Category Archives: Germany

Beer Culture in Europe: The Germans and Dutch Always Try To Destroy My Liver

I don’t drink alcohol…but I do. But I don’t. But I do. Then I won’t. But then I will.

My friends back at home in Michigan know for a fact that I’m not at all a big drinker. However, I’m pretty sure my family thinks I’m a borderline raging boozer. I’m not sure how that happened? I can attest that both sides are somewhat correct. I wouldn’t say “raging” though; that’s a bit excessive. Back home, I don’t drink often, only on special social occasions. Yet, when I’m traveling, all bets are off. One significant and extremely entertaining reason as to why I consume tons more during my travels than at home is because of my crazy European friends. Specifically the ones in Germany and ESPECIALLY my Dutch buddies in the Netherlands.

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My previous visit to the Netherlands back in 2013.

Americans think they can drink. And they can. But, until you’ve been to Germany and The Netherlands, where beer culture is so infused into everyday life, then you will see that the Europeans are in an elite class of their own. Knowing this, I prepared myself mentally. I knew exactly what I was getting into. As my prior experience in Groningen, Netherlands was one of the most toxic experiences of my life. But in a very fun way! I also attended Oktoberfest a couple years ago for three days. To this day, I don’t know how I survived that one. My friends who I planned on visiting in first in Germany were just as nuts as my Dutch comrades, but on a somewhat lesser scale.

I left Nepal, a bit rejuvenated and ready to continue my quest to the seven continents and resume back in Europe for a few weeks to visit some friends of mine scattered across the eastern and northern board of Germany, and then to my amigos back in Groningen. This was going to be a quick trip before I moved on to Africa, so I couldn’t contact many others that I knew, otherwise I could have easily stayed in the area for months! I flew from Kathmandu to Oman, and from Oman to Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is where I met up with my friend and fellow camino pilgrim, Nic.

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He showed me around town and then introduced me to a drink, popular in the area: Apfelwein Cola. It’s apple flavored white wine mixed with cola. Sounds danky, but it tasted quite alright. We had a few of those. He gave me a few canned versions for the road ahead.

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I stayed with him for a couple days before I went up to Bielefeld (the city that doesn’t exist) to meet up with Eric. As soon as I arrived to his house, he welcomed me back with a beer. He invited me along on a local road rally using electric cars to take around the region, particularly Düsseldorf, for the weekend. I was game, although I was of no help because everything was spoken in German. But on our downtime, he took it upon himself to show me around the town, particularly the night scene, which involved giant mugs (steins) of beer, one after the other. We’re gonna lose the road rally…

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Eric is in the center goofing off, along with other participants from the road rally.

After a few days with Eric and his friends, I took a Flixbus down to Cologne (Köln) to visit another friend who would actually give my liver a brief break. Tarek breaks the typical German mold because he doesn’t drink at all. Not a sip! Praise the Lord because I needed to recoup knowing that the biggest hurdles lie just ahead!

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Myself, Tarek, and his younger brother in Cologne.

On the contrary, he is a giant fan of hookahs (shishas), in which I’ve tried only a handful of times throughout the years, but not to the extent which I was about to endure. Tarek’s buddies are hookah enthusiasts and took me to a few hot spots that had the best in Cologne. You ever heard of an iced hookah? Me neither until someone handed me one to try. It’s a handheld, miniature hookah that’s iced and serve chilled. By the end of the night, I felt the urge to vomit! I’ve never hookah’d like that ever in my life!

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Tarek and I rented a car and drove to the north of Germany, just beyond Hamburg to meet up with Luca and Mahid, two other backpackers that we met while in Melbourne. We drank a shit ton back on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. They lived in Lübeck, just to the northeast of Hamburg where Tarek and I paid a visit for a few days. They did a great job showing us around…with drinks!

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Mahid’s mother is a teacher in the city and invited me to come speak to her class early one morning, with Mahid driving me there. However, we were both late because I tried my best keeping up with his friends at the local pub the night before, even to the point of falling asleep…beer in hand. Regardless, I had a great time speaking to her students. They asked so many questions about my travel life!

