Visit 296 Mum's Christmas Visit 317  Mum's Christmas Visit 387 Mum's Christmas Visit 409
I loved the Christmas holidays in Berlin. While we have a few Christmas Markets in Canada, they are often indoors and involve pricey, artsy works for sale. The ones in Germany are more about being able to grab a seasonal bite to eat, and getting seasonal decorations and gifts. You hardly ever have to pay entry for Christmas Markets in Berlin, and I went to many notable ones over the month of December. When friends from Calgary visited Berlin, we took them to the scenic Christmas Market at Schloss Charlottenburg (I’m sorry that there isn’t a picture of them here, but we had a terrific time!)
Middle of December 011 Middle of December 013 Middle of December 040
Christmas with Sebastien’s family came along with its own traditions, including opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Both our house and Sebastien’s parents’ house were warmly decorated for the holidays, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in a new Christmas tradition (although I am looking forward to enjoying my own traditions again this Christmas at home!)
New Year’s Eve in Germany was fairly similar in Canada in regards to the partying…but the major difference was the fireworks! I know that fireworks can be used as a way to celebrate in Canada, but during the few days before the New Year, the purchase of fireworks becomes legal for everyone. Starting early in the day on New Year’s Eve, people start lighting fireworks from sidewalks, street corners, parks, backyards, balconies…our neighbourhood is usually quiet, but you didn’t go long without hearing fireworks all day! We went out to celebrate in the evening, and at midnight the skies went insane. When we went home late that night, there were remnants of fireworks at every step.
The next big event for me was my birthday. Sebastien took me to Tropical Island just outside of Berlin, and we spent the day relaxing inside of a huge, tropical dome. The next day, I was extremely touched by the amount of people that came out to help me celebrate my birthday. Sebastien’s sister also baked me a delicious cake!

January in Berlin Camera 003  January in Berlin Camera 009
At the beginning of February, Sebastien’s mom and I went to Grüne Woche. This is a yearly event that takes place in a large building, and there are lots of things to see; some rooms sell outdoor goods like fireplaces and watering cans, and there are rooms with huge displays of flowers. There were sections where you could explore different cultural booths, and there were also places featuring animals like sheep, goats, pigs, cats, and dogs. It was a great way to celebrate the fact that Spring was on its way!
Late January in Germany 018 Late January in Germany 020  Late January in Germany 069   Late January in Germany 089  Late January in Germany 101
Between November and February, I was able to take part in a German Language Course at Sebastien’s university. In the grand scheme of things, this course was quite short, but I still think that I learned a lot from it. You never know where you’ll learn the words that stick with you, and this course helped me expand my vocabulary a lot. I also think my grammar got a bit better, and in general it was helpful to speak German non-stop for three hours a week (and that’s not counting my Orchestra practices)! I feel like this class was a great bonding experience for everyone involved (there were about 15 students) and it was interesting to meet people from all over the world that had come to Germany for their education. There was one girl that I grew fairly close to, and we continued to get together throughout the rest of my time in Germany.
Random Feb 028
Near the end of February, Sebastien and I took a trip to Prague. It was a fairly short trip, but we managed to pack in lots of sightseeing during our time there. Prague is an absolutely gorgeous place, and I loved being able to see a number of historical libraries amongst other sights. We did a fair amount of hiking, and spent a memorable night dancing at Europe’s Largest Night Club. We timed our trip really well, because even in February the city was quite busy – we didn’t want to imagine what it must be like during the warm summer months!
Prague and January in Berlin 132 Prague and January in Berlin 137 Prague and January in Berlin 161  Prague and January in Berlin 178 Prague and January in Berlin 184 Prague and January in Berlin 190 Prague and January in Berlin 191  Prague and January in Berlin 264 Prague and January in Berlin 373 Prague and January in Berlin 402
During a bright and sunny March day, Seb and I took a day trip to Potsdam. Potsdam houses a large historical park (Sanssouci Park), and we enjoyed walking between the different historical buildings. One of these buildings was where the Potsdam Conference was held, where treaties were signed after WWII. Many of the buildings in this park were built for Frederick the Great, who had his summer home there – these buildings include an “orangery” and a Chinese tea room.
Potsdam Day Trip 007      Potsdam Day Trip 040  Potsdam Day Trip 069

