blessed in bavaria

October 8th, 2016

I felt really emotional leaving Germany last week. I really had so much fun, and so much of it was unexpected, it took me awhile to process that it was over. I remind myself that I’ve been a little sad at the end of each of my stays, but I think the constant roam is getting to me, also. My last week in Germany I had planned to meet up with a guy I met briefly in South Korea. We rode the same bus on a weekend trip to the coast, hung out for just a little bit, I found out he was from Munich, told him I would come visit him someday to go to Oktoberfest, and we exchanged Facebook info. Over the past year we corresponded a few times, but I stayed true and told him I would be in Europe and if he had time, it’d be cool to meet up. He let me know what dates were good and we even talked about going elsewhere in Europe, but agreed that it would be easiest and still fun to tour his university and hometown. We didn’t talk about much else besides our plans, so we really didn’t know each other, and it seemed we were both waiting to do that in person. I could tell even from our short messages that he was a sweet person, so I just went with it.

The bus was late leaving Berlin on Thursday morning but otherwise it was a good ride, not too crowded, and I wished I could’ve understood German/the driver because I couldn’t tell if he was being funny, an ass, or just both. Christian met me at the bus station and we walked around Cologne and stopped here and there for a kolsch, of course. We had all my stuff with us and I said I was the worst traveler, with so much luggage, but he said at least I’m traveling. 🙂 We had the introductory get-to-know each other conversations and then we talked a lot about South Korea, which was really nice. I don’t get to do that very often! And we found we had a pretty similar perspective about things. He was such a gentleman, too. I had no idea what to expect but he’d already exceeded the little expectation that I’d had. We walked all through Cologne, had some cocktails and pizza, and made our way to Aachen. He set me up in his room and slept in his flatmate’s who was gone for the break. The next morning he went to get us breakfast and picked up some pretzels and croissants and we planned our day. We would go to the Netherlands later, but first he would show me around Aachen. We also went on the hunt for soju, since we both missed it, and there were a surprising about of Asian markets in that small town, (but it is an engineering university…). Aachen was cute though, small and adorably German and with a super pretty church, sparkling and marbled. Christian told me about Germany and we talked a lot of language and life in general, and got some ice cream bc it was a nice warm day, and he said that was pretty unusual. I obviously brought the sunshine with me. After a sufficient tour, we met back up with his roommate and ran to catch the bus to Maastricht.

Maastricht is such a cute town! Crazy to me how we can be in another country so easily and it immediately feels completely different. So many bikes in the Netherlands ! and such cute architecture. We picked up and hung out by the river to watch the sunset before heading into town a bit and found a nice bar where everyone was sitting outside, as they do in Europe, more so in mainland than the U.K. I think. I was excited to order the local beers that are always expensive and imported in Chicago, so I had a Chimay blonde, and I saw the tripel karmelit on the menu, thought about getting one of the many other tripels, but our waitress confirmed that it was the best one anyway.The boys tasted it and said it tasted like a hefe, so I had to teach tell them a little about beer. Funny, teaching Germans about beer, but they were impressed with my knowledge, so that was cute. We hung out by the river a little more before napping on the bus back to Aachen. We had our soju and beer and chatted about the circle of death rules they had posted up, (a surprisingly a universal game) before going out to some fun bars. Christian took us to this super cute kitschy bar that was decorated like someone’s home, the bathrooms looked actually lived in with perfume bottles and hair stuff and super cute decor. I spilled perfume all over myself. We had some of their specialty shots with gummy treats for a little chaser, so fun. Christian and I chatted really easily about this and that and went to play darts at another fun divey bar, and he got lucky and beat me. We were somehow out until 5am, and it was a really fun night. We slept in the next day and had breakfast before taking a bike ride. We rode to the “lake” in Aachen, which was more of a pond, but it was fun to ride around and it was a really hot and nice day. We went up a hill downtown where we could see all of Aachen, and had a beer up there and watched the sun set a bit. It was nice and quiet up there and really cute. We returned the bikes before heading out to dinner and to another cute bar by the same owner of the one from the previous night. Apparently he owns three bars pretty much all in a row and all different but all adorable. We played some games, like a Bavarian card game called Mau Mau, that was a little like Uno, and had some more gummy shots, but we didn’t stay out late. We went to the park the next day and we finished off our soju, I brought my guitar and his roommate met us, too. We were mesmerized by the kids playing frisbee and LARPing. It was a really nice day and super relaxing just to be in the park and enjoy a Sunday afternoon.