Germany was short and sweet, just like I wanted. Next up, I took a quick bus across the border over into The Netherlands where I was greeted by my friend Fridse of Groningen.

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Funny story about Fridse. He and I barely met in Thailand (2013) for only a couple of hours among our traveling companions at the time. It was Thailand, so of course, we were all beered up. We must have friended each other on Facebook because the next year when I was backpacking Europe, he invited me up to Groningen to visit for a few days. I barely remembered the guy at the time, but I thought “Why not?”. I made the trip and had one of my drunkest, yet most fun few days in Europe. Knowing that, I was ecstatic and my liver was ready for the return.

Fridse still resided in the college town of Groningen along with a few of his friends that I met on my previous visit. Most of his close-knit group moved away, but he still had a whole crew of other buddies around that I’ve never met. Like the old days, I was greeted with beer on beer and was offered even more once we visited another friend of his. They even gave me freshly prepared food, without me even asking. This is why I love coming here.

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Fridse, myself, and Sjoerd reunited.

That night, we had tickets to go to a concert that Fridse warned me of beforehand. He told me it was the hardcore rock type, which in turn, I told him I wasn’t really a fan, but I could become a fan of any genre with the right amount of beer. It happened before in Mexico, after all. He promised plenty of it.

The rest of the night became a bit blurry. Those guys in Groningen were generous with the rounds of beer they would go to the bar during the show to retrieve for us. I paid my dues and did the same. To be honest, as I’m writing this, I’m a bit fuzzy jogging my memory. No, I wasn’t blacked out, but the order of events that occurred afterward is not coming right to me. I don’t have any photos of the night either. I’m sure I was hungry and got food somewhere because that ALWAYS happens. I’m also sure we went to another bar or two or three and even a “coffee shop” for shits and giggles. I’m also sure that I fell asleep in public somewhere because that tends to happen as well. The only thing that usually breaks my stride is when there is someone else who is more obnoxiously drunk than I am. There weren’t any cases that night. The Dutchmen can handle their booze like no other.

Lately in my life, I haven’t been getting hangovers too often anymore. Water truly does work wonders! Those who say they lose their drinking edge as they get older, I’d say I’m living proof of the opposite. I can handle it MUCH better than my younger days. With that, we felt well enough to try our hand at one of the best go-karting tracks I’ve ever been to!

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Afterwards, unsurprisingly with these folks, we continued our drinking efforts at other local bars around town, and even on the train on the way to Amsterdam to visit Fridse’s girlfriend.

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Amsterdam would complete my rather short return in Europe. Yet, it was just what I needed; to see old friends again before I made my way to new playgrounds in Africa. I also had no desire to drink for a long while.

After going over this, I really do sound like a complete boozer. But it’s only when I travel, I swear. 🙂

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Beautiful Bavaria

So far, Oktoberfest has been really fun (when you throw in lots of beer, anything can be fun). Before my third and final day attending the festivities, Miriam wanted to show me around not just Munich, but Bavaria as a whole. Of course Bavaria is too big to show in just a couple of days so she took me to a spot where I oughta see. I have a soft spot for giant castles, so she took me to one called the Schloss Neuschwanstein. It’s presumedly the castle Disney used as inspiration to make their castle in Disney World.

The drive was two hours. By the way, I am not a great person to have with on long car rides. If I’m not the one driving, I tend to fall asleep almost instantly. Most of it has to do with the motion sickness tablets; one of its side effects is drowsiness. I wish there were some tablets that didn’t make me want to sleep! Anyways, we made it to the castle grounds relatively early, by the suggestion of Miriam’s father. If we didn’t get there early, we’d be swarmed with iPad welding tourists! Those guys are bananas.

We purchased our tickets for entrance into the castle and made a short hike to the castles base. This castle was ginormous! Probably the biggest castle I have ever been to and I’ve been to quite a few!