St. Patrick’s Day turned out to be a fairly minimal affair in Berlin. One of my British friends mentioned that there was a St. Patrick’s Day parade going on, and according to the website it was a fairly big event. Seb and I arrived, and found that the parade consisted of the Berlin bagpipe band, along with “St. Patrick” chasing around a big snake (aka: four people under a sheet). There were lots of people walking alongside the parade doing nothing (including us) and the whole thing was slightly silly but still fun. I found out that the Berlin pipeband has a pretty cool bass drum, with the Berlin bear playing pipes.
Later March 084
At the end of March, my dad arrived for a visit! We took a short trip to Amsterdam, and had a great time there absorbing the culture. We were able to visit both the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, and we came home with lots of cheese and tulips.
Dad's Berlin Trip 126 Dad's Berlin Trip 197
During the rest of Dad’s time in Berlin, we made sure to check out all of the tourist highlights, including the Television Tower and the government building.
Dad's visit - red camera 468 Dad's visit - red camera 501
Over the Easter Weekend, Sebastien and I took a short trip to Magdeburg and Leipzig. These towns were quite easy to get to, and it didn’t take very long to see everything that we found interesting there. Both of these cities experienced a phase of historical importance, during which they were as popular as Berlin is now (Magdeburg was first, and then Leipzig). One of my favourite things to see on this trip was the Monument in Leipzig, which was erected in memory of the battle of Napoleon that took place there 200 years ago.
Magdeburg and Leipzig 025 Magdeburg and Leipzig 034 Magdeburg and Leipzig 164 Magdeburg and Leipzig 348
Around Berlin, I was lucky enough to visit a few Easter Markets, which were surprisingly similar to the Christmas Markets. The main difference was the lack of glühwein, and also the weather!
At the beginning of May, I went with Sebastien and a group of others to a Wine Festival going on in Werner, which is a town just outside of Berlin. We went to this festival two weekends in a row, and got to enjoy cheap, fruity wine while taking in the sunshine. There was a stage with live music, and lots of festival foods available. There were also various rides and electronic games, which reminded me of the Calgary Stampede.

Wine Fest May 008 Wine Fest May 019 Wine Fest May 033

The last trip that Sebastien and I were able to take during this amazing year in Berlin was to Usedom Island, just over a week ago. Usedom Island isn’t very well known amongst Americans as far as I know, but to Germans it is a fairly common vacation spot. While Usedom itself is in Germany, the island contains parts of Poland, and we enjoyed going across the border for our dinners while there. We visited Peenemünde, which is where Wernher von Braun and a team of engineers built rockets during WWII. Besides this, we got to enjoy time on sandy beaches, and also got to see lots of farm animals in the small towns on the island. The trip reminded me of all my favourite things about Portree (Isle of Skye, Scotland), Victoria (British Columbia) and Nova Scotia. It was a lovely, relaxing experience for Sebastien and I, and I am so glad that we had the chance to take that trip before I left.
Peenemünde 180Peenemünde 084Peenemünde 345
So what comes next? In four days’ time, I will go to Nova Scotia for a week-long trip with my mom. While there, I am hoping to take a look at the Dalhousie University Campus, since it is where I will be spending my next two years completing my Master’s in Library Studies. I have started a librarian blog, and am hoping to write in there more often from now on.
I have no idea when my next trip to Europe will be, but I am hoping it will be sooner rather than later. I’m having a hard time believing that my nine months there has officially come and gone. It has been an unforgettable year, and my life has been enriched for the experience.
Thank you so much for reading this blog. I am sorry that it went on for so long! I did a fair amount of things over the course of the year that I will never forget. I hope that you enjoyed reading about them as much as I did writing about them.
Liebe grüße,
Robyn

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

OKTOBERFEST!

