I want to preface this blog saying that the first travel week was insane! It was so much fun in every aspect. With that said, you are probably wondering–”Why is the title of your blog ‘Next time?’” Because the first travel week also serves as a great learning experience. The phrase “next time” became more of a joke when we ended up in subpar situations. However, subpar situations become some of the most fun situations as the people you are with make it a great time.
So as I said in my last blog the travel week consisted of Munich (Oktoberfest), Berlin, London, and Amsterdam. I would recommend all these places to go when over here. I feel like almost everyone from the program went to Munich for Oktoberfest. After that, selecting places is really personal preference. At CIMBA you will become close with tons of people and talking to them develops a basis for where people want to travel. With these conversations I found 5 others that were interested in all of the locations listed above. We then looked into trains (on bahn.de: Germany’s railway system) and Flights (through Ryanair.com) and compared prices to see if we should consider other places or stick with the four above. Looking at all the factors we decided the route we took would work best for the first week long travel break. Chances are if you want to travel somewhere there will be another student who has a similar idea. Plus with so many days to travel you’re bound to get to your most desired locations. Don’t let the selection process freak you out. Just talk with people, compare places you would like to go, research flights vs. trains, and pick a path. Once you do pick a path it’s a good idea to book hostels for each of the cities you are staying in. This is easily done by dividing up which people are responsible for each city. Then, these people can book the hostel and look up stuff to do while there so you are ready to go. To pick a hostel we used hostelworld.com. Here, you can view ratings and recommendations. Every hostel we stayed at was extremely nice and accurate to these reviews.
The journey started off on an overnight train to Munich. This was our first “next time” experience. Let’s just say you should look into the details of the train you booked before going. The train had these compartments that were six seats in each, very cramped, and lacked the ability to recline. It was almost impossible to get any solid sleep on this train. On the other hand, some of my friends paid a little more to have their own private sleeper. It was about 30 Euros more per person, but they all had tons of fun, got quality sleep, and raved about their experience. Word to the wise, spend the extra money if you are taking an overnight train that is shorter than 8 hours. Anyway, the lack of sleep really didn’t affect the Oktoberfest experience too much. We were so excited to be there and had so much adrenaline going that we could have gone on zero sleep. When we got there we put our stuff in a locker in the train station (always a good choice if you aren’t staying in a hostel for the night) and went to the tents immediately. There were crazy long lines as we were there on the 200th anniversary on Saturday of closing weekend. For this reason, we started out on a table outside. Soon after servers came piling out with some having as much as 16 liters at a time. I don’t know how that was possible considering the four I tried picking up at one time was a struggle. Regardless, we hung out there for a couple hours and had our first liter of authentic German beer. Everyone around was going crazy by 11:00AM in the morning. If you get a chance to go in the fall the choice is simple: GO TO OKTOBERFEST! We later got into one of the tents too, which was unreal. I attached a photo below to show what the tents were like. Not what you are used to at home, huh?
To save money, we decided to take a late overnight train out of Munich. If you think about it, you are going to have to spend money on a train to your next location anyway, so it made sense to just sleep on the train (since they were a night train’s distance away) and since it was so expensive in Munich. This train was much nicer with reclining seats and all. We were very happy with our decision to take this train.
Our next destination was Berlin, my favorite of the trip. In Berlin we stayed at the hostel East Seven. If you go to Berlin stay there. It was super nice, accommodating, and spacious. Again, we found this on Hostelworld.com. Many hostels also offer free tours (you tip what you think is appropriate at the end). I would definitely take advantage of these tours. While it’s nice to explore on your own, you learn so much more about everything on these tours. Then, after you get all the needed information, it is much easier to explore. In Berlin, we walked around all day on this tour the first day and then went on a pubcrawl at night. On the tour we got to see the Berlin Wall, the holocaust memorial, the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled the baby off, and much more. It was just a really cool, historic, and lively city. In terms of the pubcrawl, many of the hostels also offer these. I would say only do them if it is a Friday or Saturday. Throughout the week we found that pubcrawls weren’t the best way to go and going to one or two bars on our own was much more fun. The second day, we walked around on our own, which makes for a pretty solid formula: tour, then your own route.
After the awesome Berlin we headed to London. We took a cheap flight there through Ryanair. Contrary to what I was told by many about them being unreliable, etc. I would recommend Ryanair. You get to the place you want to go in under two hours instead of 6 or 8, it is cheaper than the train many times, and it was easy. The only downfall is that many times you fly into airports that are outside the major cities. All you have to do is take a bus that you can buy a ticket for at the airport. It still ends up being cheaper and quicker to do this. Also, ryanair does advertise a lot on their planes, which I guess could be another annoyance or downfall. But hey, nothing beats an 8 pound flight from London to Amsterdam. Also, pack light on your trips. All I took was a bookbag for the 9 days and it was sufficient. That way you won’t have to pay 15 euros to check a bag. Also, make sure the bag you bring fits the measurement requirements and weight requirements for carry-ons when you fly with Ryanair.
London, our next location, was also very cool. I must confess, one of the main reasons I wanted to go there was because The Script (one of my favorite bands) released there album in the U.K. a year before anywhere else. And yes, it was one of the first things I did when I got there. The one thing I didn’t like about London was how expensive it was. The pound kicks the dollar’s butt to say the least. It is also a very rich area. I think I saw about 40 Bentley’s, 3 Aston’s, 2 Lamborghini’s, 1 Ferari, and the rest Mercedes, Lexus, or BMW’s while there. It was crazy to see all of those nice cars. They also have tons of designer stores there too. We did a similar thing in London in terms of touring the first day and shopping the second. We actually decided to do two tours the first day as we saw both West Minster and the old London. It allowed us to basically see every major thing in London. We also went out at night to the clubs, which were fun. The one we picked was a rooftop club where you could see tons of the London while having a good time. Oh, and if you like fish and chips…London is the place for you. I think every place sells “legendary” fish and chips. If you do go to London, take the tube (their underground railway system). It’s cheap, easy, and gets you everywhere with a day pass.
Finally, we ended in Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a whole different world to say the least. This was the one town where we didn’t do a tour and totally explored ourselves. Definitely checkout the Heineken factory (called the Heineken experience) while there. You will pay 15 euro, which is kind of steep, but that gets you an awesome tour, a simulation, a bracelet, taste tests, and two beers. I would spend the money again if I went back in time. We also walked around and saw noted landmarks such as the IAMAMSTERDAM sign, which was cool. The night life in Amsterdam is crazy. Just walking down the red light district is a very different experience. We stayed just outside the red light district at Durty Nelly’s (haha). It was a good place though and had a bar in the main level.
After Amsterdam we caught a train to Brussels where our flight was taking off from back to Venice-Treviso. Make sure you plan your whole trip as we didn’t realize getting to Brussels at one in the morning, with no one that speaks French, was not the best idea. It was funny though and we eventually got to (and slept at) the airport. That was kind of a rough night, haha.
By the time you get back you will be glad to get back to Paderno. The travels are quite tiring, but they are something you will always remember. I had the greatest time and still have long weekends and a travel week to go!
All and all, the biggest takeaways to minimize the “next time” approach (although its essential to have some ) would be look into the arrangements of your trains, don’t be afraid to use Ryanair (I had 3 great experiences with it), book your transportation and travels early to get cheaper rates, use hostelworld.com (it’s accurate), and don’t sleep at an airport. Most of all, just go with the flow, relax, and have fun. You will learn so much with each trip and will always remember these amazing experiences!