This first weekend with Christian was already really enjoyable and it was fun to see this little university town. I was nervous and excited to go to his hometown and meet his family, but so far, so good. We were car sharing to Augsburg, and it was a 5 hour drive. The Germans also in the car didn’t seem to feel like speaking English, but I was okay with that, and enjoyed zoning out and writing some cards to send home. The music was good too, and I’ll never forget hearing that Ruth B. Lost Boy song about Peter Pan and Neverland, because I don’t know if I had ever heard or listened to it before, but it came on and resonated so strongly with me at that moment.

We arrived at Christian’s home after his dad picked him us up in a big Volkswagon. He was an adorable man and immediately so sweet to me. His mom greeted us at the door and welcomed us in warmly, showing me to my room and instructing Christian to show me around the bathroom and where to hang towels and such. They had a meal ready for us, delicious chicken and potato salad, and we had some beers while chatting with his parents and sister, who lives upstairs. His parents were so nervous to speak English, but were adorably excited too, and Christian and his sister kept telling them to try because they would soon have to speak with their other son’s soon to be in-laws, in English. Christian’s sister talked about her law studies and where I should go in Spain, she loves Spain, and her and Christian both think they know Spanish better than English. I could tell Andrea will make a good lawyer someday, she was quite talkative, and it was fun hearing her talk about what kind of law office she would like to work at.

I was so surprised at how hospitable they all were to me. I’m just this girl, traveling around, with little direction, that met their son only once before, and they so lovingly opened their home to me, so excited for me to see Bavaria and to be in Germany. I felt at such a contrast to how they all live their lives, yet not judged, just accepted and welcomed.

The next day we went to explore Augsburg and Christian seemed happy to be back in his hometown and to show someone around, not often getting the chance to do something like that. Christian was impressed that my mom had remembered the Golden Room and had told us to go there. We had some breakfast, pretzels of course, and we took the tram downtown to walk around and see some churches and some sites. We climbed the tower and got a good view of the city, and it reminded me a bit of Munich when I had climbed the tower there with my mom there years before, and Christian said it was pretty similar. The square in front of the tower would often be filled with people, some dining, a lot just sitting on the ground, he said. We also checked out the first social settlement, actually still functioning as such, which was really cute and had a ton of little artists sitting around drawing and painting, and was where Mozart’s grandfather had lived. Walking around, he pointed out that there were some Roman ruins here and there than prohibited the city from building anything else there.

Christian’s friends were coming over that night so we went to get some beer and I was so impressed that at the grocery store they just had plastic crates you could take the beer home in. And I thought it was cool that when checking out, you pressed a button and cigarettes slid onto the conveyor belt.

We had dinner and set up in the backyard to host his friends. The yard and garden were of course adorable btw. His friends were all really nice and fun and they tried to speak English, but I didn’t blame them for getting carried away in German because they also hadn’t seen each other in a while. We did talk about some American politics and as soon as one guy asked, another said that he’d been dying to ask also. We also talked about the growing popularity of American football, since it wasn’t as fixed as some soccer leagues and games seem to be. They were all really fun to chat with overall. I also found out that a budgie, a nickname my uncle has for me, is a parakeet, because one of the guy’s girlfriends had left him with hers, and they were so surprised that I didn’t know what a budgie was, but I was so shocked that its actually a bird! Thanks, Uncle. We also talked for at least ten minutes about umbrellas because they couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t have a different name for an umbrella that you use in the rain verses one that you use in the sun, because in German there are two kinds of umbrellas.

We headed to the Alps the next day for a hike, and even though it was a little foggy, it was awesome. Christian drove us in his mom’s little car and we found parking and started our ascent. It was so beautiful and I know that was just a tiny taste of the Alps. It wasn’t that difficult of a hike and didn’t take us too long to get to a couple different peaks. The view through the trees on the way up was lovely and looking down was of course amazing.  After we reached the top, we took a few pics, saw a para-glider, so jealous, and went to have a brew and a snack on the mountain side. We had something that translates to “king’s rubbish” and it was pretty good, very traditional, his parents had told us to get it, and it was really just nice to sit and chat while overlooking the trees and the mountains.

A herd of goats passed us on the way up, and on the way down we walked by cows and horses, and he told me that his parents wouldn’t let any of them ride horses, too dangerous. I told him my spirit animal is a horse and got him thinking about what his would be, and at first he said a camel, because they’re underappreciated and work hard, but then he thought maybe an eagle, and we discussed that may be true because he likes to travel, and fly free, but he wants to return to his nest and is protective and proud of a home he’s built. He’s very proud to be Bavarian, but he understands that seeing the world helps you appreciate your home all the more. We found a spot on the way down to hang up the hammock and we chilled out and looked at the sun through the trees a bit before heading the rest of the way down. I saw some deer at one point and told him to be quiet so we wouldn’t scare them off, but then as we got closer I realized it was a deer ranch! So I got pretty close to ’em!

