Keep Your Contrast: Travel Views from Dachau

In many settings all over the world, historic pasts are memorialized through different structures, works of art, and monuments.  Some of these pasts are wonderful facades of triumph and hope, and others recall a dark past, which should not soon be forgot.  

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A view from the bath house in Dachau

 

Dachau Concentration Camp memorializes lost hope, death, and terror. The first concentration camp in Germany, Dachau was a labor camp first used to hold anti-Nazi political prisoners.  Opened in 1933, Dachau included nearly 100 sub-camps to push Nazi agenda, where prisoners lived in constant fear of brutality and punishment by death.  

On a cold, drizzling, German Sunday we headed to the most unsettling place I've visited in my life.  Walking through the gates with "Arbiet macht free" (work will set you free), knowing this was a lie told to millions of victims detained in these camps, stomach turning at the first footstep onto the haunted grounds.

Walking through the memorial and learning of the tragedies having taken place proved life altering.  Learning of people who committed suicide from mental stress, who worked to death, or tortured and killed for essentially nothing is something I personally, as I'm sure do others, remember for the rest of their lives.

Traveling to these monuments and visiting the site of tragedies everyone should venture during their lifetime.  Walking in the ghostly wake of the painful sufferings opens the eyes to the world around you in a different way than other travels might.  

Make your travels fun, but also take the time to sober up.  Have contrast in your life, it's not all about the bright colors.  It's about seeing the stark difference between the tragedy, and the views.  Take the scenic hike, but remember why you are able to do so.

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7 Things to be Munchin’ on in München

  1. Cheese Filled Wieners

    Delicious and perfect in every way.  There are so many jokes to be made about these delicious sausages filled with white cheese, but I won't indulge.

  2. Pretzels Bigger than Your Headimg_1769

    And no, not my head.  The head of a large, fully grown German man. These aren't your average pretzels you get in the mall or movie theatre.  These pretzels are a meal, and the real deal!

  3. Spätzel

    A wonderful type of German noodle.  My favorite way they're presented?  Creamy mac n' cheese style with bits of bacon. Sorry Grandmama, but this dish rivals yours at Thanksgiving!

  4. Gingerbread Cookiesfullsizerender-12

    These heart shaped cookies sold at Oktoberfest are beautifully decorated and are often seen worn around the necks of girls, given to them by their sweeties.  It seems a shame to eat such a work of art, but trust me when you bite into this cookie, you won't think about the decoration anymore.

  5. Pretzel Bread with Cheese and Bacon

    This treat is everything the Germans are good at, piled onto one succulent pretzel bread!  One of my favorite buys for the bus ride home!

  6. Roast Chicken (Hendl)

    Something the Germans do to this chicken makes it better than all other roast chickens.  Unfortunately so much of it gets thrown around during the Oktoberfest festivities, too much chicken is gone to waste.  I don't know about you, but I am not the type to waste a chicken wing!

  7. White Sausage (Weißwurst)img_1749

    Where other countries do sausage, Germany, and particularly Bavaria, does it 10 times better.  For breakfast, order one of these bad boys, and you'll be set for drinking sturdy German beer all day!  (Try it with a side of potatoes!)

 

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10 Ways to Spill Your Beer at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is a giant beautiful mess, complete with beer, wieners, and happy Germans. Being around so much beer, it’s bound to be spilled one way or another, so here are the 10 best ways I’ve seen beer spilt at the world’s largest Folk Festival.

  1. Singing Along to German Drinking Songs

    Even if you don't know German, you quickly learn the words to these songs as the words are "one, two, three- Down the hatch!"

  2. Trying to Prove You Aren’t Drunk

    Traditionally, to prove you were sober enough to be served another beer, a customer would have to grab a full beer and be able to perform this trick.  Pretty neat, isn't it?

  3. Excitedly Jumping Up and Down When a Girl Chugs an Entire Stein

    It's impressive when a guy does it, but when a 5'3" girl stands up on the table, with 8,000 eyes on her, and chugs a stein full of beer in about 7 seconds, you'll be screaming in amazement and spilling your own beer!

  4. Chugging Your Beer

    Processed with Snapseed.
    or am I....?
  5. Yelling in Protest When Someone Throws a Shoe/Umbrella/Unknown Object at Your Face

    It will happen.

  6. Getting a Little Too Excited to “Prost”

    You might just "cheers" a little too hard.  It's OK, we forgive you.fullsizerender

  7. Throwing Chicken Wings at Someone Who Fails at Chugging


    (Trust me, they're booing...)

  8. Dancing

    At some point the band will start playing "We Will Rock You" by Queen, and you won't be certain at what point you started standing on the benches, beer sloshed on those around you.

  9. Running Away from Someone Who Has Drank Entirely too Much

    Queue the random strange girl who was celebrating her 22nd birthday and puked all over our table.

  10. Having the Best Time of Your Lifeimg_1568

    Yes, some beer may be spilled, but that's not the worst that could happen.  PROST!

