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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Germany - The South

GERMANY | Tuesday, 29 September 2009 | Views [770]

Em and Julz in their dryndls.

Em and Julz in their dryndls.

September 22nd

We had missed the Olympic ski jump yesterday but after some research last night it was a good thing we did. It turns out that between 10 and 11am there is a practice session. So we were up and away early, to arrive at the ski jump just before 10am. Surely enough, we saw the ski jump team (including some Olympians!) from Slovenia doing practice jumps. It was incredible. After watching a few rounds of jumps from the bottom we got on the cable car and headed up to the top. In the cable car ride up we shared the lift with a few of the jumpers and they told us that generally people would start at 7 years old from a 10m jump, then progress to the current jump (125m) over the years, which is a 135m jump. The jump itself obviously was not covered in snow because it was the end of summer, so they were jumping onto the under surface. It looked like astroturf from a distance, but up close it looked like old stringy green mop heads laid in rows. It was watered after about half an hour as well. The bottom area was real grass.

The view from the top of the jump was not great, so after admiring the views of the surroundings briefly we went back down to the side of the jump and watched until just after 11am. It was something I did not expect to see during this trip, but fantastic to have seen it. There is no way this sport would entice me, but I have to wonder why New Zealand has not taken up this sport given the natural surroundings that are available.

We had a deadline as today was 'Pick Up Hamish Day' (Em's younger brother). After we had finished at the ski jump we got on the road and drove up to Munich. We had a good drive up, and arrived at 2:20pm to pick up Hamish who arrived at 2:30pm. Em and Julie went into the station (the main Munich station) and James and I went and found a place to park Sven. By about 3pm we wanted to know why they were not back, so James went in to look for them. There was no sign of Emma and Julie, let alone Hamish, and we had not had any contact from them. Then by about 3:30pm I had a call from Hamish, who had hopped off the train one station too early! He said that he had talked to Emma (whose phone had run out of credit), and she was trying to find James and I. We also managed to get the name of the station Hamish was at, and told him to sit tight and wait for us to come. We then split up and went about searching the station. By about 4pm we went back to the van to thankfully find Emma and Julie there who had found Sven in the car park, and made us some rolls for lunch (we were starving!). We left them there and went back to the info desk with the station name, found one that matched, and went there thanks to our GPS. We got there by about 4:30pm, and thankfully Em walked back out with Hamish about 5 minutes later. So in the end, all ended well. Amazing how much we have become dependent on mobile phone technology without realising it. Hamish was well, had had a good flight over and a good night in Frankfurt.

We continued to find out about his trip over on our drive north east of Munich to a place called Erding. James and Julie have a favourite beer, Erdinger, which is brewed in Erding. After finding the campground, which was a place designated for free camping, we set up camp. After dinner it was dark enough, and given how rural we were and there were no houses nearby we thought this would be an ideal place to let off the last of our fireworks. They were spectacular. Some of the best fireworks any of us have ever had.

Just after we let off the last one a car pulled up. We were not sure who it was initially, but we soon learnt that it was two police officers. After a small moment of tension, they quickly established we were letting off fireworks, and that we were New Zealanders. After a few questions, checking our passports, and filling in a few forms they let us off with a warning, rather than giving us an on the spot fine. It turns out in Germany fireworks are illegal apart from around New Years time. That finished off a rather 'different' day for us all, and we went to bed, Em, James, Julie, and I in the van, and Hamish outside the van under a bivouac he had set up.

September 23rd

We left the Erding campsite early after a good nights sleep. Hamish was surprised at about 1am by the pair of police officers coming back with some directions to a brewery that they had recommended to us, which was strange, but very friendly. We left the campsite and went to a supermarket to pick up some food for the next couple of dinners, then we went to the Erding factory because James and Julie were very keen to do a tour around. We went through their shop, in which you could buy Erdinger branded glasses, beer, umbrellas, skis (yes skis!), lollies, clothing and many other things. Here we found out that we were unable to do a tour, we were told that we could not do a tour today, or even book a tour there, you have to make a phone call to do this. Anyway we left there with souvenir lollies, and drove into Munich to our chosen campground, 'Thalkirchen'.