Hello everyone!

As the title of this post suggests, I have returned from my Oktoberfest adventure in Munich, and would love to tell you all about it!

I suppose I should begin by telling you how the whole Oktoberfest journey came about. When I was at the teaching orientation back in August, I spoke with multiple people about Oktoberfest. Practically everyone expressed a desire to go, but only one person had actually booked herself a trip already. A few months back, she and her boyfriend had reserved a bus trip that included their transportation and accommodation. She told me about how trying to find your own accommodation by that time of the year (a month away from Oktoberfest) would be practically impossible – even cheap hostels would charge 100 euros per night, because they knew that everyone would want to stay in Munich for Oktoberfest. I very quickly realized that Oktoberfest probably wouldn’t happen for me – I hadn’t booked accommodation, and had no desire to pay mass amounts of money for the experience. Sebastien also described to me how the event itself was so extremely crowded, you would have to get in line for the beer tents at 7am if you expected to get a table. Once we left orientation and formed Facebook groups based on where in Germany we were staying, the other foreigners continued to discuss Oktoberfest plans, but no one could really come up with an ideal solution. All accommodation was booked, and transportation looked fairly expensive.

I was not overly disappointed with the idea of not going – I knew that Sebastien and I would likely go to a smaller Oktoberfest in Berlin, and in his opinion it was more fun to do that then go to the huge one in Munich anyway. I also figured it would be better to save the money for other things. I decided that if anyone took charge and told me an exact plan, I would take part. But if not, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.

One day I was looking through the Facebook group posts, and noticed that one girl had posted a very detailed plan about how we could make Oktoberfest happen. She told us a bus company we could book with for only 22 euros each way (since it was still a few weeks in advance) and she provided the details for a campsite where we could stay in tents in groups of four, and only pay 45 euros for a total of three nights. While other Oktoberfest ideas I had heard of involved me leaving on Sebastien’s birthday, this plan involved the Monday to Thursday afterwards – all of us teachers have two weeks off this month so we could go during the week. Considering that it was fairly cheap, arranged by someone else, involved a fun group of people, and might be my best chance to ever experience Oktoberfest, I agreed to do it. The only unfortunate thing about taking the trip was that Sebastien would be unable to come. His thesis due date was coming up fairly soon, and by the time we had to make our campground reservation, he still didn’t know whether he would be done or not. I wished that he could come with me, but we agreed that this was a great chance for me to experience Oktoberfest and I should still go. In the end, we really enjoyed the Berlin Oktoberfest together, and I made sure to call him regularly from Munich.

The group ended up with a total of three tents (so twelve people), and I booked my bus trip for early Monday morning with the group, and 1pm on Thursday back to Berlin. I didn’t realize the rest of the group had booked their trip on Thursday for midnight – I figured it would be nice to get home at a decent hour and sleep in a normal bed that night.

So I showed up on Monday at the bus station, all ready to go. There were 11 of us travelling on the same bus, and a spot was saved for me on the second level. I had horrific memories of last year’s bus journey from Berlin to London, but this bus ride was extremely pleasant! The group had a great time talking together, and we resorted to “I spy with my little eye” when we got bored. A few people almost got left behind at the rest stop when we were only given ten minutes to find food and use the washroom, but luckily we were able to get the bus driver to wait for them. I had brought enough of my own snacks to last almost the entire trip, so I was all set food-wise. I thought it was so cool to travel on a double-decker bus!

Image

We were all a little groggy when we arrived at the Munich bus station, and I was very happy that I had managed to pack my belongings in two suitcases. Some people had their sleeping bags and other pieces of luggage loose, and it got a bit tricky to keep track of everything while we tried to figure out which train to take to our campsite. It was a very crowded station, since it was the same one people used to get to Oktoberfest. Needless to say, there were loads of people in dirndls and lederhosen every way we looked! Eventually we found our way, and were soon at the campsite and checked in.

