Dirndls and Lederhosen

I feel like there’s some things you have to do if you come to Germany.

See castles
Visit Christmas markets
See a concentration camp
Eat bread and cheese
…and schnitzel, and spätzle, and pretzels
Walk through historical villages
and what some may deem the most important:

Visit Munich’s Oktoberfest, aka their major beer festival.

It’s almost a rite of passage in Germany and something that must be done if you’re here in the fall. Thing is, it’s awfully crowded since people from all over the world attend the festival, and the cost of trains and hotels skyrocket because of it. That makes it less than desirable to attend.

But what’s great is there’s another beer festival that’s just as fun, just as popular, but less known, and that’s the Cannstatter Volksfest. It’s more a place where the locals go, and since it’s closer to us, is where we went this year!
Octoberfest, Volksfest
It was my first time, and I was so excited to go! I bought a dirndl, a traditional Bavarian dress, last year in hopes of going, but schedules got in the way, and sadly that dress sat in my closet untouched. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to wear it, but as luck would have it, we got tickets for a reserved table, with tickets for beer and chicken (a necessity) and had a hard date set.

german dirndl
Trying it on, last year.

Though I was excited to get dressed up, I never imagined G would don a lederhosen outfit, and figured he’d go in his normal “going out” clothes, but I was shocked when the day before, he went to pick out an entire Bavarian outfit from head to toe. I’m talking: hat, shirt, pants, socks, and even shoes! He went ALL out, and I was doing cartwheels inside.

german lederhosen
Very similar to what G wore!

So, come Saturday, we both got all dressed up, hopped on the train, and headed to Volksfest. I was nervous at first to walk around in my dirndl since we were literally the only ones around dressed up, but after changing trains, we blended in because EVERYONE was wearing either dirndls or lederhosen. It made me feel a lot more comfortable and excited to get there.

Germany volksfest, octoberfest
One of the many “tents” at Volksfest

I had no idea what to expect, but the second we walked into our assigned tents (there’s different beer sponsored tents with tables and live music), I was hit by the noise level. It was deafening. Everyone was cheering, singing, laughing, and talking while the live band blared their music. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was standing on the benches at their table. You only sat if you were eating.

It was crazy!

We got to our table and got food and a beer. Not your typical pint or half pint of beer, but a liter…each. A liter. Think on that. The stein is enormous and we had tickets for three each!
dirndl, octoberfest

((I’ll give the spoiler now….we didn’t drink three each!))

I can’t even imagine drinking that much beer, but I watched as some had 5,6, and even 7 liters of beer in a matter of 3-4 hours. That’s almost two gallons, if you can believe that! Lots of bloodshot, half-opened eyes and stumbling going on. Despite that though, the crowd was a lot of fun, singing and dancing to the music. The atmosphere was nothing I’d ever been in before, and it didn’t matter you didn’t know anyone around you, within 15 minutes, you were already good friends sharing extra beers with one another.

We arrived late and only got to enjoy our table for 1 1/2 hours, but in that time, I drank one stein successfully.
germany octoberfest

germany octoberfest, beer
No, I wasn’t chugging it. just pretending to, promise. 😉

Something to be proud of… Or not, I’ll never say, 😉 but I walked out of the tent and back into daylight without any stumbling of my own.
I’m not a drinker, let alone of beer, so I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up, so I was glad I felt pretty “with it.” I’ll thank eating the chicken dinner at the beginning and taking things slow for that. And for not being a beer drinker, I will say the beer was pretty good. Its a special kind that only comes out during the festival, so it makes it all the more special.
germany festival

One thing that makes the festival even better is it’s for everyone young and old. They have games, rides, and loads of different food vendors. There’s absolutely no reason to go into a tent, if you don’t want to. This was the first time G and I had ever been to a fair (of sorts) and he won me a teddy bear at one of the games. I was impressed by his dexterity!

We were smart and didn’t go on any crazy rides, but I was really surprised the amount of {drunk} people that did. These weren’t cute little gentle rides. These were full-on carnival make-you-puke kind of rides. I’m just glad I didn’t see anyone actually puke!