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We had an early tour group and in great timing too because gangs of fanny packs and iPads starting showing up in hoards. If you’ve been a regular follower of my blog, then you’d know that guided tours bore me to the brink of death. This tour was no exception. Of course the inside of the castle was cool looking and all, but our prude tour guide wouldn’t let anyone talk nor take photos nor touch anything nor barely breath. Normally when places warn us we aren’t allowed to take photos, I’ll try to sneak some anyways, but I wasn’t inspired to sneak some snaps here at all. We did have a pretty sweet view of one of the lakes below from the castles balcony.

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The castle belonged to a guy called King Ludwig II. Based on what I found out about him, he was a swan loving introverted, nocturnal human being. He didn’t like having company over, he had an entire room dedicated to swans, and he slept mostly during the daytime and was active during nightfall. One of his bedrooms was also a dining room…for himself! What a character this guy was.

If you ever go to Schloss Neuschwanstein, skip the overpriced tour…trust me. The real magic is outside of the castle and is completely free! Once the tour was over, Miriam and I walked over to a bridge overlooking the castle. What an amazing view!

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From there a trail led on to the tops of the mountain nearby. A trail designed for fanny packs and iPads.

“We’d get to the top so much faster if we cross these barriers”, I told Miriam.

The barriers were placed with signs in German that read something the lines of “Danger! Do not cross!” Something like that? We crossed anyway.

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And yes I was correct, we ascended so much faster than if we took the safe path provided for us. I was glad that Miriam was game for a little rule breaking. We eventually reached a point where there wasn’t anyone around. We certainly were off the marked path. We continued on anyways. The unbeaten path was not dangerous at all so no worries. We made it to as about as high as we could and we were the only ones. There were people way down below looking at us probably thinking “How’d they get way up there?” We had awesome views of the castle and everything surrounding it!

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We also had a view of this…

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I’m glad we were able to avoid that mess on that bridge. It was clogged with tourists! We were safe in the tranquility of the mountain top, completely solitary from the wake of the masses below. This place was great and the scenery was surreal. Whenever I see places like this, I really have to take a moment and soak it all in otherwise it doesn’t feel like I was really there.

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On our way back, we went down the same way we came up. It shaved off plenty of time and wasn’t difficult at all. If you ever decide to visit the castle, skip the overpriced tour and hike around the castle. Break the barriers and take the unbeaten path. It wasn’t dangerous whatsoever. Those signs were designed for all the fanny packs and iPads that visit in the busloads. As for the castle itself, if you want to know about it and its king, go to Wikipedia. It’s far more entertaining.

We went over to the lake we saw from the top and actually went right up to it. This had to be one of the clearest, calmest lakes I’ve ever seen. The lake cast a perfect reflection of the woods and sky above. If I were a duck, this is where I would want to live.

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We were growing hungry so we left the castle grounds and drove over more to a restaurant near the countryside. The food in Germany has been great so far! I’ve never had so much bread in my life though. Seriously, so much bread. But it was so good, I didn’t mind it at all!

Thank you Miriam for showing me that place! It was pretty cool. That trip was the perfect way to relax before my final day in Oktoberfest and my final day in Germany for that matter.

Day Three

Day three in Oktoberfest was destined to be the best one yet! Why? Because Björn was coming down to Munich for a visit and this would be the first time the three of us (Kevin, Björn, and myself) have been together since we parted ways in Cambodia last year. This time we decided to go to the Hacker tent, one of the most popular tents. Miriam and I arrived around 11am and joined Björn and a couple of his friends. Later on, a few people we met earlier and then Kevin, Nicole, and Guiren joined in! It was great!

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By this time I knew the words to a couple of songs and I knew the proper “la la la’s” to the songs they sing “la la la” to. I also wanted to beat my four liter mark I hit previously, so then I went bananas on the beer. It was my last time in Oktoberfest with some cool German friends, so I wanted to live it up!

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Time flew by and the rip I accidentally made in the crotch of my Lederhosen grew a little bigger, my wallet was getting lighter, and more random strangers were squeezing at our table. We had a great spot too, right next to the German band!