Image

Image

I think we all experienced a moment of fear and dread when we realized just how small these “four person tents” were. There was a bit of an outer part where we could put our shoes and suitcases, but then within the tent there was only enough room for our sleeping bags.

Image

That’s a picture of the four people in the tent next to mine. In our tent we slept with our heads opposite the entrance, but the fellow in this picture was too long to fit that way, so they slept sideways.

Once we got all set up, the situation looked better. We realized we wouldn’t spend our “downtime” hanging around the tents, but it would suffice for a place to sleep. Also, I had been dreading a situation in which there would be no towels or soap or toilet paper available in the bathrooms, but all three things were there and accessible. Even better: the soap wasn’t just plain, but a lovely coconut scent.

We went to the small cafeteria-like place on the campground for a bite to eat (although personally I stuck with the multiple snacks I had brought) and decided to head out shortly after. The way from our campsite to Oktoberfest was fairly simple – it was a bit of a walk to the train station, but once we boarded, there were no transfers involved. Once we got off the train, it was very easy to follow the mass amounts of people headed towards the event.

My first impression of Oktoberfest was that it was extremely similar to the Calgary Stampede. There were interesting foods available, overpriced rides, and a few corny games.

first look into Oktoberfest

first look into Oktoberfest

OKTOBERFEST 053 OKTOBERFEST 055

It was really interesting to see all these different things, and smell the overwhelming sweetness coming from the stores selling candy apples and sugar nuts.

But of course, the major difference between the Calgary Stampede and Oktoberfest was the lack of horses, and instead, the multitude of beer tents. I had no expectations of being able to get into a beer tent that evening – like I said, Sebastien had me under the impression that you could never find a table if you were not there by 7am. But what neither Sebastien or I knew was the fact that a Monday is not nearly as busy as the weekend. I will never forget that first moment when I walked into the beer tent; from the outside it looked so unassuming, but once I was inside it was a whole new place. There was live music playing, and it was decorated in vivid colours. People in lederhosen and dirndls were all dancing on benches, and it was a rather inviting atmosphere.

OKTOBERFEST 049

OKTOBERFEST 060 OKTOBERFEST 061 OKTOBERFEST 063 OKTOBERFEST 064

Our group was separated into two as there were only segments of benches available for sitting (dancing) at, but we were still pretty close to each other. We quickly ordered a round of drinks, and before long were also dancing on top of the benches. The band played everything from traditional German songs to more recent things such as “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. I never thought I would hear that song from trumpets and trombones, but there you go. And of course, there was a round of “Ein Prosit” once in a while, at which point everyone would cheers with everyone else around them.

our friends dancing on benches

our friends dancing on benches

OKTOBERFEST 077

It felt as though things in that tent shut down fairly early, but in reality I think we had just arrived quite late. But we then went back outside and checked out a few rides. The only ride I did was the swings, which went extremely high. It was 5 euros for a pretty short trip, but it actually provided an amazing view of the city.

the swings!

the swings!

Shortly after that, we began the journey back to the campground. Getting changed and ready for bed was interesting, but with my sweater and socks on I didn’t notice the cold too much. I woke up once or twice in the night because my head felt quite cold, but I was able to tuck it in my sleeping bag and fall back to sleep without much difficulty.

The next morning, we headed back to Oktoberfest for more merriment. While hardly anyone in my group had worn their lederhosen or dirndls the night before (it was too cold and dark by the time we set out) basically everyone did that day. The two guys who had not bought lederhosen decided to take the plunge and purchase them, so they were off on their own for a good part of the morning. I still decided not to buy a dirndl – they were 50 euros minimum from what I could tell, and it was too cold to wear one anyway.

no entry fee!

no entry fee!