The traditional restaurant he wanted to take me to for extra large schnitzel was unfortunately closed that day, but we stopped by the really lovely lake that we could see from the mountaintop. We thought about going swimming, but he just waded a bit and we chatted about what we should do that night. We realized we’d been pretty busy this week, and should take it easy, and not get too drunk, with Oktoberfest to contend with. We got back to his parents place and his dad gave us a shot of grapa like liquor, to congratulate us on our hike, and he made us some dinner and we chatted about traveling, even though he was still a little shy to speak English, Christian told me his dad appreciated how patient I was, but I was feeling bad I didn’t know any German! I convinced my mom to facetime with them briefly so that I could show off her German skills a bit, and they said she was really good!

We met up with his friends that night at the Community house of the church where they attended, and have hung out there for their whole lives, so it was like a little reunion, but now they smoke hookah and play beer pong there. It was another good night and I played the guitar that they had lying around and we sang some songs, and they showed me pictures of the summer camp they had run a few years ago, and it was so fun to see them all reminisce. We had some good conversation, and when they started speaking a lot in German, Christian told me that he was saying that he would rather be on an island in the Philippines than be unhappily settled and secure, which seemed a little different than his friends’ perspectives, who are homebodies for the most part, and don’t really have the desire to wander. I find it so interesting that Christian and I even met, and that we have such similar views on life, is pretty crazy and pretty cool. He told me that him and his friends respect what I’m doing, even though they probably won’t ever do something as wild as this trip of mine.

I wished that I’d understood German so that I could understand him, and was a little worried about not knowing him as well as maybe I could have if I had been able to speak with him in German, but he didn’t seem worried about that. I just understand how difficult it is sometimes to feel like yourself in a second language. There’s so much culture tied in with language, too. His accent in English was so cute though, it was so endearing. I also was curious as to whether how much he really knew me, because I can be so reserved when in a new environment. I know he didn’t dislike my company necessarily, but I also got thinking about just his German sense of responsibility and how much that played into his hospitality, but he told me that he said yes to hosting me because he thought, why not just say yes? He has a true sense of adventure, I think.

My constant roam was brought home for the week, and he gave me an unexpected peace, took on the burden of planning my days, releasing me from my constant decision making of what to do with myself. That’s one of the hardest and simultaneously easiest things about traveling solo. But in light of how difficult it is for me to make decisions on the road, I’ve realized how that applies to my life in general. Not being able to commit to one direction besides the very next step. Once I have a set goal in mind, I can do whatever I can to make it happen, but on a broader scale, I feel lost, and can only hope that these smaller decisions I’ve made will amount to a greater end goal eventually. We’re told that its never too late to go after what we want, but is that really true? And, I guess more important for me, is the question of what do I really want? Is this trip showing me that I can find it, if I put enough faith in myself and the world that it will all work out? I knew I wanted to go to Oktoberfest, and then spent 3 weeks in Germany, lovely weeks, that all worked out so well before I finally got to the fest.

We had a slow start that next day, but Oktoberfest wasn’t as busy this year as it is usually, so it was okay that we took our time. I donned his mother’s dirndl and he his ledierhosen, and his dad took pictures of us in the garden and at breakfast with our pretzels and weisswurst. We took the train to Munich and wandered around the fest, checking out the rides and booths, and went on the ferris wheel for a nice overview. Christian knew what tents were good for older or younger crowds, and we hung out in the Hacker Pschorr tent at first, which was really cool because the tent ceiling was like the sky and felt really open and airy. We checked out some others before landing at the one for younger crowds, Spaten, and it was fun to people watch and comment on how the Germans vs the Americans were acting. Christian loved this one plump American guy at the table next to us and wanted to bring him home to be his puppet. Some East Germans joined us at our table and although Christian thought they were a little weird, they were nice, and when I started to get real drunk, they helped get me some water and I came back to life. Those beers are huge! And I was like yea, I got this, I can drink these all day, but I was obviously checked. But it was okay, and we found some food and met up with one of Christian’s friends from the other night before we headed back to Augsburg. I had a lot of fun and would totally go back. With my own drndl.

Neither of us could believe how quickly the week had gone. I totally and conpletely enjoyed myself.