It was almost closing time. I was able to manage five and a half liters of beer. Surprisingly I wasn’t hurting at all. The only thing hurting was my wallet. That’s a little more than 60 Euros down the drain. I budgeted for Oktoberfest and actually spent way less than what I initially thought. I had free accommodation thanks to my incredible German friends, I had a free Lederhosen thanks to Miriam, and I didn’t have to reserve any tables or anything because we joined in with friends who already held tables for us. I was completely spoiled here and extremely fortunate. Most travelers who come specifically for Oktoberfest pay boatloads for accommodation and proper attire.

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I can now officially mark off task #16 on my ATLAS (Attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany).

ATLAS UPDATED!

With that, my trail through Germany is complete. I’ve had a heck of a great time visiting friends I have met from all over the world. From Hamburg of the north to Munich in the south, Germany has been most welcoming. I said farewell see you later to Björn, Kevin, and Miriam once again.

My next and last stop in Europe is up next and that’s just a two hour bus ride down below to Austria!

The Prost With The Most: Oktoberfest!

I don’t consider myself a big beer drinker. Then I spent three months in Southeast Asia and everything changed. It’s hard to pass up pints of beers that cost half of a dollar. From then on my palette grew. I actually preferred an ice cold brew over mostly anything else, however I still didn’t consider myself a regular beer drinker (compared to everyone else I know). Knowing well in advance that I would be attending Oktoberfest this year gave me plenty of time to step up my drinking game. Germans are known around the world for their beer and they’re also known to be able to handle an insane amount of it. I couldn’t go there in the current state of condition I was in, so I had to train myself. Whenever I went out, instead of my usual white russians or captain & cokes, I would order a beer and beer only. Progressively and slowly I would work my way up (responsibly of course). I wasn’t sure what types of beer they had in Munich so I tried a wide variety: ales, wheats, stouts, lagers, blondes, darks, lights, low alcohol content, high alcohol content, you name it. It wasn’t until the beer crawl in San Diego and then Europe when I really started to go beer crazy. It’s not a myth; it’s true what they say about Europeans and booze–they really can drink up a storm! Americans can too but I think the biggest difference here is that generally the Euros can handle it better. This also explains why I have been slacking on keeping up with my blog posts. There were many nights and morning-afters where I just…couldn’t. I’m just doing what the Europeans do! And that was the perfect training I needed leading up to the ultimate goal I had for Germany and that is Oktoberfest!

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After a brief meeting with fellow Full Moon party buddy Daniel, I took a seven-hour bus journey from Berlin to Munich. It was nightfall by the time I arrived so I couldn’t really see much of the city. Though I did see Kevin waiting for me at the bus station. Do you remember Kevin? I met him, along with Björn, in Thailand.

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Me and Kevin in Pai, Thailand back in August 2013.

He comprises a quarter of the Pai Guys! Björn, Viola, and myself make up the rest of the group. It’s always a great feeling meeting up with travelers I met previously. Usually when foreign travelers meet for the first time, it ends up being the last time. I’ve been breaking that rule all over Europe!

Kevin guided me to his flat which is about a five minutes walk from the center of Oktoberfest. He had the prime location! There he made us homemade schnitzel and we reminisced about our previous travels through Thailand and Cambodia. I also met his roommate Guiren, who was also keen about the festivities going on. I would only be staying with Kevin for the night. Tomorrow morning, Kevin, his girlfriend Nicole, Guiren, and I would take a quick train to my friend who lives just a few stations away. And that friend is a person I met in South Africa by the name of Miriam.

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Miriam and I in Kayamandi, South Africa in November 2013.

I met Miriam last September in South Africa. I didn’t volunteer with her nor did she live with me in Kayamandi. I met her through Hanneke and Mieke. They all worked together. Miriam was the only one of all of us who had a car there and she was kind enough to drive us everywhere! Today all of us, including Miriam, would be attending Oktoberfest! But first, Miriam invited us to her place for a traditional Bavarian breakfast.

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For Oktoberfest, it’s proper to wear a Lederhosen (a Dirndl for the ladies). It’s typical Bavarian clothing they usually wore back in the day and it costs loads to get one! Thankfully, Miriam had one prepared for me. It was her dads and since he wasn’t going to be wearing it this year, she thought it would be perfect for me. It was a tad tight, but it did the trick! We were on our way!

