Right before my 27th birthday, I had one of those life freak-out moments. My twenties were rapidly drawing to a close, I hadn’t done any of the things I had planned to do prior to turning 30, and I felt like I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I had to do something drastic…but what? Through a good friend of mine, I heard about a swing dance festival that would be happening in Munich at the end of February, starting the day after my birthday. And then I had my answer – I would take myself to Munich as a birthday present to me. I would go by myself. Travel alone, stay alone, and sightsee alone. Then in the evenings I would attend the dance festival, where I would know a few people who were also attending. I figured that way, if the solitude of the days got to be too much for me to handle, I could seek the comfort of familiar faces every evening.
The decision to take this trip was scary for many reasons, which only confirmed the need to take it. I had never been to Europe, never been on a flight that long, didn’t speak a word of German, and had never traveled alone. In the weeks leading up to the trip however, I didn’t question my decision even for one second. I knew I wanted to go, and I knew it would be amazing. I don’t think I realized exactly how profound of an impact it would have on me though. Talking about a vacation changing your life seems a little silly or cliche, but I feel like it did, in so many ways.
This saga will unfold over my next few posts, and like all journeys, the best place to start is at the beginning…
I arrived at LAX in the afternoon the day after my birthday. What an awesome way to kick off being 27!
My flight was delayed a couple hours, which kind of sucked since I had rushed so much to get to the airport on time, but such is life. I flew on Lufthansa. And I am pretty sure I was the only American on the plane. I mean, the man sitting next to me was wearing lederhosen. Like for real. Complete with a hat with a feather in it. I thought it was the greatest thing ever, until he took off his shoes and I had to spend the next 12 hours smelling stinky feet mixed with wool and leather. Ew. Oh the struggles of air travel!
The flight landed mid-morning of the following day. Getting through customs and retrieving my luggage was a breeze. Finding my pre-booked hotel shuttle was not. It was freezing outside (ok, so it was only like 50 degress Fahrenheit, but to a Californian, that pretty much feels like the arctic), and none of the airport employees seemed to know where I should go. But finally I found someone who could point me in the right direction, I got on the shuttle, and felt like I could relax for the first time all day.
That feeling wouldn’t last though. The shuttle deposited me at the Central train station, which I knew was only a couple blocks from my hotel. But in which direction? I had printed out Mapquest directions, but unless you have idea of what your bearings are, those are pretty much useless. I cast those aside almost immediately. Then I tried GPS. Even at home in Los Angeles GPS can’t always be trusted and frequently can’t pinpoint your correct location or direction of travel. So that was useless too. But then luck smiled upon me, and a kind stranger noticed how lost I looked and asked if I needed help. He was able to point me in the direction of my hotel. Turns out I was already on the correct street, despite what GPS tried to tell me.
By this point it was already the middle of the afternoon. But I made it to my hotel! I stayed in Hotel Dolomit, which ended up being an awesome place to stay. The surrounding area looked a little sketchy, but I never felt unsafe, the hotel staff was friendly and spoke clear English, and it was located within easy walking distance of almost everything I wanted to see. The rooms were small but comfortable, which was perfectly suited to my needs. I wasn’t in Munich to hang out in a hotel room after all.
After a brief nap to shake off the travel stress, I was ready to hit the town! It was dark by the time I left my hotel, but I wasn’t about to waste a single minute in Munich! Plus I was starving. I thought I would try to find the Hard Rock Cafe to celebrate my arrival by adding to my shot glass collection. I decided to give the GPS another try.
Maybe attempting to find my way around a foreign city for the first time when it is dark out wasn’t the best decision. But I am always eternally optimistic and ambitious and thought I would be fine. I wasn’t. The GPS got me so hopelessly lost. I had no idea where it was telling me to go. Luckily I had enough common sense to remember the direction I had come from so I could still find my way back to the hotel, but the Hard Rock Cafe eluded me. And even worse, my spirit was broken. I started feeling like I was in way over my head, and that coming to Germany alone was a huge mistake. I nearly broke down in tears out on the street. Cold, tired, hungry, and feeling helpless, I headed back towards the hotel.
However I was still hungry. I remembered the train station had a lot of food places in it, and I figured at least some of them had to still be open at night. I found a stand out on the sidewalk selling currywurst. Finally, something good about the day! Any website you visit in search of finding out what foods to try in Germany will tell you to try the currywurst. So it was on my list of things to do during my stay anyways…may as well do it now!
The currywurst! It is a bratwurst sliced into pieces and covered with a curry sauce. It sounds a little odd, but it is really tasty! Definitely try it if you ever are in Germany.
I took the currywurst back to my hotel room to eat in bed and drown my woes. Just kidding…having obtained food really put me in better spirits. I did eat it in bed though, but I did it while studying a map of the city. I had to get my bearings and see where everything was located. Making the decision to look at an actual map probably saved the entire trip. Having a better idea of what direction I needed to travel to get to the cool stuff and a stomach full of currywurst, I ended my first night in Munich. Still feeling a tad apprehensive, but ready to push through those negative feelings and make it into an amazing trip!