Germany

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I first visited Germany when I was backpacking through Europe in 2010. I was heading from Amsterdam to Prague and decided to stop off in Berlin for a walk through history. Or in this case, it was a ride through history because the main highlight from my trip to Berlin was taking a Fat Tire Bike Tour throughout the city. I have taken the Fat Tire Bike Tour in Barcelona as well and can highly recommend their service if you’re looking for a funny, educational trip through time. On the tour through Berlin, I got to see sights like the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall,

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Hitler’s final bunker,

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Check Point Charlie,

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The Reichstag building,

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the Holocaust Memorial,

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the Brandenberg Gates,

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and many other historical sights.

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I loved every moment of Berlin because I am a huge history buff, the city was clean, everything operated efficiently, and my second language is German, so it was easy for me to get around. I only spent three days in Berlin, so the majority of this post is about my most recent trip to Germany in the fall of 2016.

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One of my best friends lives in Stuttgart, so my wife and I went to visit him. As soon as I got off the plane in Stuttgart, I felt at home. The air wasn’t humid, the leaves were changing because of the shift to fall, and all the taxis were Mercedes. Philip was still working, so we took a cab to his flat to meet up with a friend from Colombia, Ivan, who was also staying with him that week. We all got acquainted, and then Philip came home from work shortly thereafter. He said that he had a week full of activities planned based on what places and things we would like to see. It was late in the afternoon, and we were all hungry, so Philip suggested that we have dinner at the Fernsehturm Stuttgart.

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It is the first telecommunications tower in the world, constructed from reinforced concrete and has been the prototype for many such towers world-wide. From the top of the tower, you can see all of Stuttgart. It was overcast while we were up there, but I highly recommend going on a clear day.

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As we were up there, Philip pointed out the Stuttgart Oktoberfest that was all lit up and said that we would be going there the following night. We had to hurry to go to dinner so we can get up for a full day that was going to start with Philip getting a sports car for us to drive on the Autobahn.

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The next morning, I woke up after Philip left to go get the car. Ivan and I headed out to one of the many bakeries that are infused into German culture. After returning with breakfast for my wife, Philip showed up with a 2016 Lamborghini Huracan! The car is obviously only a two-seater, so he took my wife for a ride, then Ivan, and then he came back for me. It took us about fifteen minutes to get to the section of the Autobahn that had no speed restrictions. After entering into no-speed-restrictions section, Philip did not seem to shy away from taking advantage of the car’s 5.2l V10 engine that produces a mean 602 BHP and can do 0-97km/h (60mph) in only 2.5 seconds! After a little bit of time, Philip let me take a turn behind the wheel for a short while.

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We were flying on the Autobahn, doing a calm 270km/h (168mph), when we ran into afternoon rush-hour traffic, and my dreams of breaking over 322km/h (200mph) had come to an end. Philip and I turned the car back in and quickly headed back to his flat so we could get changed for Oktoberfest that evening. Philip had three pairs of lederhosen for Ivan and me to try on, while my wife had a beautiful dirndl to wear that she borrowed from Philip’s mom. The lederhosen that Philip had were top-notch! The pairs that Ivan and I had were each around €500 while Philip’s lederhosen cost more than €1000. They were all made from deer suede and were embroidered and heat-branded with pictures of deer with huge antlers.

 

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Oktoberfest in Stuttgart is no joke. Just because it originated in Munich doesn’t mean Stuttgart takes the tradition lightly. As we arrived on the fairgrounds, I was almost blinded by all the bright lights coming off the amusement rides. I kept thinking to myself, you gotta have a pretty strong stomach to drink profusely and then climb into a pirate ship that goes in a complete circle. The Beirgartens were located throughout the park, but mostly toward the center. The “Beer Tents” in Germany are far from tents. They are massive buildings that are constructed in only two and a half months and look like they are meant to stand the next two and a half decades.

