Hello everyone, sorry for being such a failure at reporting back to you all regarding my European Takeover 2K15.
Although no excuse is acceptable for my absence, it’s been a rough month. It hasn’t been rough emotionally, despite what many people would say. The past month has been difficult physically. I’ll give you a brief synopsis before launching into the details of the trouble I’ve caused over the weekends.
I basically live in a mansion next to a castle. Our residence is Moore Haus, a huge mansion overlooking Heidelberg and the Neckar River. It’s picturesque and looks like something out of a fairytale. For all of you Americans wondering if Europe actually looks like this, it does.
But with great beauty comes great sacrifice. Since our house is at the top of a hill, it means we have to climb the hill to return to the house. There are no busses that go directly to the top, so it’s a solid 20-minute climb. I don’t think I have ever returned to the house from the Altstadt (old city) and not been drenched in sweat. It sucks but I’m living in Germany, so I can manage it.
Our classes are held in a building above the Hauptstrasse (main street), which is wonderful because it places us directly in the middle of the city. Despite the extreme amounts of walking (I think I average eight miles a day), it’s keeping me in shape. I find it extremely ironic because I anticipated that I would gain weight from all of the good food. If I wanted to I could, but unfortunately I’m a poor, broke college student just barely trying to survive and travel the world.
The Heidelberg International Program at Pepperdine has been around for over 50 years. There is a very rich history and tradition with the program and I am very privileged to be a part of it. After welcoming a new class every year, the directors got smart and thought of a wonderful way to accommodate dozens of American students. I imagine the conversation went something like this.
We should fill all of the student’s spare time with activities and planned things from the instant they step off the plane. Nobody will ever get homesick that way.
But won’t they get tired and exhausted since they can’t ever catch up on their sleep?
Nah, they’re young and will be fine. They only need 4.2 hours of sleep a night anyways.
And that pretty much sums up my first month of living in Germany. People from home ask me if I’m homesick and I bluntly tell them that I don’t have time to be homesick. I really don’t, there is nowhere that I could fit homesickness into my schedule. I wake up before sunrise, go to class all day, go to group (free) dinner in the evening, go back to the house, do my homework, try to socialize a little bit, and then go to bed so I can start it all over. With a schedule like that, it’s no wonder I’ve lost weight.
Of course, the best part about living in such a centralized location in Germany is that I can travel nearly anybody. So far, I have traveled to Cologne, Munich/Salzburg, Berlin, and Amsterdam on the weekends we’ve had. I’ll give you all the Readers Digest version to get you caught up with the current times.
Our very first travel opportunity that wasn’t scheduled (thanks Pepperdine) was basically only for a Saturday. I’m never one to waste a travel opportunity, so I, along with my new best friend Laura, and two guys I only semi-knew, Matt and Jake, all boarded a train to Köln. We arrived late in the evening and spent a long while figuring out how to get to our AirBNB. We made it though, and all got to sleep on couches. Oh well, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
The next morning we briefly went inside the massive Köln Cathedral. Thankfully my dad wasn’t there so we were in and out of the church. Hallelujah! It never ceases to amaze me how the cathedral is right by the train station. But the Hauptbahnhof did have Rittersport stairs, which was an automatic win in my book.
There was a neat shopping street so we headed that way. It was neat to check out the shops, especially when we hit the mother lode of German shops. It was a costume store that had an entire level dedicated to Oktoberfest Dirndls and Lederhosen. Since they weren’t buying any lederhosen for Oktoberfest, Laura and I convinced the guys to try some on. It was possibly the highlight of our trip. I mean check out those orange socks!
After we irritated the guys by playing glorified dress-up, we headed down to the famous Rhine River. There were massive steps along the river so we hung out there and visited for hours. It was so nice to be able to relax and not have to constantly worry about following that dreaded schedule. We grabbed some Döner on the way back to the AirBNB and watched Hell Boy, which is an atrocious movie and I 10/10 do not recommend. The next day we made it back to Heidelberg safe and sound and didn’t die.
Hey Mom and Dad, I know this is the trip of mine you’re the most interested in. Mostly because I’m loose at a festival that’s sole purpose is to get you drunk as a sailor. Don’t worry, I wasn’t that person, but I still had to dress up and get in the spirit.
