That one time in Munich
This has been the biggest travel curveball yet. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The experience will definitely be one that I won't forget--both positively and negatively! After some R&R (rest & recharge), I reflected on the impact that high-pressured situations have on our personal growth. Brace yourselves as I recap the full exposure of our weekend at Oktoberfest and share travel tips that you should NEVER disregard. Ever.
Let me just begin by disclaiming that I am not over-dramatizing anything that I'm about to share. Zero sugar-coating needed. The whole weekend felt like a scripted episode of Punk'd! With our list of unfortunate events, we were lucky to walk out of the weekend with all of our belongings and what's left of our dignity--making the perfect formula for a great story!
We boarded our bus for Munich at 7:30 AM on Friday morning. The ride was expected to be around 5.5 hours with an hour layover in Nuremberg. Halfway through the ride, we stopped for gas in a small town. I thought that it would be a good time to stretch and use the restroom. As I approached the locked bathroom, I heard someone from the check-out counter saying "you have to pay!" Right, of course! We're in Europe and bathrooms come with a fee! Without a doubt, I went back to the bus to get my wallet and started digging through my Czech coins. Then I realized... We're not in the Czech Republic.
Tip #1: Exchange foreign currency BEFORE your trip.
We thought we were playing it safe by waiting to exchange Euros when we arrived in Germany, but we arrived sooner than we realized. Don't get caught in a situation without cash. It's no fun when you can't pay for the bathroom or your taxi (we'll get into this story in a minute).
After almost being late for our bus because of the poor service at the restaurant during our layover, we finally arrived in Munich...an hour after the estimated time of arrival. It was around 3 PM and we had most of the day left to explore the city. We were ready to get settled at our Airbnb.
Tip #2: Check the distance of your hotel/hostel/AirBnB BEFORE you book it.
You might be thinking this is common sense! Why wouldn't you check the distance before officially booking? Well, when a great deal pops up for the BUSIEST weekend in Munich, some details are bound to be overlooked. Our Airbnb was located ONE HOUR away from the city center with no ways for public transportation! The plan for our group of 4 was to split up into 2 Airbnbs. We contacted the host of the other Airbnb to see the possibility of squeezing 2 more people into the one-bedroom booking. At this point, we were sitting on the pavement with all of our luggage sprawled out and frantically searching for other places to stay. Luckily, the Airbnb host was SO gracious not only to allow 2 more of us to jump on the booking but also extended her whole apartment to us!
To spare you the time and me the pain, here's a rapid-fire-recap of more unfortunate things that happened throughout the rest of the weekend before the *grand* finale.
1. We finally got into a taxi to take us to our Airbnb--then we didn't have the cash to pay him! (Back to tip #1 about withdrawing cash before your destination so you can avoid the embarrassment of not being able to pay for your taxi).
2. After meeting up with our friends in the city center and exploring downtown Munich for a couple of hours, the only way to get back to our Airbnb (30 mins out of town) was 15 mins by metro and 15 mins of walking. During our walk back, it started downpouring.
3. Got in line early the next morning for the organized-chaotic drunk-fest, aka Oktoberfest, and stood in line from 7:30 til 10:00 AM. (this was the worst thing that happened all day, so in hindsight, it was very successful!)
4. Arrived back at our Airbnb = 12:30 AM. Alarm for bus = 3:30 AM.
The last tip, but certainly not the least...
Tip #3: The bus will leave without you.
It's nothing personal. Sometimes it just takes off regardless if you've checked-in or not.
That morning, we got up early to tidy up the apartment for our gracious Airbnb host and headed to the bus station. The most upsetting part about this is the fact that we arrived at our platform E A R L Y and waited for everyone to unload their luggage. The bus left 5 minutes before the official departure time and there was no driver outside to scan our tickets. So, I assumed that it couldn't have been our bus. I assumed wrong. We watched the sign above our platform change from "Praha" to "Some-where-else-not-Praha" in utter disbelief. The customer service employee told us that he couldn't help us because "we missed our bus." I was holding back too many emotions to explain "no, we did not miss our bus. It drove off without us!" Instead, we (again) sat down on the pavement and frantically looked into options of getting out of Munich. Unless we wanted to chip in $600+ for an one-way flight, we were stranded in Munich.
The second most upsetting part about this is that prior to getting on the bus, 2 out of 3 of us took Advil PM to help us sleep on the bus that we were supposed to get on--and did not. I think the reason that I didn't have a mental breakdown was that I was too tired to process what was happening! The next customer service employee was much more empathetic. She told us that our case was very unusual and that the bus driver manually checked everyone in without actually scanning our tickets. The earliest bus that would take us back to Prague was set to depart at 11:55 PM, leaving us 16 hours in Munich before our bus.
Remember the sleeping medicine I mentioned? Yes, it was in full effect.
The three of us hauled our luggage and walked to a nearby park, plopped down on the grass, and passed out for 4 hours. In a public park.
When we woke up from our slumber in the park, we debated exploring the city since we had gained an extra day. That idea quickly dispersed when we tried to look at storage lockers for our luggage and they were all full. The list of unfortunate events continues. I wanted to shake my fist at the sky and ask "what else can go wrong?!" but I didn't want to take any chances at that point.
Thankfully, our luck started to turn around. One of our acquaintances was coming to Munich and offered us to stay in his hotel room before our bus! Exhausted and intimidated by what else we might encounter in Munich, we quarantined ourselves in the hotel room. That night, we left 1.5 hours early and got on the bus back to Prague. I arrived back in my dorm at 6:30 AM and left for my internship at 8 AM.
All I can say about this experience is
1. Auf Wiedersehen, Munich.
2. This was the biggest test of patience and navigating ambiguity.
3. Be grateful for the good--and the bad!
Even though the weekend was nothing like we had anticipated, we gained a lot of knowledge about traveling and one heck-of-a story! Our weekend in Munich was mentally and physically challenging, but we arrived safely at home with our belongings and (what's left of) our dignity!
Here are some moments that I'll hold on to regardless of the challenges!
"If the sun rises up against the darkness, so will I"