Jake and I kicked off our European travels with a bang—or, more accurately, with the loud, shattering *clink* of glasses bigger than our heads colliding in the air. We made it to Munich for Oktoberfest 2019 and if there was one German word we quickly became familiar with, it was “Prost” (cheers).
However, we had no clue of the complete sh*t show that would lie ahead.
THE STOKE TRAVEL OKTOBERFEST EXPERIENCE
After a taxing trek from the airport to our campsite-hostel, as it’s just a bit outside the city, we arrived eager and ready for whatever festivities awaited us. We were immediately handed a beer upon check-in around 11 a.m. and it was pretty much all down hill from there. Just kidding…Mostly.
We booked with Stoke Travel and if their logo or the words “unlimited booze” doesn’t sum up this place, I don’t know what does. They throw parties at the campsite every night, but it’s pretty safe to say that the party there never really stops. After spending a lot of money at the beer halls the first day, we quickly learned to take advantage of the free booze at the campsite before going into town. Did I mention we were also being fed breakfast and dinner there every day? Game changer.
Camping in a tent turned out to be a really fun experience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way—Even though it meant listening to people puking outside our tent at night and an all-time-low for personal hygiene.
BEER HALLS AND BEER STEINS
Oktoberfest in Munich was nothing like I expected. We followed the crowds from the train station towards what looked like fair-grounds where TONS of outdoor beer gardens, ginormous beer halls, carnival rides and food stands—selling pretzels and all the “wursts” you can think of—lined the streets.
It just so happened that, in this crazy, small world that we live in, a friend from my high school in Overland Park, Kansas was frequenting the beer halls the same day as us, so we met up with him and his wife on the first day.
If there’s one thing you need to know about the beer halls, it’s that the 1L beer steins are no joke. Even after being warned, I still had to learn my lesson of just how high their alcohol content was the hard way.
THANK U, NEXT
During our six hour train ride, my lack of sleep and care for my physical health quickly caught up to me. I arrived feeling like death with a pocket full of make-shift-tissues from toilet paper I stole from the train bathroom.
We made the journey to Hamburg with the plan of seeing Ariana Grande in concert during the European leg of her tour. I had purchased both the tickets months in advanced, paying international shipping to have the hard copies sent to me in Kansas City all the way from Germany.
We didn’t make it to the concert. Let me preface my explanation for why with this: we went out drinking with our roommates the night before our early flight to Germany because we mistakenly thought we were leaving a day later than we were… So, yes, in reality, our sh*t show began before we even left for Germany.
With that being said, we packed in a fury in order to sleep for an hour or two before we had to get back up. In the rush to make it to the airport on time, I forgot my concert tickets. I had been so tired that, even after a layover in Portugal, it wasn’t until the train ride from the Munich airport to our hostel that I had a time-stopping, stomach-dropping, gasp-out-loud kind of realization.
There are many more trivial details to this tragic story of our earnest attempts to attend that concert (shoutout to our roommates) but, in the end, we had too many forces working against us and just weren’t able to make it happen.
It’s still a sensitive subject for me.
However, we had been through so much already, that I decided to put the loss—both of the heart and of the wallet—behind me and be thankful for a hot shower and a night in to recuperate and recover before spending a day exploring Hamburg.
HAMBURG WALKING TOUR
Our day in Hamburg was a fresh start, our chance to redeem ourselves.
We woke up early, signed up for a free walking tour of the city that afternoon (highly recommend) and headed out into….the pouring rain. After finding coffee and a cheap umbrella, we decided that we weren’t going to let a little rain ruin our day.
Our tour guide was awesome. We learned so much about the history of the city and the major role it played in World War II.
Being a major port city, Hamburg was one of the first cities hit in a campaign of strategic bombings by the allied forces during WWII that lasted for 8 days and 7 nights. It was later dubbed the “Hiroshima of Germany” by locals as it created one of the largest firestorms in WWII and was the heaviest assault in the history of aerial warfare at the time.
It blew our minds walking through the ruins of St. Nicholas Church, left as a solemn reminder, and imagining the complete and total devastation that the city endured only 75 years ago.
As we approached this quaint little German food district, the guide warned us not to slip on the wet cobblestone as we walked downhill through the alleyway. Jake immediately looked at me and began teasing me about falling, which I obviously refuted, denying all claims of being clumsy.
Umbrella in one hand and taking a snapchat video with the other, I instantly ate my words. One step into the alleyway and my phone and umbrella went flying. I landed flat on my butt, but my left hand and right forearm took the brunt of it. I started laughing uncomfortably, as I do in most embarrassing situations, in my attempt to convince the tour guide that I was okay. We spent the next twenty minutes trying not to laugh during the tour and I thanked the Lord that I only had one bruise to show for it.
The rest of the tour was lovely, despite our detour due to neo-nazi protests, and it was full of history and insight into the happenings of Hamburg. We ended in the Speicherstadt district before heading to Speicherstadt Kaffee, a local coffee roasterie, and Elbphilharmonie, a beautiful, newly-built concert hall that hid a Störtebeker craft beer bar/restaurant inside.
After enjoying a dark beer flight, there was only one thing we wanted: hamburgers. Although they’re not traditional or a namesake to Hamburg, we stumbled upon a recommendation online called The Bird that we hadn’t stop thinking about since we saw the photos. It lived up to the hype.
ONE FINAL SAY
Just as we thought we had turned things around for the better, Germany had to have one final say. After buying various transportation tickets in Munich, and being frustrated that we didn’t need them a single time, we thought we figured out the secret to German public transport: don’t buy a ticket. One 60€ fine later, only a stop or two away from our destination in Hamburg, we learned that we were very poorly mistaken. We had learned yet another lesson the hard way, as only the universe would have it.
By the next morning, saying we were ready to be back in Spain, where everything is cheap and the sun almost never stops shining, is an extreme understatement. It was the first time we really felt just how much of a home our apartment in Malaga had become to us.
We spent the afternoon waiting for our flight in a small, local restaurant near the airport eating the best meal we had eaten thus far in Europe—gyro and schweineschnitzel. It’s funny how really good food can make you forget all of your problems…at least for a little while.
Looking back, we were incredibly ambitious about booking this crazy trip within weeks of arriving in Spain. We did not know if we would find a place to live in time before leaving, we were spending a lot of money and wouldn’t be paid for a month or so after, and we were returning home, exhausted, the night before our first day of work. What were we thinking?
This travel experience challenged us to no end, there’s no doubt about it. But, that’s the beautiful disaster that is traveling. It requires taking risks and it requires making sacrifices, but it offers memories and life experiences that you won’t find anywhere else and that change you forever and for the better.
The key is finding the right person to endure them with. Moving to Europe with Jake was definitely a risk. Knowing he hadn’t traveled outside of the U.S. previously, I had no idea what to expect.
However, it didn’t take long to see that he was the perfect travel buddy for me. Although we have loads of fun together amidst the highs, his positive attitude and ability to laugh—or more importantly make ME laugh—despite the lows are what make all the difference.
Stay tuned to see where we go next.