It was a long day and we were out cold by 9pm, but it was such a fun and enjoyable day at Volksfest. If you find yourself in Germany, and it happens to be around this time, consider going to Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. Or if you’re into crazier crowds – Munich’s Oktoberfest. Buy a dirndl or lederhosen, reserve a table, and have a sip of beer for me.

You’ll be glad you did.

German waves

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland
Gullfoss waterfall

I started writing this post Tuesday, and already its Friday! My days seem so short this week, and that’s probably in part because I’ve slept in every.single.morning! Completely unlike me, but I’m going to blame it on my husband.

Likely reason… He’s sleeping in too, which makes me have zero desire to get out of bed earlier, so, I’ve enjoyed the extra hour I’ve been getting. It’s funny though, even though it’s just one extra hour (I’m waking up around 8), it throws my whole morning off! Is that the same for you? I secretly look forward to waking up earlier again, so I can feel like I’m not wasting my days away.

Since being in Germany, my desire to learn German has gone in waves. I get really determined, take private lessons and press through the overwhelming feelings as I learn a new language, to completely uninterested (mostly due to those overwhelming feelings), and don’t think, touch, or even attempt to speak German.

These waves usually last months, and I’m just now coming off the “uninterested” wave and ramping up to want to learn it all. I know enough to order and ask for things, but beyond that, whenever someone speaks outside of those common phrases, my mind (and face) go blank. I’m finally tired of not knowing more than I do, so, this week I’ve been fully immersing myself in radio, podcasts, and youtube videos. Because of that, I haven’t sat to write! German takes 110% of my concentration and writing in English isn’t conducive when listening in German.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to this week. I hope to start German classes this Monday, and I’m nervous for it to start! It’ll be the first time I’ll be in a class setting – I had a private tutor before – and this will be a whole new experience for me. I hope, though, it’ll help me overcome my fear of speaking in front of people. I usually break out in a major sweat when I need to speak.

I wish I were joking.

I promise to share my progress, and if the class was more or less helpful than my private tutor. ..something I’m really wondering about.. It’s 2 days a week for 5 weeks, so, if nothing else, it’ll get me out of the house!

Beyond this week, we’ve done a bit of traveling, and over Labor Day weekend, we went to Iceland!! I’m excited to share all about it, because it was a last-minute trip (something we do often…and don’t recommend!) and a lot of fun.

Did you travel for the holiday? I realize that was already a week ago, but indulge me!

 

 

German high speed trains: the good, bad, and scary


Last night, I got back from a quick overnight trip. It was a solo trip to see one of my doctors – so, nothing glamorous – and it had me thinking on the German high speed rail system. I’ve taken numerous trips across the country and into other countries this past year, and have enough experiences to practically write a book…or at least a solid article on it. So, I thought it’d be fun to share my thoughts.

In short, Germany has a great high speed rail system or “Deutsche Bahn” as it’s called. Their website is very easy to navigate, and bonus points, they have several languages to choose from. “Cookies” aren’t used, or at least that I know of, so prices don’t rise, rise, rise with each train search you do.

I do loathe that with other websites.

Though I’ve listed a couple goods already, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of traveling through the Deutsche Bahn, hitting on the scary first, because ending on the “good” is always better, in my opinion.

Scary

**This might be an isolated incident, but it happened to us, and could certainly happen to others.

– We arrived at the train station for a trip with 15 minutes to spare, so we discussed what bistro booth we should get our customary croissants from.

At that moment, a guy who was right in front of me stopped, turned, and stared me down as we walked past, making me sidestep. As soon as we passed, he was right on my heels yelling vulgar obscenities about me (in English), and how much he hated Americans.

We never broke stride and he never broke away from us, continuously yelling pretty awful things about us. Whenever G (my husband) would look him in the eyes, the guy would immediately look away, but continue yelling. We were finally able to make our way into a line for a bistro booth, which made the guy finally walk away.

Never once did we acknowledge him, which we knew was exactly what he wanted. With G’s job, he can’t “react” like a typical guy would in that situation, so he remained alert and quiet. As scary as that situation was, we found it more odd than anything. Neither of us had our adrenaline pumping – something we both found interesting; we had our wits about us, and knew though he was spewing some pretty nasty things, would never touch us. G knew because of how the guy refused to make eye contact, and I knew because I’ve been in enough hairy situations, and my body wasn’t reacting like it would if I were in danger.

fight or flight! bodies are amazing and definitely should be listened to in times like this!