Since I had been so exhausted from classes during the week (and was still trying to catch up on sleep from Köln, I spent the majority of Oktoberfest absolutely exhausted. Good thing I don’t drink, otherwise I can only imagine the mess I would have been in.
Laura and I stayed at an AirBNB that was only a few stops away from the festival. We took a train to Munich on Thursday so we could get up early to make it to Oktoberfest.
Our room at the AirBNB was adorable and would have rivaled any room on Pinterest. The bed was literally sitting on palettes of wood. So chic.
Friday morning we dressed up in our Dirndls and after taking lots of pictures, went to Oktoberfest. If you ever have an opportunity to go to Oktoberfest, please go. And please wear a Dirndl or Lederhosen. You might think that people are exaggerating by claiming that everyone dresses up, but it’s the truth. Besides, it makes for cuter pictures.
We managed to get into the Hofbrauhaus tent and found Pepperdine people. Laura and I hadn’t gone with anybody, so to find people we knew amongst the drunken masses was a miracle. We hung out with them all day but went back to our AirBNB early because we had been told that Oktoberfest got dangerous at night.
The best part of my trip was that my mom had a train layover at the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station). I got to see my mom for the first time since leaving home and it made my day so much better.
The next morning was a Saturday and Laura and I hit up the festival grounds again. It was Italian Weekend, which meant that the Italian tourists would be out in hoards. They were. Our friends had intended to meet up with us in Munich that day but they were staying at an AirBNB in Salzburg. Due to the refugee crisis in Syria, they had closed the borders to Germany and our friends couldn’t make it to Munich. They had been trying all day, so as Laura and I were getting ready to go, our friends somehow all showed up. Despite walking all day and riding every form of transportation, they had finally made it to Oktoberfest!
My train didn’t leave for almost another two hours, so Laura and I headed back to Oktoberfest with them. Matt was able to get us a table in the biergarten of a tent so we sat there for hours. We saw at least three fights, and one girl broke her wrist. It was truly dinner and a show. I ended up standing in line for the bathroom for over an hour and it was easily the worst hour of my life. There were only three stalls for the females in the tent and it was not going very quickly. I did end up swiping a beer stein that somebody had left in the bathroom though, so I considered it a wash.
By the time that I emerged from the bathroom, it was dark and I realized that we had missed the last train. The guys were freaking out over us traveling home at this late hour (7:00 pm) and they insisted that we return to Salzburg with them, no matter the cost. Their AirBNB had room for two more, and we were going to go with them. After having been in charge of our travels for the past three days, Laura and I were happy to let them be in charge.
Our whole squad took a train to Freilasing, on the Austrian-German border and then took a bus to our AirBNB. It was unbelievably late by that time and I hardly remember climbing into bed and falling asleep.
We were able to make it back safely to Heidelberg the next day, even though we had to stand on a train for three hours because we didn’t have reservations. It’s all part of the experience, right? Boring travels don’t make for fun stories.
Once again, Laura and I headed off just the two of us to the far corners of the country (are you noticing a trend here?). This time we went to Berlin, just in time for the celebration of Reunification Day (Germany’s version of the 4th of July). Some of our friends thought that everything would be closed for the holiday, but we were pleased to discover that the only thing that was closed was Brandy Melville.
Our first stop after arriving at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof was to take a picture in front of the Rittersport tower. I have an obsession, I know. Then, it was on to the Brandenburg Gate. Let me tell you a little bit about the gate.
My entire life, I have heard stories from my mom about her trip to Germany during the Cold War, when the Berlin Wall was still up. She had wanted to walk underneath the Brandenburg Gate but she couldn’t due to the wall still being up. When my parents and I visited Berlin in the summer of 2014, we had plans to walk underneath the Brandenburg Gate for the first time. Unfortunately, the World Cup was taking place and they had a huge screen to play the game on and we couldn’t walk underneath. Great. My mom had been in Berlin about a week before Laura and I went and she was able to walk underneath and rubbed it in my face. So I was excited to finally get to do it myself. Laura and I stepped out of the U-Bahn station at the Brandenburg Gate and my eyes focused on the gate… that was blocked off for Reunification Day. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? It only means that I have to go back to Berlin, which is perfectly fine with me because it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.
