Christmas creeps closer with every passing day, and so nears my departure from Europe. As my days across the pond begin to dwindle, I find myself reflecting on the different places I have visited so far. Have I made the most of my time? Did I immerse myself into the culture? Or did I just float along the surface, not allowing myself to face any new challenges?
One trip that I know for sure forced me out of my tourist comfort-zone was my trip to Munich. Germany is a beautiful country, but it’s nothing like any place I’ve ever been before. The language has no common root with any languages that I am familiar with, and I quickly found out that the Germans don’t like it when you speak with them in English… So, this forced my friends and me to navigate our way through the city all on our own.
Visiting just in time to participate in Oktoberfest, we woke up early and headed toward the metro from our hotel outside the city. Once underground, we found our way to a map of the rail lines. Reading the map seemed daunting at first glance because it was all laid out in German, but after some time we worked out where we needed to go in order to get into Munich.
After arriving at the festival, we roamed around in search of traditional clothing to wear, “dirndls” for the girls and “lederhosens” for the guys. We popped into a few shops and soon found what we needed before changing and heading inside of the world’s largest folk festival.
My immediate reaction was, “Oh my God, it’s like Disney World but with bier.” Complete with amusement rides, food stands, and huge halls meant for gathering, Oktoberfest was like some kind of fantasy land. I felt like a character playing a part in a movie, dressed in German clothing and holding a pretzel the size of my head. As I ran about the premise of the festival I noticed people from all over the world. It warmed my heart to see people of all walks of life come together.
My favorite memory, however, is from sitting outside the festival grounds long after it got dark among mixed company, strangers and friends. Several guys who had drunk more than their fair share of bier stood up from the table and began to belt out a familiar tune. I joined in with the people around me, banging our mugs on the wooden table as we sang along with the brave ones now standing atop the creaky benches. It was nice to know that everyone around the world knows all the words to “Wonderwall” by Oasis, apparently a universal jam. I felt more and more connected to the people around me with every passing note. We sung off-key renditions of several more songs, including “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I lay awake that night, replaying those moments over and over like loop in my head.
Singing with strangers reminded me that no matter how different we all may seem, and no matter which nation you were born of, music (and bier, of course) has the superpower to unite people in a way nothing else on Earth can. The troubles I faced encountering locals and navigating public transportation quickly melted away as we sang on into the night…