Well, in the spirit of living life to the fullest, let me talk about my weekend that was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My three roommates and I took the train Thursday night and arrived in Munich at 6:30AM. We stepped of the train into the freezing (well, probably about 45 degrees) cold and were greeted by one of the best sights ever..... STARBUCKS! It has been a month since my last one and while I absolutely adore Italian coffee and cappuccinos, Starbucks feels like home. It's also so much bigger and you can actually carry it around with you! We were so happy, we ordered Ventis to be sure to get our fix.
My roommate has an American friend from her school that is working in Munich for several months, so it was really awesome having a contact there who could tell us where to go and show us around and provide us with free lodging! Friday, he had to work, so the four of us went sightseeing around Munich. We were totally hardcore and did it without a map, and surprisingly hit up some of the most important spots.
All of us were so taken aback by how clean Munich was, though it made sense after learning that about 50% of everyone's income goes to taxes (maybe the US should do that... j/k). After wandering around for a bit, we found the English Gardens that we had wanted to go to. They were absolutely gorgeous! It was more like a park than gardens though, but still amazing!
The English Gardens, or Englischer Garten:
After our lovely stroll through the park, we went on search for Hofbräuhaus, which is the oldest beer hall in Munich. Thirty minutes later, after asking several people, we found it and it was awesome! People of all ages and nationalities were there enjoying beer, food, music, and a general environment of merriment. The beer was amazing, especially the Hefeweizen I had. Best. Hefe. EVER.
Afterward, we took a little rest on a grassy knoll near yet another Starbucks, which was nice because we could use the restroom facilities without anyone noticing. It was still quite cold out, but it was sunny so it was enjoyable. Later, we went to a bar, but we did not stay out too late because we had an early and long day of beer drinking ahead of us!
We planned on meeting our group at around 8AM the morning of Oktoberfest. My roommates and I went with the guy we were staying with, his co-workers, and some of their mutual friends. When we arrived at the festival, it was so cold and there were so many people around... and way too early for me. Anyway, after waiting for a while to get into the Spaten beer hall, we finally got our awesome table--right next to the band! We got really hooked up for our Oktoberfest experience: one of the guys knew a guy who is very good friends with the waiter who waited our table. This means that we got a sweet table in the most legit beer hall in the festival, which would typically cost 1000 euro ($1500) and it has to be reserved one year in advance. Needless to say, we felt very lucky to be there! W Unfortunately, by this time it was 10AM and the first beer is not served until 12PM, so we idled away the time shivering and talking about how excited we were for the party to start. The beer hall was enormous. I don't know how many people were there, but there were A LOT. Once it was just before 12PM, the mayor of Munich came and gave a speech (though obviously I couldn't understand a word) and then he tapped the first keg of Oktoberfest!!!!! Drums were sounded to signal to the other beer tents in the area that they were allowed to start serving beer. Our first mass (the liter-sized mug) was served!
Enjoying my first mass.
Hmm... for some strange reason the blog site won't let me post more pictures... like it just keeps loading without ever finishing. Very annoying! Well, I will try again another time.
So our plan was to stay out all night and go out to bars afterward. However, we ended up getting back to the apartment we were staying at around 10PM and passing out by 11PM. So much for staying out all night! Whatever, we were exhausted. We got up the next morning to go to the train station, had our last Starbucks lattes in Munich, and departed on our 8 hour train ride back to Firenze.
My roommates and I all have colds now because a girl in our train car on the way up to Munich was sick and we were breathing in her sick air for eight hours... that in conjunction with drinking and not sleeping very well all weekend made us feel like crap! Hopefully, we are better by this weekend because we are going hiking in Cinque Terre and that is not going to be fun if we are sick!
Anyway, I am very glad that I got to experience Oktoberfest. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially being able to get such a great table at the main beer hall of the festival. I feel so grateful that I am able to be over here and going to different countries while I am here, but obviously it comes with consequences like being so far away from my family during a saddening time like this. Well, I know for sure that my grandpa would have wanted me to have the best time here because he never got to visit Italy. I am hoping to visit in Bologna this weekend the church of San Giacomo, the Italian name for Saint James, which was his name.