Armed with my fancy new foam roller and an overdetermined will to heal, I set out to Germany to begin my next adventure, hoping desperately for a chance to run again in this new destination, with my first steps onto the welcoming streets of Munich. As I had found myself in London easily forgetting how unbelievably long it takes to get from one place to another, I had realized this only too late on the day of my departure to Germany. Though I was scheduled to fly out at 6pm, waking up at noon (without packing the previous night) proved to be detrimental to my ability to make it to the airport in time for my flight that evening. I quickly threw my things together into the medium-sized suitcase I brought (careful not to over-pack this time) and tossed in my new exercise tool, zipped it up, and ran out the door. Little did I know that Stansted Airport which claims to be in London is far, far away from any semblance of a city…or a civilization.
That being said, I walked the half-hour long trek to the tube station, took the tube to the train station, and took the train to the airport, only to pass by what must have been acres and acres of green open farmland before reaching the airport, hours later. Gazing dreamily over the lush green fields as the train churned steadily through the lovely English countryside, I sighed sleepily. A sharp contrast from the endless busy streets of London, the fields outside my window instilled a new curiosity in me, as I wondered what the other rural areas outside London looked like. I was beginning to feel like I was in Ireland again, though there was clearly a dissonance here, in the apparent lack of sheep and rolling hills. I imagined myself running gleefully through the fields outside my window, smiling brightly, yelling over and over again in joyous exuberance, “I’m cured! I’m cured! I can run again!” but stopped myself quickly, knowing that self-pity was useless, and that I should be excited about my upcoming adventures in Germany…though the fantasy of pain-free prancing through fields remained steadfast in my mind.
After a good deal of intense training on using public transportation during my first few days in London, I was skillfully able to manage the subway well enough to make it to the correct station without any problems, though the signs in German were initially intimidating. I later found that an initial intimidation accompanied many of my experiences in Germany, such as speaking with the locals (who always proved to be much nicer than they seemed at first) and eating giant sausages (which were almost as long as my arm in some cases, yet were thin enough and so delicious that I wished they had been longer).
Once I arrived at my station, I was pleasantly able to confirm another stereotype, (in addition to redheads in Ireland) German words and names are ridiculously long, and usually include overwhelming numbers of both syllables and letters.
My destination was named Donnersbergerbrücke, which included about three more syllables than I was prepared to handle-though still, I arrived safely and soundly, and only a bit worn out.
As I made my way toward a meeting spot, a girl I had never seen before came suddenly bounding towards me from around a corner. She was dressed entirely in traditional Bavarian dirndl, and was yelling excitedly in a charmingly thick German accent, “that’s her! I know it is!” I must have looked startled, because she laughed loudly, while continuing to skip her way towards me, only to be followed by my close friends Michaela and Charlotte, both of which I had met earlier in the year while traveling in Asia.
We hugged happily, glad to be reunited, remarking on how none of us ever expected to see each other again so soon. Though Michaela was from Germany, Charlotte had flown in to meet both of us in Munich for Oktoberfest from Northern England, and of course, I had come all the way from the U.S. to see them both! Michaela introduced me to the first girl I had seen, Martina, who was letting us all stay in her apartment in Munich while we visited for Oktoberfest. We started walking back to the apartment as they told me about their first night at Oktoberfest (which they had visited before coming to meet me) and right away, Michaela could tell that something was wrong by the way I was limping slightly as I walked. She asked if everything was all right, and I explained that I was suffering from a running injury that had surfaced a couple of weeks ago. I told her about the foam roller I had recently purchased, and once we arrived at Martina’s apartment, I took out the roller and began my exercises.
The girls all laughed as I awkwardly (if you see this photo you will know why they laughed at me) positioned myself onto this strange contraption, a two foot foam cylinder with about a ten inch diameter. This exercise is extremely painful in normal situations but even more painful with tense muscles, so I winced audibly with each roll, hoping that this pain was for a reason, and that I would soon be cured of my ailment.