It was not too busy when we arrived which was good, it meant we could choose our campsite. Once we parked up we set up camp, had lunch, and then had a few hours of doing camp jobs – showers, washing, catching up on photo downloading, emptying the loo, etc. At about 5pm we headed into town on the train. In Munich, a huge proportion of the people in town were wearing traditional costume – 'dirndls' for women and 'lederhosen' for men. The girls had decided that if they could find the traditional outfits at a reasonable price, they would buy some to wear. After spending a while wandering around the streets we went to the main Munich train station and found a fantastic shop. Em and Julie got the full kit; dirndl (the dress), blouse, and apron. James, Hamish, and I did not as it was much more expensive for a men's outfit, as the shorts are made from suede leather (between 150 euro and 3000+ euro!).

By the time we were done here we were all pretty hungry, and Hamish was sleeping on his feet, so we went and got dinner. It was schnitzel again; we had a recommendation by the girl in the dirndl shop who served Julie and Em (she had rang her father and asked him which was very nice of her). Anyway it did not disappoint, it was massive schnitzel, and very tasty. Julie and Emma shared one, and were plenty full! To add to the experience we had a great waiter from Palestine who was very interesting and uncharacteristically friendly for someone in this part of the world. After our hunger was more than satisfied we left, wandered back to the tube station and caught the tube back to camp to go to bed.

September 24th

Today was the first of two days we planned to explore Oktoberfest. We were up early to miss the queues for showers at the campground. Em and Julie got into the spirit by wearing their new dirndls, and braiding their hair. We arrived just before 10am, and it was already surprisingly busy, but not the chaotic crowds that we had heard about. The atmosphere was great – a huge fairground with rides and market stalls, as well as the many huge beer halls. We were all really excited as we exited the train station and emerged inside Oktoberfest.

After exploring the grounds we thought we had better go and check out a beer hall, which was already surprisingly full. The halls can seat about 4,000 inside at long tables with benches. Inside, they are festooned with wreaths and ribbons – it looks a bit like Christmas time. As soon as we sat down we were served and had our steins of beer a minute later. After saying our first “Prost!” (German 'cheers'), we sampled the beer, and it was the worst German beer we had sampled yet! Still, we sat and chatted, and ate big salted bread pretzels. It was good fun in the hall, although the band was only just starting to warm up when we were leaving. From there we went back into the fair outside and James and Julie went on the Olympic ring roller coaster, which left them feeling a little worse for wear. Then James, Hamish, and I saw what looked like a very cool ride, the 'Cyber Space' ride – seats on the end a big long spinning arm. We made what turned out to be the wrong decision and went on the ride. It might have looked very cool, but it was painful. We had 6G's of force, and at this stage you were upside down. By the end of it we were happy to be off it and I had a small blood vessel in my eye ball burst! Thankfully we survived to tell the story and wandered around looking at other rides and stalls before starting to feel a little peckish.

We had all heard about how great the food is, so we went into a beer hall, got a beer, and ordered some Wurst, and also some half chickens. The beer was a little better and the chickens were very tasty, but also very greasy. The had nothing on a 'Mrs McGregors chicken' done by Maurice in his Webber BBQ. Once we finished off the food we went outside and noticed more people around. We had a look in a few different tents before stopping in at another tent, the Hoffbrau, which is a favourite of Aussies and Kiwis. It was packed but we managed to get a spot and ended up having a lot of fun with a group of Italians on the table next to us, who even shared their fantastic cheese and salami with us. Each tent has a brass band that plays on a raised stage in the centre of the hall. In this tent, they were even playing some songs we knew, and could sing along to. At 4pm we were asked to leave as the tables had been reserved so we moved next door to the next tent and spent a while in there. Again the tables were reserved, and at 5:30pm we were asked to leave our table. Once we left here we noticed just how many people had arrived, it was quite packed. We were all wandering around, then Hamish and I went to the toilet. In the madness and crowd we found our way to the toilet, but could not find our way back to Emma, James, and Julie. After about half an hour of searching we went back to the campground and about 30 minutes after we got back James, Julie, and Emma arrived. Although it was unplanned it was a good way to finish of our first day. Em made us omelette for dinner which we were all thankful for. After chatting some more we decided it was bed time, but Hamish kicked on with some Aussies and Kiwis at the camp until the wee hours.

