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Following the Breadcrumbs


This past weekend brought me to the land of the lederhosen wearing, beer-drinking, schnitzel eating country that is home to eighty-two million people. Yes, that’s right, I put on some festive flannel and headed out through Germany’s Black Forest to visit Munich and Triberg. The only experience I’ve had with Germany is its large airport hub in Hamburg, so I was pretty excited to get some more time to experience its culture and, if we’re being real here, its food. In addition, my family has a lot of German and Polish roots. Although this trip wasn’t my favorite thus far, I had a fun time with what we ended up doing.

A quick interjection, however: school continues to go well! After getting whacked by three back-to-back tests in three days, I somehow managed to keep from going completely insane and crawling into my room with the intention of never coming out once it was all over. This week, I got my scores back and was pleasantly surprised! Although I made some stupid mistakes that I’m still kicking myself over (I should just hire someone to keep kicking me so I don’t forget it), I came out better than I had thought going in. Even more, the first big hump has been overcome! Now, the only thing left to worry about is a test every week until finals week (psh, no biggie, right?). I’m a fan of having class every day, because I feel like I actually have to dedicate time every night to getting work done, as opposed to leaving it for the night before (or, y’know, the hour before). One strange thing did happen, however. Let me preface it by making sure you’ve read The Half-Blood Prince. If you haven’t, take a quick second, go read it, and come back here when you’re done. Okay, here goes: I had been sitting outside the student lounge, chilling like a villain and munching on some bread, when my MSE professor happened to walk by and told me to come with him to his office. He gave me my test back and congratulated me on my grade, after which we connected over Pittsburgh. He had worked there for five years as a researcher at Alcoa, the company responsible for aluminum foil and many other household wonders, and I had been to the city many times to see Pirates games. He then told me to come back and visit him later after we had our afternoon class. When I did come back, he ended up showing me different pictures of Pittsburgh’s buildings and reminiscing about his favorite places there. I felt a lot like Harry getting invited to Professor Slughorn’s party and making it into his good graces. I’d say it was a little odd, but I’m just happy to be on his good side for when the red grading pen comes out. Long story short, my classes are going well and I’ve gotten better at this clown-like juggling act of travel and study.


Now, onto Munchen (as it’s known in German). Our train was an early, 6:30am train. In most normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been an issue. However, me, with all my hubris about “not needing” an alarm clock, woke up at 5:32am. This left ten minutes for me to douse myself in soap and water, throw my clothes and wallet into my backpack, and book it for the bus stop to catch the 5:45am bus. Luckily enough for me, I was able to make it in time and only ended up forgetting one thing! When we did get to the train station, I ran into another slight complication: I was unable to get a reservation in time for the 6:30am train, so…. certain events transpired that I’m not particularly proud to talk about. I promised last post that I had learned my lesson when it came to reservations, but this time I really mean it. As I write this, I’m on my way to book my reservation (ahead of time!) for next weekend. Our train to Munich had six stops and it was a long, grueling, six-hour ride to get there. I suppose the universe found a way to get back at me, because the one thing I forgot to pack were headphones. The hours of history podcasts I had just downloaded the night before would sit disappointingly unplayed on my phone for this trip. The train had delays throughout its journey, which led to several frantic dashes in some of our change-overs. One delay gave us only two minutes of transfer time at one station. As soon as we stepped off our arriving train, we dashed like madmen through the station to our departure platform and got there just as the train was about to pull out. Although we received several strange looks, we were just happy to make it to the final leg of our tiresome journey.


When we did get into Munich, it was past 1pm and we were overjoyed to finally be out of a train cabin. We had signed up for a free tour starting at 2pm, which I was really excited to go on. It would be a history walking tour of Munich and, here’s the best part, it would be given in English! When you spend enough time in a different country, you realize how much you take for granted the ability to communicate basic things with fellow humans, such as, “Yes, I would like fries with that.” By the time we left the train station, we had to move at a brisk pace to make it to the meeting point in time. On our trek there, we were stopped by the heavenly gates of the golden arches that called out to our empty stomachs. Giving in to the growling pits that controlled us, we made a quick pit stop at McDonalds and rolled up to our meeting point precisely at 2:00pm. Our tour guide was a college-aged kid named Brett, who was from the lonely state of Nebraska. He had a great sense of humor and kept the tour engaging and informative. Personally, I liked him because he wasn’t afraid to go to the highest form of humor: puns. On the tour, we were able to see a church with a cannonball glued in its side through some redneck engineering, learn about stealing a town’s Maypole, grab some beers at the hall where Hitler tried his “Beer Hall Putsch”, and see the Devil’s actual footprint. Suffice to say, it was a great tour that helped us see the old town and actually learn about the buildings around us. Within our tour group, there were several Atlantans and even an Emory graduate! We got to talking and bonded over a city we all shared in common.


