3. Traveling (to Germany/Austria)

So this last weekend was a long weekend (Monday was Día de Andalucia, a day off specifically for southern Spain), so obviously we had to travel. I went with a group of 5 other girls, and we went from Seville to Madrid, Madrid to Munich (Germany), Munich to Füssen, Füssen to Munich to Innsbruck (Austria), Innsbruck to Munich, Munich to Madrid, Madrid to Seville, over the course of 4 days, 5 nights. It was a lot. It was really cool, but it was a lot. So, here are some things that I’ve learned as an American studying abroad in Seville, traveling to Germany and Austria.

General things:

  • Not everyone will agree all the time, and this is normal. Especially with a bigger group, you get lots of opinions, so try to be patient.
  • Go with the flow. Things will go wrong, and it will suck, but it will be okay, and it’ll be a funny story once it’s over.
  • If you are one of those people who cannot sleep on cars/trains/buses/etc (me), plan for some long days and late nights, and brace yourself for some exhaustion, but know that it’s worth it.
  • Keep a list of who pays for what, then split it up at the end. Too much time was wasted on “I owe her this much, but I owe you that much, so can you just pay her and then I’ll pay you?” Also on this note, Venmo is apparently super useful for these occasions (I have not yet gotten the app myself, but I have heard nothing but wonderful things and most of my companions were slightly annoyed that I wasn’t able to pay them using it, so consider downloading it).
  • Having international data doesn’t mean your data will necessarily work internationally. Know where you’re going and have your tickets printed out ahead of time.
  • When dealing with tickets, be sure to read the directions when you’re printing them out. Some specify that you need to be on certain sized white paper, which is good because our free printing service prints on a grey colored paper, so we would have not been able to use those.
  • Airbnb is the shit. Seriously. Get on it.
  • Have a list (even if it’s just mental) of places you’d like to go, things you’d like to do there, and things you’d want to see. It’s amazing how many things you can squeeze into a day when you have the locations and times of everything happening.
    • This does require some research, but doing a little bit of research before traveling is a great idea anyway!
  • Keep in mind that bouncing from city to city to city is a good way to see a lot in a short amount of time, but is exhausting. If that’s not how you want your trip to be, plan a less condensed trip with some breathing room.

 

Germany/Austria:

  • If you go in the winter, it is cold. Pack a coat, scarf, gloves, hat, boots.
  • The people aren’t always known for being friendly. There is some truth to that. Obviously the super touristy spots are paid to be nice to you, but we had several waiters roll their eyes at us when we were fumbling around with our orders. This would seem to be normal, so don’t take it personally.
  • They DO leave tips in Germany (they don’t in Spain), but it’s usually only about 10% being average.
  • Be ready to walk. Like, everywhere. Up lots of hills. This is especially true in rural Germany/Austria.
  • German airports have really high security. Like dudes standing there with machine guns. Also seen in the train stations. If you’re not expecting it, it can be a little unnerving.
  • Be wary. They are known in Germany for their pick pocketing skills. I used a combination lock and a tiny padlock to lock my purse and bag when we were navigating the train stations, and it helped me feel a little more at ease.
    • If you want to, you can usually ask to leave your bags in a hotel/hostel before you check in, and they’ll keep them locked away somewhere safe. But again, be wary. We asked one hostel, and the man, who looked like any other guest, offered to keep them in his personal bedroom. If a situation seems sketchy, do not do it. We easily found another spot to pay 2 euro/bag to keep our stuff safely locked away while we went out for the day.
  • Look up some German phrases before you go. Yes, everyone speaks English. They even speak it fairly well. However, there were some times when it came in handy to have the basics down, and on top of that it was fun to feel like I was blending in slightly more with the locals.
    • On that note, even in the most touristy spots, there will be people who DON’T speak English. Be prepared. Our group was so big that we needed 2 taxis, but while our taxi driver understood English, the other taxi driver did not, and dropped our friends off at a random house on the other side of town. He then got angry at them and yelled in German until they were able to give him the address (again), and then he charged them. Again.
      • See point number one/two, about being patient and going with the flow.
  • Have some schnitzel. Also have some spaetzle. And some Radler. Maybe not at the same time, but try them all. It’s all amazing. Unless you’re a vegetarian or have some dietary restrictions, then just make sure you’re checking the ingredients. It’s still all amazing.
  • Germans like creepy dolls. I’m not sure if that’s just because of all the touristy shops we were in because we were in the touristy places, but it’s like Grandma’s porcelain doll collection on every street corner. I’m not a fan.
  • On a similar note, getting a real, authentic German cuckoo clock (glockenspiel) costs around $300+ dollars. One friend on my trip bought one for her parents, who are very German but never got to visit, so for her it was worth it. But if you’re the 2% or so German tagging along for the trip because hey-why-not friend like me, then it’s not worth it. Unless you have enough money to blow on a cuckoo clock, in which case, go for it.
  • New Town Hall is very cool. If you’re in Munich, go see it. And then wander around the market and all the stores. It’s a good way to spend a day. But bring your own water, because it’s super expensive to buy.
  • If you’re looking for something to do in Germany and you have a day to kill, go to Füssen, and see the Neuschwanstein Castle. It was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle. And the views are breathtaking. It’s definitely worth going to see. And if you go on the guided tour, you get to ride a horse-drawn carriage on the way up. How cool is that?
  • Innsbruck (Austria) is underrated. If you can, I’d highly recommend going. I wish we had more than 1.5 days there, since there was a lot I would have liked to have seen.
    • Side note, if you do go to Innsbruck (probably anywhere in Europe, actually), skip the Mexican restaurants. It’s just not good, and not worth the money.
IMG_4425
The view from Neuschwanstein Castle (not edited)