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After Oktoberfest, they take them all back down. We feasted on folk songs, many liters of beer, and outstanding German cuisine and then headed over to a private party hosted by Stihl power tools because Philip’s friend was bartending there. She got us into the party and then proceeded to feed us champagne, beer, and what seemed like an endless supply of Jagermeister shots.

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I was talking with this older guy from Holland that does the promotions for Stihl, and next thing you know he starts break dancing out of nowhere. He was in his 50s with a baldhead, a bright white beard and a helicopter leg swing that could rival Alfonso Ribeiro. That night was fun to say the least.

The next morning, we went to the Porsche Museum before we left Stuttgart. Stuttgart is home to the Porsche and Mercedes headquarters. We only had time to see one, so I went with Porsche. I have always had a fascination with the 911, but I plan on seeing the Mercedes museum next time.

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After seeing a vast array of trophies and racing machines at the Porsche Museum, we headed out of Stuttgart and off to the Bravarian region to explore Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle (Castle of King Ludwig of Bavaria). Neuschwanstein Castle (New Swan Rock Castle) is most popularly associated with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle (as my wife well knows) because it served as the inspiration.

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All along the way, we were greeted lush rolling green hills littered with small chapels and livestock. As we got closer to the Bavarian foothills of the Alps, we can start to see Neuschwanstein Castle.

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At the base of the mountain, there is a gorgeous lake that both castles overlook as well as a spectacular view of the farmland and the nearby village of Fussen. After taking in the beauty of King Ludwig’s Hohenschwangau Castle, we then headed up the road to his son Ludwig II’s castle. The castle was built in a Romanesque, Medieval style, but it is only about 150 years old. It’s construction was started in 1869 and was not completed until 1882, and none of the public saw the inside until the after the King’s death in 1889.

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After being opulently overwhelmed by the castle and the surrounding scenery, we all decided to stay in one of the many cute, German cottages in the city of Fussen because the next day we were headed to Munich for the original Oktoberfest.

The following morning, we drove about an hour and a half until we got to the center of Munich. After finding GS Hotel on short notice on Hotels.com, we were in a taxi on our way to the biggest festival in the world! And during the real time of Oktoberfest that takes place in the last week of September! When I got out of the cab, I couldn’t believe the size of it! It was the biggest festival that I have ever seen and it’s solely dedicated to copious amounts of dancing, eating, and drinking beer. I guess you could say it’s my Graceland.

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There are so many Beirgartens from all around Germany and other Germanic countries. The Biergarten that Philip got us into was supposed to be the most popular, and it takes a year to two years on the waitlist to get in, but Philip already had that covered, and we were seated right away. Everything was wonderful; the crowd was cheerful, the food was fresh and hot, and the beer was flowing by the gallons! Now, here comes the bad news. As the day goes on, people slip their friends into spots as soon as other people at the table leave. We had elbowroom at noon, and by 4pm, everyone is pushed up against the person sitting in the bench behind you. And then add on top that, almost everyone stands on the benches to sing. So the earlier the better, at least when you’re in the more popular tents.

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After a while, my wife and I decided to get some fresh air and go shopping for a beer stein to bring back. I have a hobby of collecting expensive beer steins from each Germanic place I visit, and this time was going to be no exception.

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After seeing every store twice and hours of negotiating prices in German, I finally got the good quality beer stein I wanted for a great price. My wife and I walked around from beer tent to beer tent, and then we caught a cab back to our hotel because we had a flight leaving at 2 p.m. the next day, two and a half hours away. We were a little worried about catching our flight because we lost Philip and Ivan earlier in the night, but like true champs, they came crawling in around 4 a.m. with sleeves from stamps of all the nightclubs they went to and an essence of bad decision making. We woke up early and headed back to Stuttgart to grab the remainder of our luggage and then off to catch a plane Barcelona. This trip to Germany was easily one of the best vacations I’ve had in my entire life!

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