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Packing Guide: A Weekend At Oktoberfest

 

Packing for a weekend in Munich is taxing within itself, with the fickle weather and the modest style of the Germans compared to the rest of Europe.  Packing for a weekend at Oktoberfest adds another layer to prepare for.  

A major issue?  Most of the time people traveling to Munich camp in tents outside of the city. Fortunately I have never done that, as camping in Germany during the rainy season isn't my ideal image of fun, but I am here to provide you some handy tips for packing for your trip, regardless of lodgings! (For a guide to the full weekend, check out this post!)

 

 

Pack Light

Travel Guides say it all the time, yet rarely does anyone listen.  Now more than ever do you need to follow this advice.  When packing for Oktoberfest keep several things in mind;

If you're only there for a weekend, this is only 3 days.  
If you buy a dirndl, this is your outfit for every day you are at the festival. Make sure you leave room in your bag if you plan on purchasing one in Munich.  
You will want to be comfortable.

Keep things simple with just a duffel bag and maybe a small backpack if you want to keep things like snacks and your phone nearby while on the bus or train.

Plan Your Days

Planning out what you will do on each day will make your life simpler, and your bag lighter.  Keep it simple and if youimg_1378 need to pack more, contain them all to the same color theme so you can mix and match as needed.

Day One: If you are traveling overnight on a bus, you won't be able to change/shower/freshen up in the hostel/hotel/campsite the next morning. Travel in something that serves dual purpose.  Comfort, and can be worn around the city of Munich.  If you need to pack an extra shirt to change really quickly into, this can work as well.  Just plan to not have a lot of time.  

Day Two: This is the day you will most likely spend all day at Oktoberfest, so if you're purchasing a Dirndl, don't bother packing clothes for this day.  You can spend all day in your outfit, even at dinner after, and it will be completely acceptable.

What to wear with your Dirndl?  The traditional dresses are surprisingly comfy and appropriate for both warm and cooler weather.  Pack a sweater you can tie around your waist should you get warm.  Many German women also wear nude stockings or tights during the cooler days in order to keep warm.  Flat shoes are more practical, though a small wedged pilgrim style shoe, or kitten heeled Mary Jane is worn by many as well. 

I recommend packing bobby pins , hair pins, and hair ties as well, so you can complete your Bavarian look with a braided hair style.

Day Three:  Again, just consider what you will be doing this  day.  Exploring Munich some more, visiting the first Nazi Concentration Camp, Dachau? Another day at the wiesn?

Prepare for the Weather

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Notice the umbrellas and sweaters? Definitely worth packing!!

Though Oktoberfest has been moved from October to September in hope of procuring better weather, it's still rain season in Germany.  Expect cold weather and pack appropriately.  Rain jackets, sweaters, umbrellas and boots are quite common this time of year, and would be a great idea to pack.  Think warm!

Toiletries

Again, I'll reiterate, keep it simple!

Pack the minimal amount of makeup you need.  Go with dry shampoo for the weekend instead of packing travel bottles, especially if you're camping.  

Don't forget deodorant, and face wash!

 

Hope this guide helps, feel free to leave a comment if I left something out or if you need any more information!  






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Oktoberfest: All You Need to Know Guide

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Prost! The most wonderful time of year to visit Munich is during the glorious festival known to Bavarians as the Wiesn, and to the rest of the world as Oktoberfest.  Going to Oktoberfest requires some serious planning, (well not that serious), and I’m here to give you an all you need to know guide about this amazing festival!

The History:

img_1631Oktoberfest is held every year in Munich, Germany.  The region Munich is in is called Bavaria, is much closer to Austrian culture than North German culture.  Munich was the birthplace of Nazism, and during World War II over 80% of the city was bombed and had to be rebuilt. 

This year marks the 183 annual Oktoberfest. On October 12, 1812 Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The wedding was a grand ceremony. Five days after the wedding the Dukes threw a party with horse racing, gambling, and many other shenanigans for the common people to celebrate the wedding, and boost common morale. This was the first “Oktoberfest”, or as they called it then, October Festivities.  The festival was held on the Tereisenwiesn, named in honor of Princess Therese.  In 1818 beer kiosks, a carousel, and swings were set in place to quench thirst, and to keep people entertained.  In 1898, with the support of the Bavarian breweries, the first beer halls were erected. 

Since then the festival has continued to grow every year, with over 6 million people attending from all around the world. Most in attendance are German, and over 72% are Bavarian. Only 15% of Oktoberfest goers are foreigners.

So Why is Oktoberfest in September?

The festival ends every year on the first weekend in October.  This is solely because of the difference in weather in Germany from September to October.  It’s cold in September, so waiting to enter into tents and riding rides in the freezing October weather isn’t pleasant for anyone.

Lederhosen and Dirndls:  Do people really wear them? (Check out my full packing guide here)

img_1642The short answer is yes.  From my experiences at Octoberfest I would say that around 95% of people at Oktoberfest wear traditional lederhosen and dirndls.  Not only were they wearing them in the festival, but the locals rock them during the day, on Sundays, for special events, and family gatherings as well. 

