As I mentioned in my previous post, A Semester Abroad, I was able to travel a lot outside of my host country during my semester in London. So here are all of the photos, stories, and fashion statements from the rest of my travels and excursions!
Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)My first destination was the famous Oktoberfest festival. Everyone has heard stories about the legendary beer tents with an endless amount of beer-filled steins, so I knew that it was an opportunity that I could not miss. I happened to be in Europe in the fall, when Oktoberfest takes place, so it became #1 on my travel list. While I like to tell people that I've been to Germany, I regrettably didn't see much of the country outside of the festival, itself. I would love to revisit the home of many of my ancestors in order to get a better understanding of the culture. However, I did pick up a few things….
First off, I should tell you that I went to Germany by myself. I was the only one from my school in CA who studied abroad in London that semester, and most people in my program that went to Oktoberfest had made plans with other people from their home schools in advance. It was mid-September when I decided that I would go, which is extremely late, since Oktoberfest begins a couple weeks later (it actually starts in September, despite its name). This means that finding hotels/lodging is difficult, and expensive. However, in my web searching, I happened upon a company that sets up temporary hostels for events, called Hostival, the Festival Hostel (Here is their Facebook page). They had the most reasonable prices that I had seen and were located near a train that can take you directly to the festival every day. The hostel incorporates different themes for each festival, and the theme they had chosen for Oktoberfest was the Hangover Hospital, which seemed all too fitting.
The rooms were essentially tents filled with bunk beds for a total of twelve people in each. My tent was labeled the "Plastic Surgery Room" and I shared it with five men. They were kind and kept to themselves, and did not make me feel intimidated in the least. The hostel also hosted a "club crawl" in the evening, when Oktoberfest had closed, which I took part in the first night. I made friends with a group of Americans who also happened to be studying in London at a different school, and actually kept in touch with them when I got back to the city. We also went with each other to the festival the following day.
However, on the first day, I had boarded a plane to Munich on my own, not knowing what was in store for me. I was a little nervous to be traveling by myself to a German-speaking country where I would be completely foreign and inevitably lost. Luckily, a lovely German man sat next to me on the plane, and we chatted the entire way there. He had been in London for work and was on his way home. Though he didn't even have plans to go to Oktoberfest that day, he offered to accompany me there and help me find my hostel. As soon as we landed he told me that I had to experience a "traditional German breakfast," and treated me to one at the airport. The breakfast consisted of white sausages, a soft pretzel, mustard, and practically a gallon of beer (at 10am, mind you). To top it all off, he helped me to navigate the trains and bought a ticket for me that would last the entire weekend. I have heard a lot of stereotypes about Germans, but all of the ones I have been fortunate to meet have blown me away with their kindness. It just goes to show that you never know who you might meet in your travels, but if you keep an open mind and a warm disposition, it will work out in your favor.
BUT I am not saying that you should not be careful. When I met this man, I received completely good vibes and I wasn't hesitant at all to continue my journey with him. Therefore, my advice would be to follow your gut. I am generally a trusting person, but people are capable of things that I shudder to even think about. You cannot run off with just anyone that you meet in a foreign country and assume that you will be safe. Assess the situation and use your best judgement to make decisions. I would have been hopelessly lost if I had not accepted the guidance of this man, but I can see how the circumstances could have gone drastically differently.
|My first night at Oktoberfest, with my native tour guide.|
|I was amazed by the waitresses, who could carry five of these heavy steins at a time, in each hand!|
After having our fill of beer, we decided to explore other aspects of the festival, like rides:
|These are traditional German gingerbread hearts, which are sometimes kept and hung as decorations, rather than eaten.|
|These are two versions of a traditional dumpling soup, one with meat and the other with dough and mushrooms.|
|The giant pretzels are a staple of Oktoberfest, and the German diet. Surprisingly, though, they were served cold.|
|I searched high and low to find my favorite German dish: spaetzle (a type of german dumpling). This version is made with cheese and topped with crispy onions.|
|Sweater: Forever 21, Necklace: Primark (London, £8!)|
|Scarf: Forever 21, Jacket: Urban Outfitters|
|Boots: Steve Madden|
|Scarf: Urban Outfitters, Jacket & Skirt: Forever 21|
|Top: Topshop, Skirt: boutique ($40), Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters|
|There's a superstition that if you rub the lizard's nose, it brings good luck.|
|Top: Topshop (love!), Skirt: boutique find (> $30) Pair the top with some nice shorts or pants and it works for a nighttime outfit as well!|
And speaking of art….
|Striped Shirt: Urban Outfitters, Faux-Fur Coat: Urban Outfitters (on sale!), Scarf: Paris ($5!)|
|Fur Headband: Primark (London), Sweater: Urban Outfitters, Boots: Steve Madden (DSW)|
|This is actually a photo from inside the castle, not the front of the castle, itself.|