It is bittersweet to finally be putting my last full day in Germany to paper three weeks after the conclusion of the trip. Today splits into two parts: the first part consists of company visits and the second part consists of my best adventure in Germany.
For the first part of the day, the team visited two public relations firms. Brandzeichen, a five-office German firm, was by far the best visit of the two. The Munich office was launched in the past year and felt much more like a startup than a satellite of a larger company.
But company visits are boring. I want to talk to you about something more exciting—I want to talk to you about my adventure.
My dad and I made a goal before I left the country; if at all possible, I needed to see the Swiss Alps. We are both huge mountain fans, and this is a once and a lifetime opportunity to see central Europe’s biggest mountain range. Since the mountains are about 75 miles south of Munich, there are only two good places to view the Alps: the tower right by my hostel and the Olympic Tower. When we finished viewing companies, I knew it was now or never.
I immediately ran into two obstacles. The tower by the hostel is closed due to construction, and the rest of my group wants to stay in the southern part of the city and shop. Dr. Tsetsura gives me the subway ticket and says (paraphrase), “Go get lost and find yourself.” And so, armed with four different maps from the tourist center, I dive into the depths of the subway to venture north towards Olympic Park.
This is by far my greatest triumph of independence throughout the entire trip. Thinking back while I ride the subway north, it is hard to believe three days ago my kilometer morning walk in Erfurt was a great forward leap. Now, I am navigating a major city’s metro system alone. In this moment, I know that I have what it takes to survive a city the size of Shanghai when I travel to China in the fall.
After 30 minutes, I surface at Munich’s Olympic Park. Similar to the Hofgarten, the park is stunning. Large, deciduous trees sprawl across the park. The only interruptions to the scenery are the Olympic facilities—large, space-age buildings made of glass and metal that glisten in the late afternoon sun. The most impressive is the Olympic Tower, an observation tower with the top floor resting just below 200 meters. I waste no time paying the six euros necessary for an elevator ride to the top. The observation deck opens to an outdoor viewing area. On the top level, my view unhindered by the lower-deck fence, I get my first glimpse at the Swiss Alps.
Even from 75 miles away, I can clearly see the mountains. The sun captures the snow-capped peaks with all the grandeur of a Bavarian mural. They stretch to the west as far as my eyes can discern. What is really fascinating is how big they look. On average, the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps are comparable in size. However, when you arrive at the Rockies you are already about 5,000 feet above sea level. Munich, on the other hand, is only 1,500 feet above sea level. While the mountains are nearly the same size, I am looking at the Swiss Alps from a spot that is 3,500 feet lower than where I would be viewing the Rockies!
I can see all of Munich from this height—everything from the red-tiled roofs of Catholic relics to the modern steel of the BMW Tower. Trees and windmills surround the hills around the city. That is a theme I have seen in all three German cities—they are all green, clean and big on renewables.
Many of the people on the deck with me are young attractive couples. Judging by the dresses the girls are wearing and the amount of sweat on the guys’ foreheads, I assume they are all on dates. I guess if you want to impress a girl in this country, you need to take her in her best dress 200 meters up and show her God’s creation.
I stay up on the platform for close to an hour. Eventually the wind begins to turn cold, and then I decide it is time to end this adventure. I end the excursion by purchasing a football club t-shirt of the local football team in the gift shop. It is not exactly representative of the adventure, but I feel like I need something to remember this experience.
I view the rest of the evening in slow motion. The group went out for one last traditional Bavarian dinner, and after a quick run to the Hofbrauhaus we wander the streets of Munich one last time. Before I can blink, morning has come and we depart for the Munich International Airport.
As I began this last installment of the blog series, I was stumped on how to end it. I think it is only fitting to pull verbatim from my travel journal. It is not the cleanest writing, but it gets the point across:
May 20, 2014
Departure day has come too quickly! I am writing from a docked plane in the Munich International Airport. This is the first time where I have had both free time and a strong writing desk to insure legible handwriting. All the notes from this past week will be used to fuel synthesized, articulate, and 100% legible stories.
Man. Abba. This past week has been extraordinary. When I first bought this journal (in September), this trip was not even on my radar. Yet here I am now, reflecting on a full week spent in Germany— from Erfurt to Würzburg to Munich.
Even though I came here on research, this trip has been nothing short of a vacation. From the forests of Thuringia, to the streets (and football fans) of Bavaria, my mind is overwhelmed. What I learned, however, can be boiled down to a few points.
Don’t be afraid to get lost
It’s okay to be a foreigner
Walking, eating, and everything else is better outside
Oklahoma is interesting (especially to Europeans who know the musical)
God makes cool stuff
THIS TRIP MAKES ME SO EXCITED FOR CHINA IT’S GOING TO BE AWESOME.
Thank you for reading through my Germany series! I hope I provided some insight about life in Germany through the eyes of an American college student. Writing about the experience has been great for vetting my memories and shaping the stories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am fortunate that my university and Gaylord College gave me the opportunity to take the research methodology I learned in class and use it to pursue this larger-than-life experience.
To summarize the past five blog posts: Germany is awesome, bratwursts for breakfast are awesome, subways and Swiss Alps are awesome, and this trip strengthens my resolve to create an international career for myself—America is a bubble, my friends. Get out of it and explore.
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