When our tour was over, it was only beginning to dip into the middle of the afternoon. We decided to hop on the metro and took it up to the Olympic Park. Munich hosted the Summer Olympics in 1972 and the park that remains is still gorgeous. The Olympic buildings are protected by sweeping glass awnings that look like waves flowing through the air. We ventured over to the Track and Field, but couldn’t find a way to get down onto it. Then, we ended up scaling a massive hill that gave us a stunning view of the city and the Olympic Park. It was quite a sight to see the sun reflect from the glass buildings down onto the glistening lake. Heading down, we made a stop in the BMW Museum and ogled over the cars of the future. I hopped on a motorcycle and tried to drive it out of there, but I guess someone forgot to fill up the tank.



Tired and ready to get some dinner, we began to make our way to our hotel. Unfortunately for us, our hotel was in no-man’s land when it came to public transportation. Imagine a circle with points all along it representing rail stops. We were at the center of that circle. Getting off from our stop, we booted up google maps and had to triple check to make sure its estimated travel time wasn’t set to snail speed. It said that we had almost five kilometers and forty minutes of fun walking ahead of us. With no other choice, we set out and began to trudge, step by step, to our far-away sanctuary. My friend ended up running ahead because we had to check in by 8pm and our estimated time of arrival was 8:15pm. Walking alone, I made my way past the Nymphenburg Palace and through an expansive park. At this point, the only thing I had eaten all day was a greasy chicken wrap and some fries, so my fuel tank was running in the critically low region. I happened to come across two grocery stores on my hike, but they closed at 8:00pm. Guess when I walked up to them: 8:02pm… When I finally got there, we spent some time recuperating in the room before heading out once more to find some dinner. Our trip back to the city center yielded us some delicious full-plate pizzas that could have beat Frodo’s Elvish bread any day. As we were preparing to make our way out of the city center, we bumped into some more Atlantans: this time they were Tech graduates! They were a funny bunch, and in the words of one half-drunk dude, “The girls here are way better to dance with than the ones at Tech!” We trusted his advice and did what any young person in a large foreign city would do: beat the drunk crowd onto the metro before they filled it up and headed back to the hotel at a reasonable hour where, within seconds of our heads hitting our pillows, we went into a deep sleep.

I was woken up by a blaring alarm at 5am the next morning. Our train left at 6am, so we had another early day of travel ahead of us. The ride to the station was uneventful, but we were certainly feeling the exhaustion of it all as we plodded along. When we got onto our train, we went right back to sleep within minutes of the train leaving the station. Today, on our trip back to home (aka Metz), we would be making a short stop in Triberg: a town in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest that is famous for its waterfalls. The Black Forest has long been seen as a vacation spot for Germans. In the old days, whenever you were sick, the doctor would tell you, “Take some time in the Black Forest. You will get better.” It’s also where Grimm’s Fairy Tales were written, like Hansel and Gretel. To no avail, I spent the entire train ride with my head out the window looking for a giant candy cottage.



Several hours later we pulled up to a station in the middle-of-nowhere Germany, otherwise known as Triberg. It was a half a mile walk from the station to the town, which gave us a much-needed chance to stretch out our legs. As we strolled through the town, vendors lined every inch of sidewalk space and people enjoyed lunch in the fresh air outside bars and restaurants. It had a very festive atmosphere, with gangs of bikers driving through every thirty seconds (the Black Forest is home to many biker gangs). We followed the river upstream, which eventually brought us to our destination: the waterfalls. As one of the highest waterfalls in Germany, it was a sight to see. Standing below it all, we felt a cool mist blow into us. There were trails up the sides that led to several bridges from which you could stand over the waterfall. It provided for some very scenic views of the town and the mountains. When we came back down, we found a place that served some traditional German food for a reasonable price. Our waitress was a practical jokester who fooled me: she brought out ketchup and mustard packets and told us that it was the first course. I shot her a look of confusion, but began to reach for a packet when she said, “No, no, I was joking.” Henceforth, I have now been made fun of at least a dozen times for that. The schnitzel we ate tasted like an amazing version of chicken tenders and was our first bite to eat that day. After lunch, we grabbed some traditional Black Forest Cake, which is a rum and cherry cake that is very heavy on the rum. It was a bit too much for both of us. Our ride back to Metz was (thankfully) uneventful and short. We got in around 5pm, so we had the afternoon to relax and put off work until Sunday. Overall, Triberg felt very much like a German version of Old Forge: it’s stuck in the 1970’s and everything was cash only. It is known for its nature and the people are incredibly friendly. I’m glad we were able to make a side trip and visit the Black Forest, even if I didn’t figure out where the Candy Cottage was. Like I said, this trip may not have been the most exciting, but it was great to experience Germany outside of its airport. Till next time, auf wiedersehen!

Posted by oklempay 22:37 Archived in Germany Tagged germany waterfall munich black_forest triberg cherry_cake nympenburg old_forge

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