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Day One

Here’s my prior knowledge of Octoberfest: I know there are tents where you sit and drink beer, there are some carnival rides, and lots of tourists. Upon entering the epicenter of Oktoberfest, I found that it resembled a very large carnival bursting with all sorts of fun. There were loads of rides, skill games, food stalls, and people everywhere dressed in typical Bavarian wardrobe. The beer tents were not actual tents, but instead buildings about the size of a gymnasium, each with a unique name, featuring a unique beer, usually harboring a specific demographic of beer drinking enthusiasts. The place was packed! It was the weekend after all, meaning it would be busier than the rest of the week.

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We made way to one of the beer tents called Schottenhammel. We met a few of Miriams friends who already held a table and joined them in the midst of everything. There was no sitting. We stood the entire time on top of the benches. I ordered my first liter of Bavarian beer and within minutes I was able to join the rest of the table. Prost! It means “cheers” in German.

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Every couple of minutes, the live band in the middle of the tent would play a song that the crowd would sing to. A lot of the songs were in German, so even though I didn’t know the words to anything, I found that saying “Blah Blah Blah” in a melodic fashion did the trick. One song they played the most often was called “Ein Prosit” a popular prost, toast, and drink kind of song.

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Within hours we were all tuned into liters of beer. I was able to keep up with my German comrades mostly because if I didn’t drink fast enough, my beer would get warm and nobody likes room temperature beer. Kevin told me I should slow down and take my time. I knew he was right but I was in such an energetic atmosphere and whenever someone went “Prost!”, you kinda had to drink!

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By the time I finished my fourth liter, I decided to stop. It was still relatively early and I had two more days of Oktoberfest to go! Plus these liters weren’t cheap. Ten Euros a piece! Do I look like I’m made out of money? We stayed at the tent until closing time at 11pm but it didn’t feel that long. Throughout the night I would leave the tent to go find some bratwurst from the food stalls. The price of the food in Oktoberfest is nuts and even more so inside the actual tent! But whenever I came back, I always managed to squeeze myself back into the table of drunk Germans and foreign tourists alike. By the end of the night, everyone was all over the place. There were mugs shattered everywhere and masses of beer being sloshed and splashed amongst everyone!

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Miriam and I decided we’d go again the next day but in a new tent!

Day Two: Prost Dos!

I woke up the next day thinking, I do not want to go back today! Thankfully, Miriam agreed and we decided to give ourselves a day to recover. I woke up feeling like all of the moisture in my mouth evaporated while I was asleep and my head was buzzing. We went the next day though, a little bit earlier and to a tent called Bräurosl. Here we met up with our friend Max who we also met in South Africa.

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This tent was a little different from the previous one. The tables were a little smaller and there were guys standing on the tables whipping their whips along to the music the band played. It was actually pretty neat.

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Other than that, it was more of the same and that’s a good thing! By this time, I had the Ein Prosit song down! Everyone liked this tent better but I preferred the Schottenhammel tent, but thats just being nitpicky. We didn’t stay too long this time because we had plans to explore the city some more later on. But we would come back to Oktoberfest once more where I wanted to go out with a bang!

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The Bubble Bobbler in Berlin

Berlin is the largest city in Germany and from what I’ve seen so far, it portrays a character far different from any other place I’ve been in this country. Thankfully, my friend Elisa was the perfect person to show me the ins and outs of everything Berlin.

Elisa has always been one of the wiser ones amongst my volunteer team in Vietnam. She would randomly blurt one-liners that made perfect sense. As we approached an underground station’s broken escalators, she would say “Escalators can never break. They just become stairs.” Or when we went to a vegan restaurant for breakfast, she told me, “Being gluten free without the allergy is like wearing glasses without needing to wear them.” Makes all the sense! Elisa is a vegan and thought it would be great for me to try it out for breakfast. I love meat but I gave it a whirl anyway and ordered a Lappland Cheese hamburger. It wasn’t meat and it wasn’t real cheese. I honestly don’t know what the heck I ate but it was pretty tasty! I also tried an energy drink called Club-Mate, a popular beverage here in Berlin and one of Elisa’s favorites. I’d say its like Red Bull with a swirl of honey in it. Not too shabby.