 

German Phrases

I went hard on my research, and looked up a few YouTube videos in addition to the random websites, and skyping my sister (who studies German) for pronunciation help. I made a list of phrases that was short enough to keep in my pocket, and handy enough that I actually did (or almost did) use. Feel free to do some research of your own, specifically if you’re going to a region with a certain dialect or you need some specific vocabulary words. This was my list. ((Capital G means hard G, like in guess or gasoline)) **keep in mind the pronunciation won’t be perfect, but it will be close enough that people will probably know what you’re trying to say.

  • Hallo [HAH-low] – hello
  • Guten tag [Goo-ten  tahg] – good day
  • Wie heißen sie?  [vee  high-sen  zee] – What is your name?
  • Um wieviel uhr das Geschäft öffnet/schließt ?  [oom vee-feel  oor dahs Geh-shahft Geh-shloh-sen/Geh-off-net?   – What time does the shop open/close?
  • Kann ich mit Kreditkarte bezahlen? [kahn  eeh  mitt  creh-dit-cart-eh  beh-zah-len] – Can I pay with a credit card?
  • Ein glas wasser/leittungwasser, bitte [eye-n glahs  vah-ser/leye-toong-vah-ser  bit-teh] A glass of water/tapwater, please
  • die rechnung, bitte  [dee reck-noong  bit-teh] the check, please
  • wo ist die toilette? [vo ihst dee toi-leht] Where is the bathroom?
    • ***NOTE, Herren/Männer = Men, and Damen/Frauen = Women. That means, if you see a bathroom with D or H written on it, take a deep breath and remember that D is for Damsel in distress. Or whatever other device helps you from walking into the wrong bathroom.
  • Entschuldigung, [ehn-shool-dee-Goong] Excuse me
  • Wo ist das Bus/die U-Bahn?  [vo ihst dahs boohs/dee ooh-bahn] Where is the bus/metro?
  • Ich verstehe nicht [eeh ver-shtay-neh neehkt] I don’t understand
  • Sprechen sie Englisch? [spre-kehn zee English]  Do you speak English?
  • Können sie mir helfen? [kuh-nen zee mi hehl-fehn]  Can you help me?
  • Es tut mir leid [Ehs toot meeh leyed]  I’m sorry
  • Danke [dahn-keh] Thank you
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