After a few days in London, we made our way into Deutschland, where the beer is always pouring, the partying unreal and the history tangible.
Our first stop was the capital, Berlin. Upon arriving, I couldn’t believe how different it was from what I expected it to be. While the history is amazingly interesting, the people the coolest I’ve ever seen, and the graffiti unprecedented, I can’t say the city is architecturally attractive. With the coming down of the Wall in 1989, it seems as though Berlin and locals alike stayed in the 90s – punk, goth, and a unique edginess are what define the city. After having seen European cities that were mostly very picturesque, Berlin is truly its own – a mix of communist architecture, Eastern European facades, and an underground pull. We did walking tours in order of the vibrant past, starting with WWII, the Berlin Wall and the more recent graffiti and art scene. Standing on top of Hitler’s Bunker, visiting the hauntingly beautiful Holocaust Memorial, soaking in the East Side Gallery and Squats, I soon became enchanted with the stories that live within the city. The clubbing scene is said to be among the best in the world, and it didn’t disappoint. Giant warehouses turned into multi-level arcades of raw sound – I was in deep house heaven. Ending our nights (or rather early mornings) with a halloumi wrap from one of the many Turkish kebab shops that line the city streets, it’s an easy life I could fast get used to. Berliners have a reputation of not only being super chill, but choosing to party between the hours of 10am and 6pm seeing as anything we’d consider normal (11pm-5am) is too “touristy”. Many of our tour guides were from different European nations, all originally planning on coming to Berlin for a month or so, and ending up staying more than a few years. For a city with such recent political instability, it has drawn and accepted anyone who wants to be themselves in the truest form of authenticity. #nohashtag
After Berlin we landed in Munich, and felt like we’d flown to a different country. Locals here often refer to themselves as Bavarians rather than Germans, punctuating the distinction that is evident the minute you set foot in the city. Having attended university in Kitchener – Waterloo, Ontario, where the biggest Oktoberfest celebration occurs outside of Munich, everyday life here felt like the 2 week festival we so eagerly awaited as students. If this was commonplace, what was actual Oktoberfest like? In all the beer halls and gardens, men in leiderhosen and alpine hats loitered, enjoying their beer and twirling their long, snowy white mustaches. The city is beautiful, tucked away near the Alps, with cobblestone streets and festive scenes. Every day was a carb overdose with litre beers, pretzels and potatoes. Having all their own local beer and nothing imported, we were able to taste Bavaria’s finest – Augustiner, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten.
A day trip away from Munich is the town of Fussen, nestled right in the lap of the German Alps, only an hour from Austria. Here, among the rolling hills and misty air, is Neuschwanstein, a castle made famous by Disney. Enchanting to say the least, Sleeping Beauty’s castle makes every fairy tale lover’s dreams come true with towering turrets, gorgeous white stone, and views overlooking all the land.
On a note of a different degree, we visited Dachau, a concentration camp not too far away from Munich. While the eeriness and sheer horror are tangible, the history is undeniably fascinating. With quite a bit of the camp still in its original structure, it wasn’t hard to imagine what atrocities occurred there…
After Munchen, we made our way to Freiburg, this time traveling by bus between cities. The German countryside is stunning, with greenery, trees and cute cottages
dotting the grassy expanse. We entered Toy Town, as Freiburg is affectionately called and spent the day in the Black Forest, hiking and trying traditional Black Forest cake, which sadly kept up with its unfavourable reputation.
Our last stop was Cologne, where the cathedral is the biggest attraction. Immense and Gothic, the towering heights and intricate stained glass and carvings are truly awe-inspiring. A friend from my Lille days was living in Cologne, so we had a fun last night, drinking local Kolsch and catching up on life the past 6 years. Downing beer in an old VW bus converted into a bar was probably the most German thing we could have done.
We bid Germany auf wiedersehen, with promises to return with vegetables to feed their vegetarians.