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Speaking of food, holy crap the döners in Berlin were amazing! I’ve had them in a few places so far and these ones here were the absolute best. And they were fairly cheap too! But after we stuffed ourselves, Elisa wanted to show me a little more of Berlin outside of the touristy areas. She took me to a few spots she discovered on her own, like this old, abandoned gas station

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Just like Grundge City, the old gas station had a slightly eerie vibe to it as it was completely abandoned and empty, but kinda neat. Then she said to me…

“I know where to get the best ice cream.”

Elisa knew me well and remembered. my unconditional love for ice cream, especially after our all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet we had in Saigon last year. She took me to a place called Fräulein Frost. Since I was experiencing everything new, I tried flavors I’ve never had before that included cucumber infused ice cream and also a poppyseed flavored one. Both were great!!

After walking through a Turkish market and a river nearby, I asked Elisa if she could show me the touristy areas, just so I can compare it to everything else I’ve seen so far. At first she playfully gritted at the sound of the word “tourist”, but agreed that it would be good for me to compare. Plus she knew a few spots near the city center she could take me to.

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The city center of Berlin was huge just like I imagined and just like Elisa warned there were tourists everywhere. It wasn’t too bad though. This area was a great contrast from the interurban areas in Berlin I walked through. Nearby I spotted an unusual bunch of large slate blocks poking out in the middle of the city.

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Elisa informed me that this was a Holocaust Memorial. We walked through the blocks and instantly I thought how fun it would be to play around in here as a kid.

“Is there anyone buried here?” I asked Elisa.

“Nope. It’s just a memorial site.” she said.

“Good.”

I shimmied myself up some of the blocks because I just had to. My brain is hardwired to climb anything and everything.

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After that unexpected burst of everything fun, we walked further into the city where we passed through buildings that resembled ones you’d see in Paris. And also, Berlin had it’s own “Hollywood” Walk of Fame. I walked along the stars and didn’t recognize a single name, until I came to one star that read ‘Hans Zimmer’. He’s known for composing some of the best scores for movies like The Lion King and one of my all-time favorite’s, Gladiator.

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During our walk, we spotted bubbles. Just random bubbles floating randomly in the air. Where are they coming from? We found a guy with a homemade contraption, making hundreds of bubbles, both big and small, near a bridge along the canal. The kid in me was fascinated with all the bubbles flying everywhere. This guy was cool!

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Elisa and I sat and watched this guy create bubbles for about a half an hour. He is from Argentina and he makes a living traveling the world performing bubble crafting tricks for the public. He drew large crowds and everyone who casually walked by, would stop and smile. The kids who came about were loving it also.

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Elisa took me to the outskirts of the city center and into a place covered in graffiti. Every inch of every wall had drawings and graffiti all over it. We climbed the stairs as high as we could until we reached a dead end.

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That same night, we went to the east of Berlin, near the center circle to visit Valentina. I also met Valentina in Vietnam last year. She came along with Elisa and the two are best friends. It was Valentina’s girlfriends birthday and so we went out to a bar nearby for the occasion. A lot of their friends were there, so when they decided to play Telephone, it always got screwed up when the message came to me because it was difficult to pronounce some of the German words they were saying. Still, it made for quite the laughs.

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The next day, Elisa had to work so I went out to hang with Valentina for a bit a few stations away. She was in the process of sorting herself for her big move to Leipzig. She made time for me though! She took me to try some more authentic German food. She suggested I try Schwarzwälder Käsespätzle. It’s hard to describe, so here’s a picture:

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It looks like an omelet, but replace the egg part with delicate pasta and presto! It was mighty good.

