Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Music…and Beer


This past week has been so insane! I can’t even believe I left for Austria and Germany just eight days ago and for France just five days ago – it’s felt more like two weeks at least, mostly because I’ve been going nonstop since last Friday morning. With that said, commence: recap of the past eight days.

Last weekend was the last weekend of Oktoberfest, and the first weekend I had planned with my group in advance (i.e., I planned this trip the first week we were here with the other fourteen people I went with, instead of deciding two days before departure where we were going). While it was nice to have definite plans before departing, it wasn’t necessarily the best plan, particularly since we didn’t know who we would be hanging out with, and who we would be comfortable traveling with (I already knew I didn’t like big groups, but I let that slide when I sat down with the group to decide on the weekend plans that first week in Lausanne). Since all of the hotels and hostels in Munich were completely booked for that weekend, we decided to stay at a hostel in Salzburg, Austria and take a two-hour train to Munich for the festival. So we picked our train to Zurich, from Zurich to Salzburg, and back to Lausanne from there. And those were our plans.

From the time we booked our hostel to the night before we left, I completely forgot how many people were going on the trip. Twelve girls and three boys. When I finally realized that my hostel room was a twelve-girl room, I kind of freaked out, knowing that I wouldn’t get much sleep. I also wasn’t very close with anyone else on the trip, save for Kyle and Madison. But I learned that three other girls I was more familiar with, including the two other girls I had traveled to Cannes with the previous weekend, were also going to Salzburg and Munich, I was relieved. We were all on the same trains to Salzburg and back, so Kyle, Madison, and I decided to spend the journey and the time at our destination with the three other girls – Sarah, Richelle, and Lauren. The rest of my original group split up, anyway, so I didn’t feel so bad.

Friday morning we started our journey to Salzburg at six o’clock. About eight hours later, we were in Salzburg. Lauren, Richelle, and Sarah were staying at a hotel, so they split off from our group, planning on reconvening at the fountain from The Sound of Music at 4:30. My group split, too. Half decided to try to find the hostel and the rest of us took the bus to get there. By the time we had figured out which bus to take and where the hostel was, 4:30 was already long gone. And the rest of our group was somewhere in Salzburg. We decided to walk to the fountain, where we took picture upon picture and sang the Do-Re-Mi song while skipping among the arbors (which was recorded, of course!). Someone in our group got in contact with one of the girls who had split off to walk to the hostel, and told them to meet us at the fountain. Once they made it there, we walked to the center of town to find somewhere to eat, which took a good, long while. Surprisingly, we bumped into Richelle, Sarah, and Lauren, who were happy to see us, since we hadn’t established when to meet the following morning at the train station to go to Munich. They had eaten at an Italian restaurant that we had passed, and recommended it to us. Since the rest of the group was having trouble finding a restaurant that would serve all fifteen of us, Kyle, Madison, and I split off to go to the restaurant, fine with breaking off from the group. They ended up following us anyways, but Kyle, Madison, and I ate at our own table (Sarah, Richelle, and Lauren went off to explore while we were eating, and planned on meeting us outside of the restaurant at 8:00). We all ordered pizza, which was actually quite cheap, and delicious! No joke, it was the best and cheapest meal I’d had all semester. We then met the girls outside and walked along the streets, where we saw a marching band comprised of about twenty middle-aged to older men. They were so nice, too, smiling and waving at us! Everyone wanted ice cream, but all of the ice cream whops were closed, so we ended up going to McDonald’s, which was also surprisingly good, and classy. Who would have thought? Since we were all exhausted, we went back to our hotel and hostel, respectively, for a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning, we woke up early to make an early train to Munich. Half of my group was taking a taxi to the train station, but I wanted to walk, since I needed exercise and didn’t want to have to pay. Only I didn’t really know how to get there. Thankfully, we ran into the girls again and they remembered how to get there. The train ride over was gorgeous. There was mist lingering over the green fields and mingling with the tree branches. At one point, we passed a lake surrounded by mist with a small mountain in the background, where the sun was just peeking out of its covers. The scene was indescribably beautiful, but my roommate was right to say that the mist was mystifying. About halfway to Munich, though, a blood-curdling scream echoed through our train car, followed by sobs and continual screams, al coming from one woman sitting on the floor on the far side. It jolted every single soul in the car awake, as if we’d just taken about five shots of espresso, nervous energy coursing through our bodies. The screams went on for about ten minutes until a train official came to try to calm the woman down. When she refused to stop, he stuck something in her mouth and started dragging her to the adjacent car, which was filled with compartments, at which point she started kicking at him, trying to prevent him from taking her away. After about ten more minutes, she was allowed to come back into our car, and for the rest of the trip, our whole group was hyper attentive to the woman. I prayed a silent prayer, hoping she would find peace and safety with whatever her situation was.