OKTOBERFEST 123 OKTOBERFEST 126 OKTOBERFEST 130 OKTOBERFEST 134 OKTOBERFEST 132

It was pretty amazing to see Oktoberfest in daylight! We did a bit of walking around the event, before settling on a beer tent with a big huge lion out front. Not a real lion of course, but one that moved it’s tail and once in a while made a “euuuuuuuuuhhh. euuuuuuuuuuh” sound that was supposedly similar to a roar.

OKTOBERFEST 158 OKTOBERFEST 159

Once again, the inside of the beer tent proved to be much more fantastical than the outside would suggest. And luckily, we were able to find a table for our entire group! We ended up staying there quite a while (although we were mostly sitting instead of dancing, since it was still early) and enjoyed absorbing the music and the atmosphere.

OKTOBERFEST 167 OKTOBERFEST 170 OKTOBERFEST 185 OKTOBERFEST 209 OKTOBERFEST 205

Sorry to lump the photos all together, but it is way faster for me to do it that way! As you can see, pretty much everyone was all dressed up. Even though I wasn’t wearing my dirndl, I made sure to wear my Calgary Stampede shirt! There were people walking around selling things, and as you can tell in my photo, you could buy pretzels bigger than a normal person’s head. They were also selling Oktoberfest t-shirts and various souvenirs, and one of the more impressive (but overpriced, I’m sure) souvenirs was a hat that would twitch around and looked exactly like the sorting hat from Harry Potter. I can see how the event makes a ton of money when drunken people think these purchases are a good idea – I bet the plush lion-shaped hats will look like a great choice to wear out of the house on an everyday basis.

At one point, I ran into a group of people from Saskatchewan! We found this very exciting, and when I pointed out that I was wearing a Calgary Stampede shirt, they pointed out that they were wearing Saskatchewan Roughriders shirt. I would say “small world!” but everyone knows that Canadians love Oktoberfest.

OKTOBERFEST 251

Eventually, our group left the tent. A few of the people with us had gone out because there was an hour in which all rides were half off. Usually I love going on rides, but I hadn’t exactly put “5 euro rides” in my Oktoberfest budget. But we got to walk around outside a bit, and at one point had a dancing session which several tourists thought was pretty cool. They kept taking photos of us, and eventually we were asked for our Facebook page. I guess we should have been asking for tips!

OKTOBERFEST 254

some people in our group went on that!

some people in our group went on that!

OKTOBERFEST 303

As of this point, our group was once again united. So we searched around for another beer tent. In the end, we settled in the beer gardens outside the Lion tent. Things were starting to get a bit more full! We stayed there for quite a while, and everything became funnier with the more we drank. But eventually we headed back to the campsite, although we were missing one person by the time we went to bed.

Unfortunately that night I woke up with cold feet, and once I was awake I realized I really had to pee. I lay there for probably an hour, trying to convince myself that I didn’t have to pee, but knowing that I would never fall back asleep until I faced facts and left the warm tent in search of the bathroom. But eventually I completed my quest, and the tent felt that much warmer once I returned. The bathrooms were quite toasty though – two people in our group found the tents cold enough that they slept in the bathroom for the three days we were there.

At 8 the next morning, the guy we had been missing finally turned up. He had apparently boarded a train for our campsite, but fallen asleep and finally woken up miles away from Munich. He then found out there wouldn’t be another train going back to Munich until 5am, so he spent the next two hours trying to stay warm in a bar and, once the bar closed, an elevator. At 5, he caught the train back to Munich, where he once again fell asleep and missed the stop for the campground. But finally he made it back to us, at which point he entered the tent next to ours and was told “don’t come in here with your shoes on!” He had a really terrible night, but it’s a pretty amazing drunken story to tell at parties.