September 25th

We let ourselves have a small sleep in, before getting ready and getting on the train out to Dachau concentration camp. This camp was the first concentration camp established by the Nazi party in 1933 for political prisoners. It held 30,000 people at full capacity, with barracks being filled with about 1000 prisoners. It is thought that about 35,000 people died in Dachau from its opening until soon after its liberation in 1945. We started off our tour with an extremely graphic documentary about Dachau and the liberation of Dachau, which showed the most brutal, chilling images we have seen. From there we went through the very informative museum that was located onsite, before going around the buildings of the concentration camp. The final buildings we went through were the gas chambers and crematorium. Although the gas chamber was not used for mass extermination like in other camps (for reasons unknown), people were still gassed here during 'research'.

We all felt quite drained at the end of our visit, so we had a sit down and a small lunch at the cafeteria at the visitors centre before getting on our next train to Munich airport. No, none of us had a flight, we had been told that we would find a shop there where us boys could hire lederhosen outfits. Unfortunately when we got there we found out that they had been but none had been returned so they had none to hire, so it was an unsuccessful, long mission. By this stage it was nearly 5pm so we decided to head back to camp, empty handed and rather disappointed. We were all still quite tired so when we got back we had dinner then had an early night in preparation for our early rise in the morning.

September26th

Day two for Oktoberfest! We were up just after 6am, got dressed, and had showers. As per our other days at the camp we were hoping to catch bus the bus to the tube station but missed it by about 3 minutes, so we walked instead. By the time we arrived at Oktoberfest it was about 8:30am. We saw massive queues already surrounding the tents. Before heading towards a tent we met Julie's sister Hayley with her husband Kirk, then we went to the Hoffbrau tent where our NZ friends, Nicola, Niall, Jared, Sarah, Amanda, and Jerry were. We managed to get through the queue quickly and went inside the tent first but did not see any free space so chose a table outside. It was rather cold outside, but we had a nice lady (Maria) serving us beer, and she pointed out an empty table that had heaters above it so we all moved over there, which was much more comfortable. Shortly after we sat down at our table the beer hall was sealed off, so no one could go inside the tent. By 10am the whole tent area including the outside seating where we were sitting was sealed off, and if you left you could not get back in so we spent most of the day there. It was a lots of fun, and thankfully the sun decided the make an appearance at about midday so we were even warmer with that on our backs. Hamish managed to sneak inside the tent and had a good time with a few people who he did not know. We had lots of food for lunch including roast pork knuckles, wursts, and half chickens. The food was much better today than our first experience on Thursday.

At 6pm Em and I left and met Hamish at our prearranged meeting point which went much more smoothly than our train station fiasco. Here we also met all our friends from inside the tent and went out to dinner. You guessed it, Schnitzel. We were hoping to get lots of wursts, but did not really find any places that seemed to have nice wurst which is strange. We had a nice dinner out, and the same nice Palestinian waiter from the other night looked after us again, which was good. We all had a great catch up. By the end we were all pretty tired so we all walked back to the train station, said our goodbyes and Emma, Hamish, and I headed back to the campground.

James and Julie got back about an hour after us. They had stayed at Oktoberfest for a little while longer before going back to Julie's sisters hotel on their way back to the campground.

It was a crazy day. It was very busy which made us thankful that we had gone on Thursday and experienced the whole thing, rides, stalls, general carnival atmosphere, as well as the beer hall experience.

Overall it was a great day or two days, but I was a bit disappointed by the beer, considering the reputation Germany has, and also the beers we have tried. The atmosphere in the tents in particular was just electric!