BUT thanks to this guy throwing us off with his crazy antics, we didn’t realize our train had changed platforms, and ended up missing it! Thankfully, because it was the station’s fault for the change, we were put on the next train without charge, though it made us four hours behind schedule.

– Trains leave on time: One time, G and I arrived at the station 15 minutes early (our standard, apparently), so we got in line for two coffees at a little bistro booth next to the platform. We were second in line, but the attendant only had one coffee machine that was as slow as molasses, with four coffees before ours. As time was ticking, I told him to get on the train with our stuff, and I’d wait for our coffees. With only one coffee in hand, the other still brewing, and two minutes before the train left, I took off running. I ran to the closest car I could and was told to hop on (and walk through the train to my seat), and within 20 seconds of boarding, the doors closed and we were off. I was sweating buckets!

Bad

– Despite reserving a seat, people will still take your seat. This has happened on half of my trips, and I’ve had to tell each one that it was mine. There’s even an electronic screen above the seat that shows whether or not it’s reserved, but I think people bank on you not showing up. Thankfully, each person has moved without issue.

– Trains leave on time: They don’t care you’re literally five steps away calling out for them to wait, they will close the door in your face and pull away. I’ve actually seen this happen! One conductor saw a guy coming, smirked, turned her back, and closed the door. I stood their stunned.

Some may say, “well, they should have gotten there earlier.” and I agree, however, there’s always extenuating circumstances, ie. their connecting train could have delayed, shortening their transfer time. Regardless, it still stinks to be rightthere and still miss the train.

– There’s lots of construction and delays. Completely counters my previous statement, but I have a dear friend who travels twice a week, and is constantly having her trains delayed by hours which make her miss her connecting trains. To say she’s constantly frustrated is an understatement.

– Some conductors are…shall I say, unfriendly. I’ve been yelled at in English AND German by one because I was halfway in the train with the door closing on me. Now! There was a lot of chaos happening with several passengers to make him extra irritated at me for my {little} indiscretion, and truthfully, I deserved it, but darn, it’s not fun getting yelled at – in two languages, no less.

– The trains are loooooooong and you never know where your car will be, so you have to walk very fast when it pulls in to get on before it leaves. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is scrambling like headless chickens and it usually has everyone gasping for air by the time they take their seats.

Good

-Prices are cheap! I’ve scored first class roundtrip tickets for only $120. This was on a trip that was six hours one way, so, very long! Had I chosen second class, it would have only been $40. Quite the difference, I know, but we agreed I could splurge a bit, and I was glad I did.

Had the car all to myself for 1 1/2 hours. It was wonderfully fun!

– Free wifi on most trains, ie. ICE, IC. This really comes in handy because Germany is not known for exceptional cell service, and 80+% of your trip will have you without any connection.

– Trains leave on time.. yes, this goes in all three categories!! Germans are known for their efficiency. If the train is supposed to leave at 2:52pm, doors will close at 2:51 and 40 seconds.

– Many conductors speak English and are helpful. Last night, while waiting at the train station for my connecting train home, I saw my train (that was still 20 minutes away), was going to be at least 10 minutes late. I was tired at this point, and just wanted to be home. While my train was delayed, another train going to my same destination was on the platform about to leave.

I walked up to the conductor, asked (in German) if she spoke English, and proceeded to ask if I could board this train despite my ticket showing for the other one. She gladly allowed me on.
Bonus: the car I got into was virtually empty, so I had plenty of seats to choose from.

– You can reserve your seat for only 4.50Euro (one way). I do this for every trip. I don’t want to risk a crowded train, and not be guaranteed a seat. I know some who have had to stand for hours because they didn’t reserve their seat. No, thanks!

Overall, riding the train is fun, affordable, stress-free, and my go-to way of getting around Germany. It beats driving in terrible traffic, and when you arrive at the station with plenty of time to spare, don’t get accosted by crazy psycho strangers, or yelled at by conductors, it can be quite an enjoyable experience.

If you’ve ridden the DB, I want to hear some of your stories. What are some goods, bads, and scaries you’ve encountered?