[*ACHTUNG* (*WARNING*) This is a long post but jam packed with activities that I couldn’t cut out!]
As the holidays come around over seas, we generally have to find our own little ways to celebrate. Especially when days are usually centered around family time or being with your close friends, celebrating in a foreign country is usually pretty different and sometimes difficult.
Thanksgiving is a huge family holiday for everyone in the States and there generally isn’t a holiday that parallels that in other countries. I’ve made my own turkey the past few years and celebrated with my American teammates by eating our hearts out of course 😉
This year, my brother Nick came to spend a few days with me! Not to brag or anything, but we are quite the dynamic duo when it comes to adventuring around! I was so so so excited to see him and have him with me. We surely do not get to spend enough time together throughout the year. Maybe that’s why we have such a blast when we are in the same city!
Nick flew in on Wednesday afternoon and we headed directly into the heart of Munich to start his trip off right. The first thing I did was get a Starbucks from downtown 😛 as we headed to Marienplatz, the city center. Nick picked a great time to get here, because that day was the very beginning of the Christmas Markets, and let me tell you, Germany does their markets- Christkindlmarkts- right! We strolled around, checked out some churches and great views of the city. We got our first gluhwein (hot spiced wine) and for dinner we ate at the original Hofbrahaus. Nick had a pig’s knuckle- WHAT. Yes, he was left with what looked like a hoof at the end of his meal. No thanks! Afterwards we watched some people ice skating in the center hoping for some entertainment or big falls. We did a little color commentary and were most interested by the young guy trying to do a little too much in front of his girlfriend… typical 🙂
I had 2 practices on our actual Thanksgiving Day so we planned to really celebrate the next day with some of my teammates. Instead of the classics on the 4th Thursday of the month, we headed into my neighboring city and had some mexican food and margaritas. Maybe not traditional for Thanksgiving or for Mexican food, but I’m not complaining whatsoever!
Friday was a busy day built around a crap ton of food. Nick and I celebrated with my 2 other American teammates- Dominique Marshall (Lamb) and MIchelle Hackley (Bartsch). Mich’s husband Corbin is here too and she also had an American friend (who plays basketball in Austria) drive up to join us. A lot of food is a massive understatement. We had a huge turkey and a duck (Corbin’s thing), I made way too much stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, bread, and a giant salad bowl that wasn’t touched. Not to mention we had spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer and some hard to find cheddar cheese and crackers. And then dessert. We had so much leftovers it was crazy. I’m super proud how well everything came out (timing was a bit rough, but the oven and microwave were pretty helpful!) and we had such a nice dinner.
After dinner, and some major clean up action, we watched The Grinch! I borrowed the club’s projector- got a call halfway through the movie for a coach asking for it… whoops!- but we played the movie on the their wall and I think we had at least 3 sleeping bodies within the first 15 minutes 🙂
On Saturday Nick and I continued our whirlwind ways. First thing in the morning we headed down towards Munich and toured Dachau, a concentration camp from WWII. This is the first time Nick or I had any real first hand experience with any of those atrocities and it was powerful. It’s truly unbelievable to comprehend what happened, but being in those rooms, seeing those showers, walking in the barracks- it is sickening. I try to imagine what these people experienced during the War- what life (if that’s what you could call it) was like- and my heart crumbles. It’s something I’m grateful to see though, to learn and remember how terrible people can be and yet also how strong and resilient. I hope I have an opportunity to learn and see more as my time in Germany continues.
After a very somber morning, we had to seriously switch gears, because we now were heading to a Bayern Munich Football Game (achem, that’s soccer to us Americans). FC Bayern is THE best team in the world right now. Last year they won The European Championships.We got tickets from one of the lower division coaches in my volleyball club. This was my very first European professional soccer game , same for Nick, and we were PUMPED! First of all, they play in an AMAZING venue. The Allianz Arena is super cool- this huge round building that is lit brightly in either white, red, blue or a mix. The stadium was PACKED. Every seat filled. The fan section in the level right below was going NUTS the entire 90+ minutes. The ring leader gets major props. He was hooting and hollering and had a megaphone I couldn’t even hear but he was shouting his lungs out… all in a normal t-shirt while it was freezing outside! You go fan club ring leader.
With a nice 2-0 win for FC Bayern, it was time for us to get another fill of the Christmas Markets. We hit 3 other markets around the city. At one they were serving not just Gluhwein but some drink called Feuerzangenbowle. We saw someone holding this drink and the top of it was frickin’ on fire! DONE, 2 PLEASE. It was really yummy and had a burning sugar cube on the side. So cool. And probably pretty dangerous given the flammability and how delicious it was. We checked another market called Tollwood which is coated on the fairground where Oktoberfest is held a couple months prior. This was another really cool set up, very cultural and very funky. They served tons of different foods and had lots of gifts and trinkets available from all over the world.
Sunday came around way too quick. For Nick’s last day we were making a bit of a road trip. We drove down to Neuschwastein Castle, in the middle of nowhere. The castle was built by Crazy King Ludwig and is quite extravagant and quirky inside and out. The colors and details and different styles seem to have absolutely no rhyme or reason but there’s a lot of everything! This castle is also the one that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle at the parks. LIke I said, the Castle is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but boy is nowhere beautiful! The highlight of the day was walking around and taking a bajillion pictures of the gorgeous freshly fallen snow all over the Castle, the trees, the mountains, and along the river. Germany definitely qualifies as a winter wonderland and we had the Christmas tunes in full swing!
Lastly, we hit one more market in Munich to break up the drive back to Vilsbiburg– and I think we may have saved the best for last: a Renaissance themed Christmas Market! This Market was so cute and quirky. So many old school outfits and stalls and types of food, gifts, and drinks. We had a ‘Thor’s Hammer’ drink so of course we toasted to the Gods. There was a fun group of performers that played some music and did some goofy comedy skits for entertainment as well. It was a great way to cap off the trip.
Unfortunately that brings us to the end of Nick’s mini-vacation to Germany. It is so true that time flies when you’re having fun (and maybe when you do a ton of stuff in less than 5 days) because we had a BLAST! I was so grateful Nick got to come visit, selfishly, because he changed up my monotony and brought so much fun and excitement to everything. I also know that it’s not often we get to spend time together and I think it will continue to be tough given my schedule and Nick’s future schedule, so I’m so glad we got this time as it’s something I’m sure we’ll be remember for the rest of our lives.