September 27th

Today was a more leisurely day than our previous few. First of all we had a small sleep in. After breakfast we did a few odd jobs in preparation for leaving Thalkirchen campground today. Once we were ready we headed into town on the train for some lunch. Firstly we stopped off to get a couple of things from Hayley and Kirk who had kindly bought over some things from London, which we could not find in this part of the world. Then we went to markets, but they weren't open on a Sunday, so we had some lunch in town before going back to the campground.

Thalkirchen was an 'experience' – at full capacity (which it reached on Friday and Saturday), there were 3,800 people staying there, most in tent cities erected by tour groups such as Contiki, and 'On the Go'. The rows of identical tents housed hoardes of young people who demonstrated behaviour which ranged from entertaining to revolting. The bathrooms were probably as good as they could be, given the number of people using them, but they could be quite foul!

We did the final parts of packing up our site and then relocated to a campground closer to Munich airport. We found a nice one 40km from the airport, much quieter and surrounded with trees. We played cards after dinner, before going to bed – our last night all together in our bunks in Sven.


September 28th

We were up soon after 6am and left camp at 7:30am so we could drop off James and Julie at Munich airport. Here we said our goodbyes and then headed off again.

We were very sad to see them go. It was fantastic to have some people to share the past couple of weeks with, particularly Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov, the different types of beer; as well as Austria and in particular the Schnitzel and lakes district (yes that sounds strange to mention these two things in the same sentence but the are both very good, just in different ways).

So now we are three: Em, Hamish and I. From the airport we did a grocery shop then drove south. I wanted to go to Kehlstein, also known as the 'Eagles' Nest' so it was to the south east of Germany we headed. It was a long trip, and we did not arrive until about 2:30pm to Obersalzberg. After looking at maps it turns out it was only 20km from Salzburg, where we were just last week! The building on the top of Mt Kehlstein was a gift to Hitler for his 50th birthday, from the Nazi Party.

Even though we'd arrived later than we were hoping, we decided to go up to the the Eagles' Nest. It was a cloudy, misty afternoon unfortunately. After parking up, we purchased tickets for the bus ride up the hill. It is only a single lane road up, and they have special Mercedes buses to take you up which are equipped with six-point braking systems, just in case! Once we got to the top we left the bus, and walked along a tunnel to catch the stylish brass elevator up to the building through 124m of solid rock. We then explored the Eagles nest building and around it. It was still quite cloudy unfortunately so we did not get the best view possible but to see where the building was located was extremely impressive, as was the road leading up to the Eagles' Nest. We went inside the semi-circular room at the front of the Eagles nest, which is 'what you see in the movies'. We bussed back down just after 4:30pm, then drove down the road to our campground for the night. It had fantastic facilities, and was much quieter. It was such a nice change to be in the countryside again.

September 29th

We were up early, to go back up the hill from Berchtesgaden to Obersalzberg. Em and I went to the Obersalzberg Dokumentation Museum, and Hamish went hiking. This museum covered the history of Obersalzerg and the nearby areas, Hitler's rise to power, pre-war Germany, and Germany during the war. It was very comprehensive and portrayed the facts very well, with lots of reports, photographs, propaganda, and speeches. It was a brilliant exhibition. Scarily, it left Em and I both thinking that if we were German back then, we would have been a supporter of Hitler as well - the propaganda, and his speeches in the early years were incredible. We both thought it was a very worth while museum and would recommend it to anyone who travels to this area of the world.

Unfortunately it was quite big and the two hours we had allocated meant we had to rush through parts of it. Also onsite were Hitlers bunker's, which were different from the bunkers we saw at the Wolf's Lair in Poland. They were more homelike, and much bigger. They even had airlocks at all entrances just in case there was some sort of chemical warfare used.

We left there at 12pm to drive to Italy. We drove to near the Austrian – German border north of Innsbruck where we stopped for lunch, then drove through Austria, through the Dolomite Mountains on an incredible motorway, and into the north of Italy. The scenery in the north of Italy was similar with breathtaking mountains all around, but the slopes had different bush on them, and there were not bare paddocks, instead the were planted heavily in vineyards and a few apples orchards. We made it to Terlago, a small village in the north of Italy, where we got to the campground just on dark. We quickly set up, then ate dinner, before hitting the sack.

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