The next day, Michaela, Charlotte and I headed out for some Munich sightseeing, and after a bit of convincing, Michaela and I decided to act like true Bavarians for the day, and go out to see the city while wearing our dirndl.
I was elated to find that in Munich, wearing dirndl as an everyday outfit was actually quite a common practice. Michaela explained to me that most people in Bavaria own their own dirndl or lederhosen, that they wear on special occasions such as Oktoberfest, but also as a regular outfit! I found this to be delightfully charming, and felt a bit of pride in my German heritage as I walked down the street in my pink and green dirndl that I was sure to have ready before making my way to Munich. I had purchased it online before I left, from an American costume store that sold it for a refreshingly cheap price. It was by no means completely traditional, but in considering the one-hundred euro difference between buying a real Bavarian dirndl and a cheap American imitation, I decided that it was best to stick with the copy. I was also well aware that lederhosen and dirndl weren’t considered to be completely innocent, as well, making my extremely small dirndl fun and a bit silly rather than totally blasphemous.
But because my dirndl was quite a bit shorter than most, I ended up receiving an extra bit of extra attention while wearing it through Munich. Though even with the tacky American version of a dirndl, it seemed that people still assumed that I was German, and many even translated from other languages to try to speak to me, as they asked for a photo of Michaela and I excitedly.
Although she and I were only one pair out of many groups of people wearing dirndl and lederhosen, we were asked several times to take pictures with various groups, and by the end of the day, we had both become a bit conceited with our newly found fame in Munich. We walked around town proudly in our puffed sleeves and frilly skirts, while Charlotte tagged along laughing at us along the way. Beginning our sightseeing in the city center, we viewed both the lovely and the unexpected in Munich. Our tour included such sights as the glorious cathedral in Marienplatz, as well as a few charming markets (which Michaela loved in particular, due the impressive assortment of cheese that was sold). We ended with the expansive English Gardens, by which time we were all a bit worn out, so we took our quick touristy stride a bit slower and strolled casually through the park.
Making our way into this giant green oasis, in the gentle shade of trees and past the peaceful stream, our eyes fell upon something strange, something that did not belong. There appeared to be a man, lying completely naked, in the middle of the park. At first we thought that this must not be true, and that our eyes deceived us, but as we came closer to where he had planted himself on the grass, we found that he was not only naked, but also lying proudly, in a position that was clearly meant to show himself as a display to unsuspecting tourists like ourselves. As we looked around more closely, we quickly found that he was not the only man lying naked in the grass, but there were several scattered around liberally, like pieces of pink fatty bacon atop a fresh green salad.
We decided to continue through the park, curious of what else we might find hidden in the seemingly endless greenery of the gardens. Though the silliness of the dirndl and the company of my friends lifted my spirits, my leg was still tight and stiff as I walked, and I hoped to find something to help ease the pain. Just as I decided that I was too sore to continue walking, we happened upon an outdoor bar and a restaurant in the middle of the gardens. Michaela Charlotte and I were all a bit hungry, so we decided to go for the most stereotypically German lunch they had available: sausage and sauerkraut with beer.
However, when I went to pick up the beer from the drink counter, I was startled with how massively huge the beer stein was, as it was probably equal to the size of my head, and so heavy that I could barely hold it up.
When I had ordered a beer, I had no idea that they would give me monstrous portions. But since I had already ordered the beer, I figured that I might as well keep it, and consider this enormous stein to be part of training for Oktoberfest later that night, as well as treatment for my injury.
The sausage was delicious, and about a foot and a half long, while the huge pile of sauerkraut I had to accompany it proved to be the perfect side. Michaela and Charlotte helped me drink the beer with a few occasional sips, but mostly I was left to conquer the monster stein on my own. I had found that in Ireland I could never drink much more than a pint at one sitting, but the beer here was lighter and less filling than the Guinness I had in Dublin, and it was much more easy to drink, though twice the portion. I chugged the beer down, careful not to spill on my pink dirndl, and as I felt the pain quickly disappear while the alcohol took effect, Michaela, Charlotte and I found our way out of the gardens, and towards Oktoberfest.