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Germany, Day 3

Hop on a train, and let's head south.

(Originally published June 2, 2014)

Another day, another blog! It is time to cover day three. Get ready, today makes day one and two look like child play. Today alone, I will go from Erfurt to Würzburg to Munich.

The day started with an early wake up call. The beautiful weather from yesterday is gone, replaced by the original gray skies that met us in Germany. After an early breakfast and an impromptu purchase of strawberries from a street vendor, Monica sent us off at the town’s train station. Just as quickly as it came, Erfurt and its small town charm fell into the background. Two hours later, the team arrived at the next train station, stored extra luggage in community lockers, and set out to explore the sights and sounds of Würzburg.

While Würzburg is only two thirds the size of Erfurt, Würzburg feels larger and more urban. Paved streets for cars and a melting pot of Germans, French and Turkish Europeans replace the cobbled streets and ice cream-eating pedestrians of Erfurt; it is clear we are now in a major tourism zone. Catholic cathedrals stretch spirals to the sky, looming over tourists and homeless guitarists alike. It takes us nearly 30 minutes to find the tourist information center.

After we orient ourselves, we immediately set about sight seeing: within a period of three hours we knock out the Würzburg Residence, a local city tour and the Main River Bridge. The sights are stunning (especially the Residence—it’s like a German Palace of Versailles), but I wanted to tackle something a little more adventurous. Therefore, Kate and I hiked to the Marienberg Citadel.

The Marienberg Citadel is a beautiful, 1,300+ year old German relic where you can see the 360-degree view of the entire city. Additionally, it is also is a kilometer hike at a 45 degree angle. I am used to jogging, but I am not used to the air getting thinner while I jog. It took nearly half an hour to get to the summit, but the view is absolutely worth the effort.

After scaling back down the summit and rejoining the group, the rest of the evening is pleasant. Dinner is spent at an open-air restaurant with tables right next to the street. The meal was so pleasant, in fact, that we left late and nearly missed the train. Despite the rush to arrive, this is my favorite ride. This train had private compartments closed by clear glass doors—for those of you who grew up in my generation, this should instantly bring to mind images of the train that takes Harry Potter and friends to Hogwarts. The train whisks us south through the Germany countryside, through the sunset and straight into the heart of Munich.

I originally thought Würzburg was large and touristy. Munich is ten times the size of Würzburg, with a population of nearly 1.4 million people. On top of that, the entire city is watching a big soccer (excuse me, “football”) game. So at 10:00 PM local time, in a major European city, with the streets full of passionate football fans, three Oklahoman students and their ex-pat Russian professor try to find their hostel. I am surprised we found it in less than an hour.

Compared to the Augustine monastery I left only 14 hours earlier, the hostel is a much more accurate representation of “community living” in Europe. Scratchy rugs and worn leather furniture cover the lobby’s wooden floor, and grimy windows provide a prime view of an ambiguous drywall structure. Separated by glass, the hostel’s bar has all televisions tuned into the end of the football match. The (somewhat) orderly bar patrons are crowded around the tubes, their 6.90 euros pizza and beer combos long forgotten on the tables.

A hostel (read: not hotel) is a cost-effective way to travel in Europe. The catch? You get cost-effectiveness at the price of privacy. My first night in Munich, I shared at six-bunk room with two Canadian students who were backpacking Europe and a 50-year-old Columbian woman. I had prepared myself mentally for this, but I still slept on a top bunk with my luggage.

Day three was a day full of movement. Three cities, two trains, and one hostel full of screaming football fans and strangers for roommates. The only thing I was certain of as I fell asleep was that Munich would be much, much different than my time in both Erfurt and Würzburg.

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