Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

A little bit of Chicago in England

So, since moving over here my life has mainly consisted of teaching English and lacrosse. When I stopped playing after high school in 2006, I never imagined I would return to the sport this way to both play and coach. I’ve enjoyed it immensely; it’s brought me some of my closest friends over here and amazing opportunities to travel and meet people. That being said, I’ve started working with the European Lacrosse Federation (ELF), which does a lot of work with newer, inexperienced teams and helping them get off the ground. Since that’s basically what I’ve been doing since last year, I had the chance to assist at a camp in Mainz in August then coach my own in October in England.

SHS lacrosse 2006 (#13)

I arrived on a Wednesday in London and made my way out to Welwyn where I coached the girls team practice that night. They’re about the same level of experience, if not a little newer, than my girls here so it was great to be on the same level. The girls are all super nice and I stayed with one of them overnight (her dad coaches the boys team and her brother plays on it- quite the lacrosse family) and it’s nice to have a little home-y treatment. Sidenote: Beforehand, all the girls and family knew was that I was a coach coming from Germany. They had no idea if I was German or American or what, so they were a little nervous regarding the potential language/cultural barrier. The big concern was if I’d be okay eating cereal for breakfast and if not, what do Germans eat? (Yes, cereal was great and usually, bread with assorted cheeses, meats, jam, spreads etc)

Then I had Thursday-Saturday free before I had to coach the camp on Sunday. Among the many things I’ve learned in the past year, one of them is how to travel alone. And do it well. I no longer have any fear about traveling by myself or how to occupy my time, so I walked around the city a bit Thursday before making it to my hostel and checking out the area around there. Friday I went into the city again and had the best intentions of trying to get last minute student-rate tickets to go see a play or do something cultural, when I ran into this in Trafalgar Square:

Bear Down

Obviously, being a great Bears fan I knew the game was that weekend and had tried to get tickets beforehand but they were too expensive. So I vow to come back to Trafalgar Square later Friday night where it turns out, they’re hosting fan fest. I hop on a boat and make my way over to Greenwich (pronounced “Gren-itch” for all you non-east coasters) where yes, Greenwich Mean Time comes from and they also have a great market set up with various sellers and an array of international food. (Let’s just say Germany’s food variety is lacking and the Ethiopian food I had for lunch in Greenwich was amazing). I make it back to downtown London in time for fan fest where everyone naturally has to wait in a line to get in and be searched which takes forever. So I strike up conversation with some Bears fans I see (Chicagoans are all so friendly. Don’t believe me? Come visit. Or read the rest of this post). Once I get in, I naturally head over to get a beer (where they’re only serving Bud Light. Ahh.. America’s finest. We wouldn’t want quality European beer or anything).

New friends at the game

Now, I mentioned the fact that I’m more than okay traveling alone because most Americans are downright terrified¬†of it and/or assume something is terribly wrong when they see someone traveling alone. Example: The group of Bears fans I was talking to before I went in see me buying a beer. One approaches me, asks me who I’m there with and is shocked when I answer with “no one.” They politely invite me to hang out with them for a bit, which I politely accept. “A bit” turns into “Friday early evening until Sunday night”. They took me under their wing and we had an amazing weekend from going out Friday night, shopping and pub-hopping on Saturday which brings us to Sunday: camp and game day. The lacrosse camp went well, a smaller turnout than I expected, but the drills I prepared went over well and it ended with an invitation to come back and do another camp sometime.

I made a last-minute decision to make the trip out to Wembley Stadium (where the Bears game was) and try to scalp a ticket (the guys I was hanging out with already had theirs) and if it worked, great, if not, I’d go to a bar nearby and watch the game. I somehow have great luck an manage to score a club-level ticket (face value, 130 pounds) for 70 pounds. The guy who sold me it even walked me to the door and waited for it to be scanned for me to give him the money. Now I was alone in the classy club area, but not for long. The guys in front of me notice my Bears shirt, turn around and ask me where I’m from. Obviously they’re from Chicago as well, we start chatting, they take care of my beers for the rest of the game and I have yet another group of new friends. Needless to say this trip was a huge success overall, and it was amazing to get some quality time with a bunch of Chicagoans- in London. Who woulda thought? It made me really appreciate coming from Chicago/the Midwest and the generosity and friendliness showed from every Bears fan I met.

