Week 2: 3 Countries in 3 Days
Friday morning we took off to Brussels, Belgium — having done absolutely no research beforehand. All we knew was we needed to make it to the central train station by 10pm. We got off the airplane and just asked the info booth where we should go and, luckily for us, they told us everything was within walking distance of the central train station, which you can get to by bus.
We started off the day with one thing we knew Belgium was famous for: their waffles. Soaked in Belgium chocolate and strawberries, we ate the waffles with what might be the smallest fork I’ve ever seen.
As we wandered around looking to tour the chocolate factory, we stumbled upon a postcard of the famous peeing baby of Brussels, which we later found out was actually called Manneken Pis (meaning ‘little pee man’ in Flemish, so we weren’t that far off). Not speaking any of common languages in Belgium, we started showing the picture on the postcard to store owners hoping to get finger points in the right direction. After multiple attempts, we finally found the little pee man of Brussels.
After this, we finished the Belgium bucket list by tasting Belgium beers, eating French fries from their true country of origin, and walking in tens of different chocolate shops to taste test all them.
We didn’t make it to the chocolate factory tour, but we got plenty of chocolate and decided Brussels was a pretty cool place (other than the many army men we saw walking around with massive guns and threatening looks). By 10pm, we were on a train to Munich.
For us, Oktoberfest was all about finding our outfits and meeting people from all over the world. We asked many people where we could find cheap lederhosen, the outfit that everyone at Oktoberfest seemed to be wearing. We ran around Munich looking for something that was reasonably priced to fit in to the crowds, and we finally found it.
We started tent-hoping around 10am and it was already hard to find a seat. We had to walk into multiple different tents before finding one that we could sit on the edge of the table. Over the course of two days, we met groups of Chileans all studying abroad in Europe, Germans on their ninth consecutive day of Oktoberfest, Mexicans on a work assignment for Volkswagen, more Germans, Italians, and Americans studying abroad in southern Germany.
By 3pm, all of the tents were filled with lines coming out of them. We waited about 30minutes to reach the front of the line for one of them. However, when we finally did reach the front the guards started pushing us aside and letting people behind us go in. When we asked why we couldn’t get in — there were only two of us and they had just let in five others — they responded that we were never going to get in and they didn’t have to tell us why so we should just leave. We argued with them for a bit, but it was no use.
Overall, the morning and daytime event was much more rewarding than the evening where the streets were filled with drunkards and people throwing up everywhere. I don’t think I could’ve lasted more than two days there, but I’m glad I had the experience.
Given that all of the flights between Munich and Dublin went through Madrid, we decided to stay there for a little longer than a layover. We spent the night in the beautiful city where we tried their Sangria and gelato. The next day, we explored La Plaza Mayor, El Palacio Royal, the botanical gardens, and El Retiro. I also had the opportunity to meet two of my best friends from high school while I was there who were already studying abroad in Spain.