I hung out with Valentina for a bit before I headed out into the city and back to Elisa’s place. I had to reorganize my things because the next day I had a long bus ride to Munich, another of Germanys major cities. Elisa has been a tremendous host here in Berlin. Everything was perfect and couldn’t have gone any better. We went everywhere and thanks to her I was able to see multiple different lifestyles of the city. Berlin is a huge metropolis that has a different atmosphere in each area. It’s like a bunch of cities fused into one! Thanks for being master hosts Elisa and Valentina!

I’m off to Munich, home of the Oktoberfest!

Grunge City

The Blablacar dropped me off in Kassel, Germany which is about an hours drive to the South. Kassel would only be a pitstop on the way to Berlin, the largest city in the country. The reason for my overnight visit to Kassel was to visit my friend Clara. I met Clara in South Africa last year along with Gesa at Mama Zulu’s. We had many fun times together back in the Western Cape! What’s interesting was that her younger brother lived in Michigan for about a year as an exchange student.

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Clara and her boyfriend picked me up near Kassel and took me back to her place. There I met her brother and mother and they immediately fed me dinner. (All my European friends thus far know that I love to eat. I haven’t gone hungry since I stepped foot on the continent!) More importantly, I came to Kassel to deliver some Pop-Tarts that Clara has been asking for ever since I left South Africa (You can’t find them in Germany.) I went to bed right after dinner and woke up to the smell of pancakes the next morning. Not the crepes the Europeans call pancakes, but good ol’ traditional American style pancakes! Clara knows how to please her guest!

Kassel is a city filled with statues representing icons from greek mythology. The most famous statue is that of Hercules. His statue rests at the top of a hill that looks over Kassel. You can see it from far away, even from the city center. Clara thought we’d do a short hike to Hercules tower.

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The way to Hercules was short but sweet. The trail began from the foot of a long park that went uphill past museums and gardens.

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Eventually we made it to a cascading waterfall. However, the water only runs on Sundays. We were one day late! At the top of the cascades, you could see Hercules standing tall on top of a big building. We made it to the top of the cascades and went as far as we were able to go. There were people fixing the path and blocked our way, but that didn’t stop me from climbing up the mountain of rocks just ahead.

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I didn’t have too much time in Kassel before my bus left to Berlin. Clara showed me a few more hotspots around the town that ended with ice cream. I wish I could have stayed longer, Kassel is a cool clean place and Clara was a great host for the time. Thanks for taking care of me Clara!

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I booked a Meinfernbus for a seven hour journey to East Germany. I took a motion pill and passed out for the majority of the ride there. Once I made it to the bus station, I looked around for my friend Elisa. If you recall, I met Elisa last year in Vietnam. She volunteered there teaching with me for a couple of weeks. She was actually the very first German I told that I was coming this year for Oktoberfest. I saw a girl with fiery red hair at the bus station that resembled Elisa. I walked up and called out “Zarbitter”, her nickname, and then she looked up. It was her but I hardly recognized her!

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It was cool seeing her again. Out of all the people I stayed with in Europe, it’s been the longest since I’ve seen her. We walked to the underground station and took a sub to her flat near the west of Berlin. I dropped off my heavy bags and we went off into town. Elisa was all about showing me the non touristy things and I was all about that. We went to an area called Raw Gelände, a dark, grungy, kinda creepy, yet very interesting place in a dark area of the city. It looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie. I also felt like a demented clown was going to pop out at any moment and chase after us. Yet we walked through. I was intrigued by how eerie it was and that we were the only ones there.

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I asked Elisa what this place was all about. She explained that it’s usually a popular night spot in this part of town, but since it was a Monday, no one was here. It appeared to be abandoned; almost like a creepy clowns hideout.

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We exited Raw Gelände and walked to the Berlin Wall. THE Berlin Wall which was nothing like I expected it to look like. There was graffiti painted along the entire thing…a work of art really. Elisa told me artists from all over the world came to paint on it.

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So far Berlin seemed very promising. It really was different compared to most of the European cities I’ve been in already. Whatever area I was in, I like to refer to it as Grunge City, because thats the vibe I got the entire time. It was different, but really interesting. Tourists don’t usually enter Grunge City, but remember, I’m no tourist, I’m an adventurist. 🙂

The road to Oktoberfest continues!