On Wednesday, we broke into two groups – one that went sight-seeing around the city, and another that went back to Oktoberfest. I went with the Oktoberfest group, but perhaps would have changed my decision if I knew how crowded it was going to be. While Monday and Tuesday had been regular work days for most people in Germany, apparently Thursday was a holiday – and a lot of people started celebrating on Wednesday! In the morning, we got a table outside in a beer tent because of all the sunshine. Unfortunately it got cold fairly quickly despite the sun, and we decided to move inside. However, there was not a free table to be found anywhere. A lot of places were reserved, and we got shuffled around with all the other crowds also walking around. Eventually we left the tent, and continued in vain to try and find a spot for ourselves somewhere. One member of our group had the intention of meeting up with his friends inside a tent, but it was so full that he waited in line for an hour before giving up. And that line was just to get in the tent, not even a guaranteed spot at a table. My favourite part about that day was that we ended up seeing way more of the grounds than we had before, since we were trying to find tents further away from the entrance. I took a lot of pictures of different rides as we went by. I also ate a schnitzel on a bun that was absolutely delicious. Myself and the British people I was with agreed that food is better in Germany. Not that food is terrible elsewhere, but even on a fairground they still take their food quality seriously.

OKTOBERFEST 418 OKTOBERFEST 420 OKTOBERFEST 429OKTOBERFEST 414

A few people in our group found a spot to sit, and left us to try and find somewhere else. In the end, about six of us decided to leave the Oktoberfest and head to Marienplatz, which is known to have a spectacular beer hall. We saw some pretty neat tourist sites on the way, but unfortunately couldn’t find a spot in the beer hall (walking through it was quite cool though!) We settled on taking a break in “The Hard Rock Cafe” and then met up with the group that had been sightseeing all day.

OKTOBERFEST 446 OKTOBERFEST 447 OKTOBERFEST 449 OKTOBERFEST 458 OKTOBERFEST 459 OKTOBERFEST 472 OKTOBERFEST 473 OKTOBERFEST 476

As you can tell from the photos, there was a live band inside the beer hall, and the ceilings looked pretty amazing! But it was nice to finally sit down in a restaurant and take a breath. We ended up breaking into two groups for dinner – a few of the people tried to go back to the beer hall but failed to find a spot again (go figure) and then resorted to a German restaurant. I went with a few other people for sushi – I know that it doesn’t sound like a very German thing to do, but it sure was nice to have fresh food with real vegetables again. Then we met up with the people in the German restaurant, found a bigger table, and sat and sipped beer for the rest of the evening.

OKTOBERFEST 484

A few of the people had wanted to try going back to Oktoberfest, but I had absolutely no confidence that we would find a table there if we had been having such luck earlier in the day. We eventually headed back to the tent, and found that the others had also made it there safely. It was a gorgeous clear night, which unfortunately meant I had a very hard time sleeping because it was so cold. But I’m sure it was helpful that I was wearing my toque, sweater, and scarf in my sleeping bag.

OKTOBERFEST 517 OKTOBERFEST 518

On Thursday morning, we all woke up and started packing our things. I made sure to charge both of my phones (I was very happy to discover there was a place to charge our electronics while we were there! Also, one day I had taken a shower, and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of hot water there was) and then ate some more of the food I had brought with me for breakfast. At the Oktoberfest itself there had been elaborate meals involving duck or chicken, but I’m still happy that I brought enough of my own food that I didn’t end up paying for that type of thing. Once we had all rolled up our sleeping bags and checked out, we were given our 20 dollar deposits back. It was a pleasant surprise to be 20 dollars richer again!

As I mentioned earlier, everyone else’s bus was at midnight whereas mine would leave at about 1:30. One other girl in the group was taking a bus at 3, so we headed to the bus station together while the rest of the group went to put their things in lockers so they could continue to explore the city. I later found out that they had gotten into the beer hall we had seen the day before, but had not enjoyed the bus ride at all. It was once again quite stuffy on the top floor of the bus, so they had a hard time sleeping.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip home! My one friend and I grabbed a bite to eat before my bus took off, and I got a seat on the bottom of the bus instead of on the top. As I suspected, it turned out to be way less stuffy on the bottom. I also lucked out and had two seats to myself instead of just one. One advantage of leaving in the afternoon was that I could see lots of cool things out the window – first in Munich as we were leaving, and then I got to see the rolling hillsides as the sunset approached. I made sure to be really quick in the washroom when we got to the rest stop, because I was terrified of being left behind!

