Mifflin is the annual block party that happens in Madison every spring. Since all of us who are abroad were very upset we were missing it this year, we decided to make up for by heading to Munich, Germany for their annual spring “block party”: Frulingfest.
Before I came to Europe, I never thought I would end up traveling to Germany. I didn’t know a single person who had chosen to study abroad there so I figured the appeal was as high as the countries we visited over spring break. Once everyone started raving about this Springfest though, Spinks and I booked some cheap RyanAir flights to go and got a hostel with our Florence roommates. When Thursday night rolled around, we went to the Florence train station. By Thursday night I technically mean Friday morning at 3:30am. After an hour long bus to Pisa and a two hour wait in the Pisa airport with every other student who was traveling that weekend, we caught our 7:00am flight to Memmingham. Memmingham was listed as “Munich West” on Ryanair’s website. My favorite review on that sight (which I of course didn’t see until after we had booked our tickets) was, “Yes, Memmingham is west of Munich, but then again so is Paris and the United States.” Wonderful.
Once we landed, the airport shut down immediately due to the Iceland volcanic ash. Thank god we got the last flight out because we had an absolutely amazing time. We weren’t quite sure if we were going to make it home because of this damn Volcano but we figured we wouldn’t be all that upset if we were stuck at the festival for a couple of extra days…
After the two hour bus ride (which brings us to a grand total of 8 hours of traveling) we checked into our hostel and headed out for the free tour of the city they offered. Our tour guide took us around to all the main touristy spots in Munich, which pretty much all have something to do with World War II, and afterwards dropped us off at the famous Hofbrauhaus so we could enjoy our first German beer. She taught us that the Hofbrauhaus used to not have bathrooms so men would just relieve themselves into the troughs running through the floor after downing several pints of beer. Thankfully modern day technology allowed them to have bathrooms installed.
We met up with our friends from school for the second weekend in a row and after a beer (or 3 if you consider the size of the glasses) we went to the festival. Once we got to the entrance, all I could do was stand there in awe. As Spinks put it, it was an amusement park for adults. It was literally a carnival on steroids and with beer tents thrown in there between every few rides. The first thing we went to was a merry go round that had a bar in the center of it. Then we went on a ride that spun you and flung you in every direction, then to a beer garden tent to see some friends and then we got “meter long weinerschnitzels.” In the midst of all this enjoyment, Spinks and I realized we technically hadn’t checked into our hostel yet since check in wasn’t until after we had left for our tour and we didn’t know what time the front desk was open until. We dashed over to the metro and successfully arrived back at our hostel only to have them laugh at us for running back because there wasn’t anything more we needed to do to check in and the front desk was open 24 hours. Is anyone really surprised we made this mistake? No…. So we dashed back to the festival so we wouldn’t miss out on another minute of fun and stayed there for a couple more hours with all the other Wisconsin kids that were there (close to 50…crazy, I know).
The next morning we got up early to go the concentration camp near Munich in Dachau. This was an experience I will never forget. We rented ear pieces to do the audio tour which explained all the buildings to us and even had memoirs from actual survivors of the camp. It was an extremely somber experience and everyone was pretty quiet the whole time we were there but it was definitely worth the visit. We saw everything from the barracks they slept in, to the barbed wire fences, and even the gas chambers and ovens. It was an incredibly meaningful experience and I would recommend if you ever have the chance to visit one, please do. Pictured below is the infamous "Work will set you free" sign.
After the concentration camp, we headed back to the festival. Sarah, Laura and I were sat a table in a beer garden with these three men in their forties from Russia. Only one of them spoke English but not very well so the easiest way for us to communicate with them was actually for me to speak to him in Italian since he lived in Venice for a few years and we would both translate for our respective group of friends. One of the men even bought me a hat which I refused to take off for the rest of the trip. I’m probably even going to wear it on the plane home because I don’t want to ruin the feather by putting it in my suitcase.
Saturday we found out that our flight was cancelled due to this lovely volcano so we scrambled to buy bus tickets for this company that made a boat load of money off all the stranded students by hiring extra coach busses to drive us all home. Even though I was a little disgruntled over the money we had to pay for the ticket, it was nice because we got to have an extra half day in Munich since our original flight was supposed to leave at 7am from “Munich West” thanks once again to Ryanair. My roommates and I took this opportunity to go to the English gardens where they have a man made river for surfers. Yes, surfers. I took a video of these surfers below because it was actually really cool to watch.
We went back to the festival for one more weinerschnietzel and beer before we left for our 8 hour bus ride back to Florence. Another positive about the bus ride was that I got to drive through Austria, so I can add another country to my places visited while abroad. Never mind that it was only to the gas station…
Overall, Munich was one of my favorite weekends in Europe. I definitely want to come for Oktoberfest one year because supposedly it is about 20 times the size of Springfest. This year is the 200 year anniversary of Oktoberfest so I’m sure it is going to pretty wild if anyone is interested. And if you are, please save some room for me in your carry on bag. Thanks.