Oktoberfest

September 15, 2017 – September 18, 2017

September was a busy month with visitors who stopped in Amsterdam before and after the main attraction: Oktoberfest, aka 1 of the top 10 items on my bucket list. And I’d have to say, it is all it’s cracked up to be.

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We decided to head to Munchen for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest and went a day early to do some of the tourist attractions. Upon arrival we immediately went to a biergarten called Augustiner because Tyler heard that they served the best beer in the city. The beer was delicious and I had my first round of German food, deciding to go with the kaas spatzle. After downing our liters in preparation for the real deal the next day, we headed out to the BMW factory.

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Tyler is a big fan of the beamers and I even enjoyed the show room that has all the new models. Thinking about getting a bike.

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Although the show room had some fancy cars, I preferred the museum which showed the history of BMW dating all the way back to the early 1900s. It was interesting to learn about the history, especially during the war when BMW made engines for planes.

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After BMW the crew (all 11 of us) headed to dinner at some rowdy German restaurant for meat, and lots of it. It was great to catch up with some of our old friends from Nashville and introduce them to our new friends. To cap the night off, we headed to Hofbrau Haus, because no trip to Munchen is complete without a stop here. I had SO MUCH fun. Everyone ordered a liter of beer and we sat at a table singing German drinking songs that we didn’t know the words to. I didn’t think that the night could be topped.

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Luckily for me, the first day of Oktoberfest was even better than the night before! It started out a little stressful since we did not have reservations at a tent. Our friends Matt and Maddie had gotten to the Marstale tent really early and we went there to meet them. Only half of our group was able to get in the tent at first and there were no tables in sight, so we were frantically searching for somewhere to sit. I went back outside to collect the others when Tyler informed me that a table had opened big enough for the 11 of us! A true Oktoberfest miracle!

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The tents are really more like buildings that are up year round and they are bigger than I expected. We only had the table for 3 hours so we got started right away by ordering a round of liters and some giant pretzels.

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One of my favorite parts of the day was that people randomly burst out in German drinking songs and would stand up on the table to finish their beer to everyone’s cheers. Those who did not finish were greeted with Boo’s and items being thrown at them. The heroes of the day definitely had to be the servers who could carry up to 12 liters of beer per trip!

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After our reservations were over, we walked around the fair and tested out some of the rides including my personal favorite, the bumper cars. The bumper cars really took a toll on me because afterwards I had to go back to the hotel and have a little cat nap. Luckily I woke up in time to watch the UT vs FL game on my phone. It was a very intense game, and we ended up tying with about 50 seconds to go. Since it was 1am Oktoberfest time, I decided that I couldn’t stay up for overtime and went to sleep. Once I awoke on Sunday I was shocked to learn that FL had scored on a Hail Mary at the last minute to defeat the Vols. What a bummer.

Because we called it an early night on Saturday, I was pumped for our reservations at noon on Sunday. Somehow I had scored a table at the Hofbrau tent which included two liters of beer and a half a chicken per person. The Hofbrau tent was about twice the size of the Marstale tent and about twice as rowdy. People were constantly getting up on their tables to chug beer. It was quite a sight to see. We spent the day drinking beer and singing German drinking songs in our dirndls and lederhosen. I can’t imagine anything better.

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Once our reservations were over, we ended up sitting outside at a different tent for another round of beers before going to the worst sushi restaurant that had been highly recommended by a local.

To cap off our trip on the last day, Tyler and I did a walking tour through Munich. The city is full of history and it was entertaining to learn everything about the historic landmarks and the kings that had ruled there. I also enjoy learning about WWII and liked the fun fact that one of the sites that was said to have started the war was turned into a toy museum because the Germans chose to not commemorate the war.

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I am definitely going to Oktoberfest again in 2018, who’s with me?!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Cologne

It’s beginning to look a lot like Cologne

December 10, 2016 – December 11, 2016

There’s nothing like a good tacky Christmas sweater party with the rowdiest bunch of accountants and trip to the Christmas markets to get you in the mood for the holidays. (Oh, and Glühwein, lots of Glühwein, but I’ll get to that part later). Especially since we are deciding to forego a tree of our own this year as it would be particularly dangerous to carry one up our steep steps and there’s no guarantee that it would fit through our tiny hallway. Luckily we will make it home to enjoy our families’ trees at the end of next week!

The Christmas markets in Europe are something I was begging Tyler take me to since I heard of their existence, sometime in mid-November. I spent countless time (more like 20 minutes, but for someone with my attention span that’s still a long time) researching, and a quick google search of “Best Christmas markets in Europe” convinced me that Cologne was where I needed to go. I was in awe of the majestic Cologne Cathedral. As a bonus, Cologne just happens to be only about a 2 hour train ride away and we had an open weekend.

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Just look at the huge Cologne Cathedral, and you’ll be sold too. 

Tyler warmed up to the idea of visiting Cologne when he discovered the many breweries there and put together an extensive list of markets and breweries to visit. There are 7 Christmas markets in Cologne, but I knew the first one that I wanted to visit was the biggest one with the picturesque church in the background. Much to my surprise it seemed to be everyone else’s top pick as well and was ridiculously crowded. However, I did get to experience my first taste of German Glühwein and they gave it to you in this cute collectible cup. Well, they were cute at first, but now we have about 5 different patterns in the dishwasher with no chance of having enough room in the cabinet for them. But it was a neat idea that each market does it’s own print.

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Anyway, we stayed at this market long enough to eat a cheese pretzel, some spaetzel and applesauce taters, aka lunch. We also watched a band full of old people play Christmas songs.

