We arrived in Koln in the evening and were met by Forrest's friend Daniel, who then escorted us to another part of town where some more of their friends, Maren and Julia, were waiting. Maren lives in Koln, so we went to put our things down in her flat. Went down the street to get dinner, where I some delicious falafel...it just may have been better than the so-claimed "best falafel in the world" we had in Paris. It's possible. After that we proceeded to start what would be a very long night of drinking and bar hopping...as you do on a Friday night. All drinks seem cheap to me after spending the year in Australia, where they charge $7 for a Corona (it's not even a very good beer!), so I was fine to put in the effort. One bar played an outstanding selection of music including "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. Amazing. Forrest's friends were really nice, we had a really nice time talking to them. They all claimed that their English wasn't very good, but I thought it was fantastic.
The next day Sarah left to go to Stuttgart to meet up with her friend and former roommate, Anja. Forrest and I spent the day in Koln, where there was some sort of anti-Nazi demonstration. Apparently, the Islamic community wants to build a mosque in the city of Koln, but there were some extreme right wing groups not wanting this to happen (this is Maren's explanation to me), so thousands of people were sitting in the streets, blocking the entrance to the meeting place for these right wing groups as a way of protesting their presence. It was interesting...needless to say, there were a lot of police wandering around the city, wearing some very intimidating outfits.
Later, Forrest, Daniel, and I went to Daniel's hometown to stay with his family. The next day he drove us to Aachen, a cute little town with typical German architecture and impressive cathedrals. They're also famous for their ginger bread, so that was sampled as well. Back at Daniel's house, his parents made us a big German lunch (I refrained from the beef, obviously), and then we headed back to Koln to catch our ride.
Germany's train system is ridiculously overpriced, so someone had the brilliant idea to create mitfahrgelegenheit . This is, essentially, a registered hitchhiking website, where you select where you're coming from, and where you need to go, and you get a list of people that need to go to the same place. The people list their cell phone numbers and license plates numbers, you call, establish a pick up location (usually the train station), and at the end you pay something like 20 euros, as opposed to 60 or 70 euros for the train to the same place. After being assured by Forrest's friend Anna that this was very safe, I agreed as long as Forrest was with me. So this is how Forrest and I got to Stuttgart. We got in quite late to Anja's boyfriend Dennis' house, and headed right to bed, as the next day was an early start going to Oktoberfest.
Anja and Sarah took a 7 am train to Munich (it takes about 2.5 hours...Anja gets a discount, and Sarah used her eurail pass), and Forrest and I had an 8:15 ride. Eventually, after getting a little lost (why we didn't follow all the other people in lederhosen, I have no idea), we found ourselves on the showgrounds, which, can I say, was amazing. It was so much bigger than I thought it would be...it was like Disneyland for grown ups, except instead of spending $70 on entry, you spend $70 on litres of beer and giant pretzels (I only spent $30). We had no idea where Sarah and Anja were (they were going to text Forrest with where they were, but we never received the text), so after wandering for a little while, we randomly selected a tent. As we were walking along trying to figure out where to sit and how to get a beer, who should appear but Sarah! Of all the massive tents, we somehow picked the one they were in. It was meant to be.
The next 6 hours were spent, clearly, drinking aforementioned beer and eating aforementioned pretzels, as well as other German food. We sat at a table with, wouldn't you know it, some guys from Texas and a couple of their English friends. I don't know how the time passed so quickly, but at 5:00 we were asked to vacate our table, as it was reserved for other people after that time. We couldn't find anywhere else to sit, so we collected Forrest, who was off sitting with some new friends he had made, Anja and I rode a roller coaster, we got some more food, and then headed back to the Munich train station. Sarah and Anja caught the train back to Stuttgart, while Forrest and I waited for our next ride. We had phoned him 30 minutes prior to the pickup time to make sure he was still coming, and after confirming with him, we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. We then called him again to see where he was, and it was then that he told us he wasn't coming. So we were stuck in Munich. Left with no other choice, we shelled out the 50 euros each to take the train back. I was livid. But, we eventually got back to the house, and slept in the next day. Spent a couple more days in Stuttgart,spent some time with Anja and Dennis and his lovely parents, then headed to Berlin.
Well, Berlin certainly was interesting. It started catastrophically with Sarah and I arriving, finding the hostel that Forrest had recommended, being turned away at this hostel because they had no room (no, we didn't book anywhere in advance, due to our logic that Berlin wouldn't be busy on a wednesday in the middle of september...which was clearly not the case), proceeded to be turned away from 2 more hostels, then sitting in an internet cafe looking for places and wondering what the hell we were going to do. I was about ready to throw in the towel and just get on the next train to Leipzig, where Forrest was, when Sarah took a chance and called a hostel on the list. Lo and behold, they had only 2 beds free. Thank God for Sarah and small favors.
We arrived at the 'Generator' Hostel, which looked like a really big hotel from the outside. The inside, however, looked like a college dorm on what I imagine an acid trip would be like. Blue fluorescent lights lining the hallways, music playing from all directions, strange industrial decoration motif...bizarre. The rooms themselves were nice enough...basic, free of smurf lighting. After putting out things down, we decided we were in much need of a drink, so we headed downstairs to the bar. Looking around at the other people staying in the hostel, we suddenly felt as though we were at some sort of Fake I.D. convention, as everyone around us couldn't possibly be over the age of 16. Yet there was also the odd sprinkling of out-of-place looking 50 somethings as well. Hm.
The next day we had to find a place to relocate,as the hostel/rave party had no free beds for that night. We found a nice, more modestly decorated hostel on the other side of town, (called the Berolina Backpacker) so we got on the train, walked up an down some stairs in a lost manner a few times, and finally found it. We then decided it was time for exploring. Berlin offers free walking tours (done by the same company as the Amsterdam one, New Europe ), so we decided that would be a good way to get a sampling of Berlin history. It was a very well done tour, taking us to the major historical points of the city and giving a broad explanation of each. It was really interesting to see the section of the Berlin Wall, as that part of history happened in our lifetime, which is so shocking when you really think about it. The tour took the better part of about 4 hours, so, before going out to sample some of Berlin's famous nightlife, we went back to the hostel and took a power nap. Being very tired after getting little sleep over the past couple weeks, we decided we couldn't be bothered to take finding a place to go upon ourselves, so then we did something rather embarrassing. We went on an organized pub crawl. Now, in my opinion, the only thing more embarrassing than going on a pub crawl, is being 24 and going on a pub crawl. But, we did it, went to some cool bars, met some nice people (mostly Australian), and actually had a nice time (you don't say?!).
The next day, after minimal sleep, we checked out of the hostel and headed to Leipzig to stay with Forrest for a few days. He's living here for the second year of his M.A, has an awesome apartment, and it has been a welcome change to just chill out for a little while. We've wandered around the city, which is really developing quickly considering how badly it was bombed in the war and how it was affected by East Germany politics. It's becoming a popular place to live, so it's an exciting place to be.
Wednesday we're off to Prague for a few days, which I am thoroughly looking forward to.
Oh, and I changed the settings on this blog so anyone can comment. So feel free to comment away! (or criticize... I've got broad shoulders, I can take it).