We arrived in Munich. And stood among the Germans decked out in traditional lederhosen and dirndls. My group was lingering in the station for a while, so my small group took off, following the swarms of Germans, obviously heading towards Oktoberfest. Once there, we took the obligatory group picture in front of the Oktoberfest sign at the entrance, then charged in, ready for the craziness that was about to ensue. We stood in line at the first beer tent, but that was taking far too long, so we walked until we found a tent with fewer people waiting in line. Once allowed to enter the grounds the tent was standing on, we had to wait outside until summoned inside by an usher. At the door, another usher checked our bags, and took our water bottles (which I was upset about – I had seen them throw out other peoples’ water bottles, and he had taken my Pepperdine water bottle!). Then, we walked around the whole tent, looking for a table that could hold the six of us. That didn’t happen. But I was amazed at the efficiency of the waitresses, who were carrying out at least eight steins of beer at one time (steins weigh probably about five pounds, between the glass and the liter of beer inside), and baskets of huge pretzels. And if anyone got in their way, they would get quite angry and throw death glares to the perpetrator. So I learned to keep out of the way. It was also amazing how early these people were drinking. It was only about 9:30 or 10:00 when we got into the tent! After walking around the tent once, Madison was stopped by a security guard, who kicked her out. Since she was in the back of the group, nobody noticed. Thankfully, I saw her talking with the guard, and stopped for her. She was carrying a backpack, which was apparently illegal inside the tents. So we all followed her out, I got my water bottle, and we waited in line again, only this time to get into the grounds again, but to sit outside of the tent. Which was nicer. Only we didn’t get to witness firsthand the Germans singing songs and screaming inside when people were chugging their beer, I presume. Kyle had a liter to himself, and us five girls shared another. I learned that beer is not my thing. I can take it for about two or three sips, but after that, gagging sets in. Which is sad, since this was good beer from Germany. Oh well. At least I drank some.

After drinking our beer, we bought HUGE pretzels (which I will never eat again…) bigger than our faces, and walked around Oktoberfest, which we discovered was also a carnival with roller coasters and Ferris wheels and rides! We all bought our souvenirs (I got a humorous Oktoberfest postcard and a stein) and went on a ride before walking around a little more and leaving. We finally got back to Salzburg around 3:30, with more than enough time to explore. Kyle, Sarah, Lauren, and I rented bikes and rode around the city, with The Sound of Music soundtrack playing on some speakers in the basket of Lauren’s bike (Richelle and Madison stayed in the square and drank coffee for the two hours we were gone). We biked to the girls’ hotel, then along the countryside to the backside of the Von Trapps’ house. Then, we looked for the convent, but couldn’t figure out how to get there, so we rode along the same two roads for about twenty minutes until we finally asked, and figured it out. From the convent, which was on top of a huge hill, I could see the whole city and countryside. The view was amazing. I couldn’t believe the beauty of Salzburg.

We then met up with Richelle and Madison again and sat at a bench on the square, where we bumped into a different group that had gone to Oktoberfest the day before, which my two sorority sisters had traveled with. We took pictures and talked about our Oktoberfest experiences for about an hour, and then my group went back to the fountain to take more pictures and videos of us singing Do-Re-Mi among the arbors and fountains and steps, just as the Von der Trapps did in the film. Basically, it was amazing. We got dinner again at the same Italian restaurant and went back to where we were staying. Since we were there earlier than the rest of our group, and Madison and I didn’t have a key to our room, we ended up hanging out with Kyle’s roommates from Texas and talking with them about Oktoberfest and their European adventures. Then the group came home, but three of the girls who had gone with them were missing, and had been for the past twelve hours. So we all worried about them. Apparently, they had gone on a ride and were supposed to meet with the bigger group in five minutes, but they never showed up. After looking for them for an hour while at least one person waited at the designated meeting place, they decided to move on and hope that they showed up. Thankfully, they came back to the hostel at about 10:30.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went out to the gazebo where “I am sixteen, going on seventeen” was filmed. It was set in a huge park in the countryside, which we walked around before arriving at the set. At the park was a pond with fish literally bigger than my torso, many trees turning red and orange at the onset of autumn, a pretty legit playground, a flower garden, and a vast field of grass.

We sang and took pictures by the gazebo before playing on the playground. It was rainy, which I would normally find a nuisance, but on that particular day, I found it calming and reassuring. Then, it was time to head back to the bus stop to catch the bus. Halfway up the hill, we saw the bus pull up, so we all started sprinting to catch it. Which was probably the hardest thing ever, considering I had my purse filled with stuff, my bag with my heavy stein, and my backpack. Somehow, just somehow, we made it to the bus right before it took off, and ran on, sweating, laughing, and exhausted. It took us to the train station, where we waited for our train to Zurich. Which was supposed to get in at 4:20. Our train to Lausanne was supposed to leave at 4:32. However, our train got to Zurich at 4:31, giving us one minute to get from platform eight to platform seventeen. So what did we do? We ran like bats out of hell across the train station. The last leg of the run was up stairs to the platform. Kyle started taking them two at a time like a champ, and I tried, but after one set of two, I couldn’t take it, literally saying that I couldn’t do it anymore, fearing that Kyle would be the only one to make the train while the rest of us were left going up the stairs one at a time. Somehow we made it, and with several minutes to spare. Which is surprising, knowing the Swiss and their impeccable precision at leaving right on time. Of the twelve other people from our group on our train, only three others made it to the train to Lausanne (haha, it sounds like I’m talking about war casualties here!). This train, like the last one, was uneventful, and we arrived in Lausanne on time, ready to hit the sack, but needing to pack for our group trip to Normandy in just ten hours.

To be continued…

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