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After I’d had enough of the crowds, we decided to meet our friends and adventure buddies, Martin and Maggie, at one of the breweries on the list to appease the husbands. The breweries in Cologne are no joke. Although they only serve Kolsch beer which is pretty much the equivalent of Miller Lite (and if you know me, you know I won’t drink that), they are huge! We entered Brauhaus Fruh Am Dom and somehow found our way 3 stories below into the basement where the real action was. The waiters just carry around 0.2 l beers and when you are done drinking you simply place your coaster over your beer. I couldn’t believe how big of a place the building was and how crowded it was, but that was just a theme of the weekend.

When we’d had enough icky beer, we decided to go to the next Christmas market, the Old Market, known for the many gnomes hidden throughout the grounds.

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Can you spy the gnomes? 

We walked around this market for a while enjoying some more food and purchasing a few presents. The highlight of this Christmas market was definitely the Ferris Wheel. It wasn’t very big, but it moved really quickly. We were the only riders without children, but definitely in the top 5 loudest screamers.
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On our way to the next market, we ran across another group of old men singing Christmas songs. These guys had light up pants and the lead singer was playing the washboard. They were having so much fun it made everyone in a jolly mood.

My biggest regret of the weekend was not taking a picture of any of the food. We had so much food. From bratwurst to melted cheese bread to salmon rolls to bread budding, it was all delicious. However, I did get a picture of more Glühwein.
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and of the funny outfits that the workers wear.

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and of a few more of the markets we went to. I think one was called the Angel market.

 

That was a wrap on day one, so after a quick stop at Peters Brauhaus, we went to get some shut eye at our AirBnB which was conveniently located about a 5 minute walk from the cathedral.

The next day I was excited to go to the Harbor Market that had a big pirate ship. Mostly I was excited to get some warm socks because Maggie had gotten some there the day before and my feet were cold.

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We alternated the day between brewery and Christmas market hitting up Guilds in the Zims, the Old Market for the second time, and a biergarden.

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I went back for round two of melted cheesy bread because it was just so good.

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We paid some money to see these Germans perform a Jukebox song. I think I picked something by the Beatles.

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And then we headed towards the train and it was a relief to get out of the cold. I must say though, it was another good trip, with the most fun crew.

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Auf Wiedersehen!!

 

Hamburg – Home of the Hamburger?

Hamburg – Home of the Hamburger?

November 11, 2016 – November 13, 2016

This past weekend I visited my 8th country on our first weekend getaway. We tagged along with 13 almost complete strangers who had planned the trip to Hamburg, Germany, about a 4 hour drive from Amsterdam. Having never really heard of Hamburg before, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I suspected that I might eat some good hamburgers.

We started our Friday night off at a typical German restaurant with lots of beer (and no hamburgers). Due to the fact that Hamburg is situated on the water, it is a big maritime city with fresh fish on every menu. They pair the fish with their other favorite food – potatoes. I have to say that potatoes are growing on me, and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. After dinner, we decided to pretend like we were in college and go to some very crowded, smoke filled bars. It was fun for a while until I looked behind me and saw a table of teenagers making out. Somehow I ended up in a conversation with one of them who thought my 27 years of age was ancient compared to his 19 and he suggested that our group go to a bar down the street instead. We all decided it was probably a good idea to end the night here in order to be fully functional for sightseeing the next day.

I woke up on Saturday feeling like a million dollars, and was ready to take on the walking tour. We decided to do the Sandeman’s (free!) walking tour which lasted about 2 hours. Our tour guide was an Irishman who reminded me a little bit of Harry Styles [Editor’s note: upon googling Harry Styles, it appears that he more reminds me of Ed Sheeran.. I must have my English popstars mixed up]. He was pretty entertaining talking about the city and how much of it was destroyed either in the great fire of 1842 (started by an angry cigar factory employee, and lasted for 6 days) or WWII (also started by someone angry, and lasting much longer). The only complaint of the day was that It. Was. Freezing. I really should have invested in some warmer socks before moving here.

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That’s Irish Harry talking about Poodles 

After the tour we went to St Michael’s church which is supposed to have the best views of the city. I decided to walk up the 20 flights of stairs, because I hadn’t gotten in enough walking on the walking tour. I expected that the views at the top would be worth the effort, but was unpleasantly surprised by the fog that had covered the city, drastically reducing visibility.

However, we could see the lights of a fair from the top of the church, and while the rest of the group went ice skating, Tyler and I decided to check it out. This fair was the biggest I had ever seen, definitely putting the Williamson County Fair to shame. We immediately stopped to get drinks and I had some delicious hot chocolate + rum and then some hot apple cider + vodka. We played some fair games and ate some fair foods, and I got a fair hat, and then convinced the rest of the group to come join us because we had been eyeing the laser tag tent. I must say, running around in the dark shooting people is more fun than I remembered. So much fun that we ended up playing twice!

After the fair at the suggestion of the Irishman, we went to the Red Light District of Hamburg. It didn’t really seem to have anything on the Amsterdam version, but somehow we ended up at a drag show by the end of the night. Tyler even got his picture with the star of the show. The details here are probably left undocumented, but it ended up being a great night.

The struggle was real Sunday morning, but nevertheless we ended up getting up in time to do a little more sightseeing before the car ride home. We decided to go visit the Opera House which had just opened to the public the week before and had cost $1B to construct. It has really interesting architecture and was totally jam packed with people. The views from the top were spectacular and I was glad that it was a clear day, so this kind of made up for church views from the day before. The last place we went was Mutterland, the breakfast place that we went the day before which was kind of like an upscale European Cracker Barrel. We wanted to get some gifts for people back home, but apparently they didn’t sell most of their gifts on Sundays. Go figure.

All in all, it ended up being a great weekend, and I was so happy to meet more friends. We’re already talking about planning the next group trip… maybe to somewhere warmer.

Doei!