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December 1, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big One: Oktoberfest

Well I’ve chosen to spend the past two weekends attempting to hide my sorrows at Oktoberfest. “What sorrows could I possibly have to hide?” Just the fact that almost all of my friends have been reconvening in Boston for the two biggest football games of the year: Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, respectively. Luckily, I succeed in taking my mind off the games by getting dressed up in some traditional German clothes and surrounding myself with Germans/Americans/Australians/French/whoever was there.

So instead of this and this

I was with this and this

I’d say it’s a pretty fair trade off. So the first weekend, my friend Nadiya who’s currently doing a Fulbright in Kiel, came down to visit me on Friday then we went off to Munich together on Saturday. The train at 6am was packed and full of people in Dirndls and Lederhosen (traditional German outfits) and of course with plenty of beer. We were staying with my friend Basti who I met back in high school when our schools did an exchange program. We headed off to Theresienwiese aka die Wiesn aka Oktoberfest grounds around noon/1pm. Basti’s friend who worked in one of the tents … no longer worked there so we were on our own to try and get in. (this is not an easy task) But, after Nadiya sweet talked a doorman and Basti got a hold of someone’s bathroom ticket, we were in! (they give you tickets when you leave the tent to go to the bathroom so you can get back in, but I guess this person wasn’t going back). Also the term ‘tent’ is used loosely. There are 7 breweries in Munich, and each one has 2 tents at Oktoberfest. These tents are actually huge constructed wooden structures. They start putting them up at the end of July. (<– one of the ‘tents’ from the outside)

So Nadiya, Basti, and I spent Saturday inside one of the tents operated by Hacker-Pschorr (and hence Hacker-Pschorr beer) and had a great time. (Basti and I inside the tent)

Apparently one time wasn’t enough for me because I found myself on a train to Munich Friday afternoon. I was informed during the week that a junior friend of mine from BC studying abroad in Greece, Christina, was going to Oktoberfest this weekend. Not only that, but Friday was her 21st birthday. So I hopped on the train and found myself outside the Lowenbraeu tent 4 hours later. One of the best things about Oktoberfest is the ridiculous amount of people you meet (and they all tend to be rather eccentric). Here’s a brief rundown:

Italian kids: The second weekend (weekend I was there with Basti and Nadiya) is unofficially known as “Italian weekend” due to all of the Italians that come up. The first is full of…

Australians. And therefore unofficially known as “Aussie weekend”. We met a few Aussies and Italians on Friday night as well as some French people and Christina had “happy birthday” sung to her in no less than four different languages. The American version was started by…

Bob. Bob is a 50 year old American man who flew to Munich, spent no less than 200 Euros on Lederhosen, and was hanging out with everyone simply because “it was on his bucket list”. Luckily he had a soft spot for BC so we got along pretty well (despite the fact he went to a rival ACC school)

And last but not least… Germans: The Germans you meet at Oktoberfest cannot be claimed to be a representative sample of the overall population. In fact, a lot of the teachers at my school that I’ve talked with have never been to Oktoberfest. But, I have nothing but great things to say about all the Germans I met. They’re polite and make small talk with the Americans (when you’re with Americans) but once it’s found out you can speak German: look out. They want to know everything, how do you speak German so well, what are you doing here, let me buy you a beer, Prost (cheers) x 10, everyone standing on the benches and singing allllll the time. Being in the tent is a total time warp and before you know it six hours have gone by and you’re eating gebrante mandeln (roasted almonds).

Christina got us in on Saturday after we showed up at 10am and they claimed all the tents were already full. She pulled the ‘it’s my 21st birthday these are my friends’ speech with a waiter (which is who can definitely get you in) and we met some more great people back in the Hacker-Pschorr tent on Saturday. I couldn’t bring myself to leave Munich on Sunday early- Christina and her friends went back to take pictures at Oktoberfest but I miss Munich so much and the weather was so nice. I laid in the Englischer Garten and read before visiting Marienplatz and the Deutsche Bank…

I know I know I already have a ski-like winter jacket which I’m sure will be put to good use in the German/Austrian Alps this year. What a rough life. But since I pretty much spent all my money (that I brought) at Oktoberfest, I took advantage of the close proximity of a Deutsche Bank to withdrawal money from Bank of America without a fee. Thanks to the ATM, it gave me 100 Euros in the form of a 100 Euro bill. Great. So I chose to break it today by *sigh* buying a stylish winter coat (the real one is actually gray striped). I’m filing that as “necessary seasonal clothing” in my expenses.

(I apologize for all of the over-media-stimulation in this post. I feel I could talk on and on about Oktoberfest but pictures are better) Overall, two very successful and fun weekends. Now what next…

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | 1 Comment