Ich spreche kein Deutsch: Dec.5-Dec. 11

9 Jan

So this week, I returned to the Motherland (aka Germany). Traveling to Germany and Austria was a trip that I had wanted to make since the last time that I left Europe three years ago. I especially wanted to see the Christmas markets that this area of Europe is so famous for.

I happened to plan the trip for a long weekend, as we had Thursday off due to a holiday. It was going to be a very long trip- from Wednesday afternoon to Monday morning.

After some flight delays and figuring out the Munich airport, we finally made it to the city. Let me say that Munich goes all out for the holidays. Everything had lights and was decorated. There was even a Christmas market in between the terminals at the airport. I literally walked off the plane, out of the airport, and into a Christmas market. Talk about a dream come true.

Our first stop on Wednesday night (since everything else was closed) was the famed Hofbrauhaus, a three-story beer hall. What a way to kick off my German adventure with some beer, pretzels, and sausages. Okay, I don’t really like beer so I could only handle it when it was mixed with lemonade.

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Just a girl and 1L of beer (okay no, I couldn’t handle a whole liter so this is beer and lemonade)

Thursday was our day trip to Salzburg, Austria: the home of a lovely Christmas market and well-known for its connections to the Sound of Music. We spent the day gallivanting around the city doing everything we could from spending time in the Alps to posing in front of relics from the Sound of Music.

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The hills were alive

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Practicing my dancing @ the Sound of Music gazebo

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In case you haven’t realized it yet, aerial views are my fave

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It may or may not have been one of my goals to eat a pretzel as big as my face

Unsurprisingly, countless people mistook my features for being German and I was spoken to in German quite frequently. I was proud to be able to use my fledgling German to tell them “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.” Yes, I told them that I couldn’t speak  German in German. I was really proud of myself.

We spent Friday roaming around Munich and seeing the sights: a royal residence (large portions of which were rebuilt after the war), strolling around a park, and a very informative museum about the Third Reich. We tried to find a nice balance between fun and educational activities- what mature travelers we are. I also tried some schnitzel (fried pork, I think) and some more German beer (which was surprisingly not terrible). I was really trying to embrace the culture of my ancestors on this trip!

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Lovely ceilings at the royal residence

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Some German nature

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Found myself on Jaeger Street

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Just a girl and her schnitzel

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And the Christmas markets. Easily one of my favorite parts of the trip. Entire squares covered in lights with all of the fixings of Christmas: food, mulled wine, stalls selling decorations/clothes/goodies. It was a dream come true. There were so many options that I found it overwhelming. I learned that I am not a Christmas market shopper, as I like to see everything before deciding what to purchase. And, at a market, you just have to commit when you see something favorable. And I just couldn’t make those commitments without seeing everything that the markets had to offer. I was able to commit to the food though. After spending time at markets in Germany and Austria, I managed to try bratwurst, apple strudel, giant pretzels, orange punch, and mulled wine. Mulled wine is a drink of choice at the markets. Each stand that sells this tolerable drink gives it to you in a special mug. And, as a connoisseur of mugs, it became my mission to see every available mug and make an informed decision. Let’s just say that I left these beautiful countries with three new mugs to my name. I will be bringing home a lot of drinkware this year.

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Why buy a star when you are a star?

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Salzburg, Austria

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Ornaments galore

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Cookies galore

From Saturday morning to Monday morning I was on my own in Munich. In some aspects, solo traveling in a great thing. I had the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I was like a young child who had a new toy and didn’t have to share with anyone. That kind of freedom was intoxicating. I was alone in a foreign city with the whole place at my fingertips. But, at the same time, I missed having someone to talk to and to share experiences with. Some solo travelers are great about finding friends in new places and in starting up conversations with strangers, but that’s not me. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the amount of people that I talked to each day that I was alone. It was just me and my thoughts. And yes, I did find myself talking to myself much more often. I also became quite decent at taking selfies because I no longer had a travel partner to force to take pictures of me.

Saturday was a packed day. I decided to visit Dachau concentration camp which is a little outside of Munich. I don’t really know how to describe the experience. It was very emotional and I think that it is something that everyone should do. While I have read and studied a great deal about the Holocaust and the Second World War, it is really another thing to be standing in the places where such atrocities occurred.

After that very heavy experience, I decided to explore the city a bit more on my own. I checked out Nympenberg Palace and went to the top of St. Peter’s Church to get the best view of the city right as the sun was setting. It was a great decision and the perfect time to see the city from above. I spent the rest of the night roaming around the Christmas markets in search of the greatest market mug, checking out booths, and admiring the lights all around the city. It was a very peaceful and fun night.

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A view of Marienplatz from above

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On Sunday I decided to take another day trip to Austria to see some more markets. Back in August, when I was discussing my ideas for travel plans with my grandparents, my Oma suggests that Innsbruck, Austria, was decorated very nicely for Christmas. So, I decided to take her recommendation and travel there. Okay, I have had many cool experiences since being here, but it was unlike any other to actually be standing in Innsbruck four months after this conversation with my grandmother and thinking “Wow. This is actually happening.” And she was totally right, the town is nestled in the Alps and was decked out for Christmas. So I spent the day wandering around the city, trying to snag a perfect picture of the mountains/river/colorful houses, and enjoying the Christmas market. In order to fully experience the charm of the city, I had to try the kiachl, which is fried dough with sauerkraut. Yes, I know that sounds gross, but it was marvelous. And, let’s be real, I may have been really missing sauerkraut. In that moment, it was just me with some orange punch, eating what is essentially a sauerkraut doughnut, standing in a Christmas market in Austria. It was one of those surreal, “Is this really my life?” moments.

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Photo cred to some random Italian dude

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Apologies for all of the colorful house pictures

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What a nutritious dinner

Monday morning itself was an adventure of its own. I woke up at 4:50am to leave the hostel and get to the airport on time. It is always a very odd feeling waking up to start a new day when my family back home hasn’t even gone to sleep yet. I managed to make it to the airport thanks to the assistance of a kind German man who knew very little English. Apparently, there was a point on the train ride where the train split into two, only one part of which went to the airport. And, this kind man went out of his way to make sure that I knew that I had to switch parts of the train. So, whenever I am giving up hope in humanity, I will remember this guy who saved me at 5:40am on a Monday morning.

But, my friends, the adventures did not stop there. I get to the airport and wait in a surprisingly long line for security. I mean, it was 6am so I was not expecting there to be a lot of people. As I walk through the metal detector (and thank goodness that it didn’t go off) and start collecting my things, a security agent approaches me, points to my backpack, and asks if it is mine. I confirm that it is, and she tells me that they need to do a special test on it. I agree (because what else can you do at an airport) and she and a colleague begin wiping down my things. The colleague leaves, and it is just me and this security agent staring at each other. I asked her if I was allowed to know what they were testing for, and she told me that they had stopped me to test for explosives. All I could think was that of course this would happen to me. When the second woman hurried over and announced that the results of the explosives test had been negative, I felt such a sense of relief. Which was ridiculous because clearly I knew that I had not come in contact with explosives so there was no way the test would be positive. But, I made it through pretty much unscathed.

Well then my flight was delayed. In case you were curious, I’m 0/4 with inter-European flights leaving on time. This pattern better not continue for my flight home….. But, I finally made it back to Madrid, dropped my things off at the apartment, and then headed straight to work. I woke up in Munich, was tested for explosives before breakfast, and made it to Madrid a bit after lunch time. What a day.

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