When I reached Berlin, I gave Sebastien a call – I had been secretly hoping he would meet me at the bus station even though we hadn’t agreed on that, and indeed he was there to meet me! We stopped at a cheap pizza place on the way home, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first real meal in about three days (and left out the beer!)

OKTOBERFEST 530

We then went home, and I have never enjoyed being inside a normal house that much. And sleeping in a real bed, with an actual mattress! I didn’t even have to leave the house to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, I was in heaven.

In conclusion to this marathon of a story, I had an absolute blast at Oktoberfest. I couldn’t be happier that I have finally experienced it for myself! It’s one of the few “bucket-list” things I had hoped to do someday. The atmosphere and elaborateness of the place were amazing, and it was so cool to be enveloped in so much culture. I don’t think I would need to go back to Munich for another Oktoberfest though – the crowds are a little difficult to take, and if I did go back it would not be to stay in a tent! But I was able to pull off the entire trip spending less than 300 euros for travel, accommodation, and food, and that was only possible because I’m young and therefore willing to sacrifice a few perks.

And thus concludes the most elaborate blog post in history. Thank you so much for reading about my adventure!

Tschüss!

-Robyn

But

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Month Later!

Hello All!

Sorry that it’s been a little while since my last post! I’ve been waiting to write a new one until the perfect moment when I felt I had lots of exciting new things to tell you, instead of repeating everything I’ve already said. Not to put pressure on myself or anything.

So, yesterday officially marked my having been in Berlin for one month. And Sebastien mentioned to me that Christmas Eve is three months from today. My oh my, how time flies!

I guess the first “exciting” thing I should mention about the past few weeks is that I am finally getting my official information in order for my extended stay in Germany. I am registered as living here, have a bank account (and a pretty bank card with a sparkly picture of the Brandenburger Tor!), have a visa, and am a member of a gym. The only thing I have yet to sort out from my initial “to-do list” is sign up for a German language course. However, the one I want does not begin until the end of October, and I’m not able to sign up for it for another few weeks. But it feels good that things so far have gone smoothly, especially considering that I’ve been doing it all in a foreign language. That would sound much more impressive if it weren’t for Sebastien helping me at every step of the way though, and I am very appreciative for his help!

I’m slowly getting used to being a member of a gym in a foreign language. I almost walked into the men’s changeroom on the first day, but am thankful that I eventually remembered what “Herren” means (before I actually made it through the door). I am still a bit terrified of the sauna and showers, but at least the workout equipment is all the same. At one point, a woman even asked me how to use a machine! I must look like such a pro. Our entire conversation was in German, although most of it involved showing her how I push the machine with my leg. She wasn’t blind, so I’m pretty sure that was about all she needed. And after three days, I figured out how to lock my locker! Hopefully no one noticed me creepily staring at them in the changeroom before that point, because I kept trying to catch a glimpse of how it was done.

I have become fairly well established in my weekly routine by this point. On Wednesdays after work, I go to Orchestra practice. I spend an hour painfully sawing away at my bass on my own (still not all that great at using a bow), and then join the group for a few hours more of practice. I like that time a lot better, because the other bassist plays so well that I can pretend I’m really good. I just have to make sure to not play too loudly, because then it ruins the illusion. After we’re done practice, a group of us will go out for a late dinner and a drink. Two weeks ago we went for sushi, so I had an adventure with trying to translate different fish dishes from Japanese into German into English. Then last week we went for Italian – I accidentally ordered a pizza with weird peppers on it, but I managed to artfully hide them in my napkin so that the waiter only discovered I was crazy after he had carried my plate from the table. During these adventurous meals, I love having the opportunity to speak with my bandmates in German. And after that, Sebastien’s very kind mother drives me home – during which time I get to practice even more German with her. The only problem is when I haven’t been getting enough sleep during the week, in which case my translating and thinking skills are slightly useless.