After kicking myself for not being able to walk under the gate, Laura and I went to Checkpoint Charlie. When I was there the year before, I had an opportunity to have my passport stamped with stamps from the Soviet Era. I didn’t want it to close the next day, so we went there and got some great pictures with soldiers. Such a tourist trap but I didn’t care.
Laura really wanted to see a concentration camp, so we journeyed to Sachsenhausen Camp on the outskirts of Berlin. We barely made it in time to see the camp and (quickly) read some of the exhibits. My mom would have died from going so quickly. Laura and I had barely exited the last building before the security guard made the rounds and told us they were closing. Perfect timing!
We headed back into the city and found our hotel, which was right by the Hauptbahnhof. After we dropped our stuff off we went to Alexanderplatz, which is by the big TV tower, for dinner. We ate at a yummy pasta place and went back to our room and slept.
The next day we ate breakfast at Einstein Café, which had the most amazing Eggs Benedict known to mankind. It kept us full until late in the evening, which was good considering the day that we had. We wandered down Unter den Linden and came upon Museum Island, where we visited a flea market and toured the museums. We also found Brandy Melville, even though it was closed. Our real adventure of the day, however, was sneaking into Spreepark.
Spreepark is an abandoned amusement park that many people sneak into. Laura and I pretty much did the same thing, but sneaking out was the difficult part, especially when it’s dark out. I’ll just leave it at “what happens in Spreepark, stays in Spreepark”.
Sunday morning Laura and I woke up really early so we could go to the East Side Gallery, which is the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing. It was incredible to see such an important part of history. Afterwards we checked out an awesome flea market, where we got beer steins for only 5€!
We made it back to Heidelberg with no problems and got ready to start the week!
Ah, the notorious Amsterdam. Laura and I, along with eight other people, had made plans to stay in an AirBNB for two nights that only amounted to around 50€ each. It was a steal, until it turned out to be a scam and we had nowhere to stay the night before we left. Matt and I came in clutch though and were able to book a private room in a hostel that our other friends were staying at. It was basically 14 friends loose in Amsterdam. What could go wrong?
Hey Mom and Dad (again)! Yes, I did go into some of the notorious Amsterdam coffee shops, but it was all in the interest of trying to figure out what this green stuff was that I smelled everywhere. I’m not kidding, the smell of weed is around every corner in Amsterdam, it’s kind of ridiculous. I looked at the prices, even though I had no idea what any of it meant, and then went and bought some krokets.
Let me tell you about krokets. Krokets are the closest thing you can get to eating fried gravy. They’re fattening, unhealthy, and I’ll probably have a blood clot after this weekend, but they are amazing. You can get them at the train station or at these FEBO stores and you just put your money in and open the little container to get the krokets out. 1,50€ for the best meal of your life. Not a bad deal.
Our hostel was far outside of the city, which sucked, but we just took the metro in and out of the Centraal train station. I led everybody to the Albert Heijn grocery stores, where I devoured crème brulee and Hagelslaags like it was nobody’s business. Then I ate some more krokets. We saw the Dam Square, Red Light District, and other random quaint canals. Dinner consisted of street food and crepes and we all made it back to the hostel before midnight.
The next morning some of us went to the Anne Frank House. I had just been there last year and was not planning on waiting in line for 3 hours, so I stayed behind to lead the quest of men that were barely waking up. We eventually made it into the city and ate at a pancake place where the pancakes were as big as the plate. So delicious. Mine had Nutella and bananas. Laura and I met up and we went to the Rijksmuseum, took a picture in front of the Iamsterdam sign, and shopped at Brandy Melville. We had dinner at a pizza place and then went back to the hostel before midnight since the metro would close. I also ate more krokets.
On Sunday morning, we woke up and went to the train station. I was so exhausted from being on the go for the past month and it was starting to catch up to me. I ate some krokets (and bought some for later) and ended up sleeping on all three trains we took. When I woke up I ate some more krokets and then we went to Moore Haus after our arrival in Heidelberg. Then I ate another kroket.
So that, my friends, is the Reader’s Digest version of how I dropped off the face of the earth for a month and didn’t die. I’m still here, alive and kicking. I’ve just been very busy and finally have had an opportunity to share my adventures with everyone.
Until next time, continue keeping up with The Traveling Storygirl!