Real men wear lederhosen, as it as seen as a sign of prestige an manliness.  The women wear their dirndls as a sign of femininity and sexiness.  In today’s times women are also seen wearing lederhosen, a relatively new approach to the festivities, and a cute one at that!

Dirndls:

There are many different styles, patterns, colors, and lengths for dirndls.  Traditional dirndls fall just below the knee, have a full skirt with a fitted corset-type top, with a small white blouse underneath.  There are many places in Munich where it is possible to buy dirndls, for relatively decent prices.  For a nice sturdy, handmade dirndl that looks quality made (because it is) you will spend around €150. There are cheaper options, the lowest price you will find in Munich, or anywhere really, will be around €40.

What you don’t want to do is buy a “Halloween costume” style dirndl.  You will stick out from the crowd, and not in a way you want.  These are a cheap imitation of Bavarian culture, and though they may look good and sexy online, wearing one of these to Oktoberfest makes you look cheap, and borderline disrespectful.  If you don’t want to commit to purchasing a dirndl, wearing street clothes is a perfectly acceptable option.

APRON:

img_1553Usually an apron is already paired with the dirndl at purchase.  Other times it is not, and if this is the case you want to be sure to purchase an apron that is the same length as the dress, not shorter, or longer. 

Where you go tie the knot on your apron is equally as important.

  • On the left means you are single.
  • On the right means you are married, engaged, or otherwise occupied.
  • Directly in the front means you are a virgin (mostly seen worn by young girls).
  • Directly in the back means you are a widow, and I will buy you a beer for that.
SHOES:

If you’re like me then you probably have some stress about what shoes to wear with your dirndl. I brought two sets, so I would have options. The first, a wedged pair of tie up suede pilgrim shoes, and the second lace up pointed brown suede flats.  I ended running with the flats because it was raining, and I’m glad I did.  There is a lot of standing at Oktoberfest, and comfortable closed-toed shoes are the way to go. 

Lederhosen: 

The price of lederhosen start at a slightly higher price than the womens’ dirndls.  A cheap pair of lederhosen will cost around €100, and these are generally made of goat skin.  Nicer ones are made of deer skin, and will cost around €175 and upward.  There are two different styles of lederhosen, the shorts, and the longer capri- style ones.   Men will generally only buy one or two pairs in his adult life, and they will last him, without having to be washed.  Paired with the lederhosen comes a checked shirt in whichever color you like, most men choose blue or red.  A hat with a feather works as well, and socks combined with a pair of Germanic-looking shoes complete the set. 

How to do the Day Properly:

At the beginning:img_1443

To get a table and seats you need to be in line by 7:30 at the latest.  Gates to the park open at 9 and people will be standing in line hours before then.  Be prepared for the wait and bring snacks, a disposable bottle of water, or even some beer for the wait outside.  Plan which tent you want to be in, there are 14 different ones. My recommendation is the Hofbrau or Augustiner tent, both are sure to be a great time.

As soon as the gates open run and get inside and STAY SEATED, do not get up for a while or someone will take your seats, as the first 30 minutes is sheer madness.  If you don’t make it in during this time, the wait time outside the tent can be up to 3 hours to just get in, and there’s still almost no chance of getting a table.

Once people are seated your waitress will come around you your table and start to take orders.  To have the best experience at Oktoberfest, tip the waitress hefty here (I’m talking like €25).  She will serve you first and be back around a lot more often.  After this tipping at €1 per beer is appreciated and expected.  A happy waitress means a happier and more drunk you! 

The beer at Oktoberfest is solely served in Stein glasses, or a Maß (pronounced mahs) as the Germans call them.  Each stein is a liter, which is 2 pints, so keep that in mind when you’re chugging!  Remember to pace yourself.  You want to be able to remember this day, not vomiting over random strangers (a strange girl wandered up to our table on opening day and puked everywhere).  Try not to loose your friends, and get rowdy, but also be able to enjoy yourself!

While you’re in the beer tent:

Standing on the benches is perfectly acceptable, and people are constantly climbing on benches.  What you don’t want to do is make the mistake of standing on a table unless you have the intention of chugging a full stein of beer without a break!  Guys and girls alike will partake, but if you aren’t prepared, or are bad at chugging, don’t stand on the table!

As you’re in the tent expect it to get progressively louder and drunker as time goes on.  The music gets more hyped, the musicians start to loose jackets and form, and people start loosing clothing.  Chicken wings, toilet paper, shoes, umbrellas, and more will fly through the air. 

 

When you’ve had your fill:

After you’re full of beer and can’t drink any more, the next step is to head outside to the rest of the park!  Eat amazing food, play games, ride carnival rides, and more!  The outside of the beer tents has just as many amazing things to view and see, and you can still drink beer on the outside as well.

At the End:

Last call for beer at Oktoberfest is 10:30 on weekends, and closing time is midnight.  Head home and sleep off all the amazing food and beer, and get ready for round 2 the next day!

Prost!

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