One of the Australian girls I met at the orientation introduced me to an awesome tradition for Thursday nights: mystery movie night! At Potsdamer Platz, they have a theatre that shows productions in English. Every Thursday night, people can pay 5 euros to see a sneak peek at a brand new film…the only catch being that people don’t know what they’re going to see! We went two weeks ago with my Australian and British friend, and the movie ended up being “Rush”. It’s a race car movie based on the true story about Niki Lauda and James Hunt. As it started, I groaned and rolled my eyes at Sebastien – I had absolutely no interest in seeing it. But it turned out to be a really fantastic movie. Last week we went again with a slightly larger group, and I noticed for the first time how many introductory credits there are to a movie. “Universal Pictures presents…” “A Comcast Company…” “With ‘Working Title’ Pictures…” and the list seemed to go on and on. Finally, we found out we were watching “About Time” which I had heard absolutely nothing about. But it had Rachel McAdams, and turned out to be quite good. One of the most fun things about the mystery movie nights is that I am blameless for when we watch a chick flick, and Sebastien is blameless for when we watch something with lots of actions and explosions. I shouldn’t stereotype it that way, but usually when seeing a movie with a date, there will be some compromise – but this takes all the decision making out of it. Tomorrow we will hopefully go again (as long as the reservations haven’t all filled up!) and it’s exciting to wonder what we’ll see. We also have stamp cards – once you go six times, you get a free entry! 

Image

There’s a photo of the train station by Potsdamer Platz – another block, and you reach the area of the movie theatre.Image

I’ve always been a huge fan of Potsdamer Platz – basically there’s this cool looking roof over a circle of buildings, which include restaurants and theatres and museums. The roof changes colour at night too!

So what else is going on with me? Of course I’m still working, but I actually came up with so many things to write about that that I thought I better make it into a separate blog. Besides that, Friday is Sebastien’s birthday! I have known him for almost 7 years, but surprisingly enough this is our first time actually spending his birthday together. Have I mentioned we went through a bit of a long-distance thing? On Saturday, we will be attending an “Oktoberfest” going on in Berlin – both some of his friends and some of my orientation friends will be going, and I’m really excited for it all.

After this Friday, I actually have a two week break from work. So, from September 30th to October 3rd, I will be in Munich! I’m travelling with a group from my orientation there and back by bus, and we’re staying in tents. I’m not really sure of a lot of the details, because a few of my very nice friends arranged it all. I had actually been fairly sure I wouldn’t go to Oktoberfest, because no one could put a plan together, and accommodation was extremely expensive and hard to find (those people in Munich know when they’re in high demand!) So when a few people in the orientation came up with the idea to travel by bus and stay in tents, I decided to jump on board. How much more of a chance do you get to go to Oktoberfest than when you’re staying in Germany? I unfortunately will not be buying a traditional German Dirndl to wear though – they cost a minimum of 90 dollars, and since it’s fall I would imagine that would get very cold. So instead, I will be bundling up like crazy. I even bought a sweater the other day – it makes me look like Big Bird off Sesame Street, but it is very warm! Hopefully, some blogworthy experiences will occur while I’m there. I’m quite sad that Sebastien will not be able to make it to Oktoberfest with me – he has some schoolwork that needs attending to 😦 but since I still have an entire week off after that, we have been tossing around ideas of travelling somewhere else together. But we’ll see what happens!

I believe this blog is officially long enough. If you’re up for more reading, I will be posting a separate blog with a summary about how awesome work is. It may make you want to hold me down and tell me really ugly things about the world (quoting Lorelai Gilmore) based on all the sickening optimism, but perhaps you’ll enjoy it!

Thank you so much for reading!

Auf wiedersehen!

-Robyn

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,