Posted by: francescacoviello | October 18, 2010

Venice & Munich.

The weekend trip to Venice and Germany was quite a whirlwind. My friends and I chose to travel with a group through school because it was cheaper than the other options and offered more. Although it was nice to see so much in 3 days, it wasn’t enough time spent in each place. The other weekend getaway agencies for college students leaves for Oktoberfest thursday evening and drives through the night, arriving in Germany by early morning. Our bus, on the other hand, left Florence at 6:30 in the morning on Friday, so I decided to pull an all nighter. It is much easier for me to stay up late than wake up after only a few hours of sleep. I managed to pass out during the majority of the ride until we reached Venice. As we got off the bus I debated whether or not to bring my umbrella because the clouds were starting to move in, but I didn’t feel like carrying it around all day. We had a water taxi take us to St. Mark’s square and a tour of the area. As we were given permission to walk alone and explore for a few hours, it started to rain. In Italy, the persistent street vendors come out of the woodwork as soon as a drop of rain is felt. They immediately harass the tourists into purchasing crap merchandise and silly ponchos. I was in no mood to fall for their trap, but I had no choice – my umbrella was on the bus and it was raining. We found shelter at a small restuarant near the Grand Canal, where I had my first Italian pasta carbonara. It did not disappoint, neither did the 100 Euro Gondola ride back to San Marco, just in time to regroup. 20 Euro per person seems a bit pricey to sit in a wooden canoe while some strange man serenades his passengers, but we were not about to leave Venice without the brief experience.

The Rialto Bridge, Venezia

Another 4 hour drive to break up the lengthy trek to Munich. Tired from the weather and sightseeing, the majority of us fell asleep again to be woken up in time for dinner. We ate at a restaurant in northern Italy right near the border, which was interesting because it was more German than Italian. We were served creamy spaetzel, followed by wiener schnitzel and potato salad. The food was very good, but a bit heavy to travel back on the bus with fried veal in our bellies. It was bizarre being in such a German influenced town while still standing in Italy, especially since Austria is the middleman between the two. The street signs were read in German and Italian and the restaurant smelled of sauerkraut mixed with beer, instead of garlic and herbs. We finally arrived at our hotel around 2:00 am, exhausted and restless from the uncomfortable sleep on the bus. The plan was to wake up at 6:00, and be in route to the train station by 7. We were determined to be on schedule because at Oktoberfest, if you don’t arrive early then you don’t have a chance of getting into a tent. Obviously, we let our alarms snooze for an extra hour or so, convinced that the day will be much more enjoyable after at-least 5 hours of sleep. The hotel was farther from the fairgrounds than we though, and we arrived at the final destination just before noon. With little hope to find entry into one of the infamous tents, we waited on a line for over an hour. Crammed up against foreigners with security guards screaming in our faces, we gave up and pushed our way out of the crowded line. We walked to the back of another tent and bribed a doorman 50 Euro to let 5 of us in, which was immediately denied. A random guy from Switzerland intervened and with some german-spoken convincing, we were granted free entry. It was a miracle.

The Hofbräu-Festzelt is the biggest beer-tent at the Oktoberfest.

By 4:00 we got kicked out of the tent because of the evening reservations, so we made our way towards the center of the festival in search of a good snack. This was a simple task, the best part of Oktoberfest is the “street meat” available at every corner. I had a foot-long bratwurst to start, and as the night progressed I consumed french fries and a roasted half chicken. Using my fingers to devour the tender, juicy meat while letting the grease smother my hands, it was honestly the best tasting poultry I had ever had. German food is very authentic at an event like Oktoberfest, it’s almost impossible to find a bad meal and there are plenty of hungry people to feed. As the sun went down we were attracted by the bright sparkling lights everywhere, luring us to wait on line to ride the roller-coaster, go down a bumpy slide and get reckless in bumper cars. The carnival rides are almost identical to the ones in the States, possibly even more unpredictable and daring. It was a long day frolicking around the fair and we were ready to leave by 10:00 at night. We found our group leaders, Francesca & Martina, sporting Lebkuchenherzen  (gingerbread hearts with written love messages) around their necks and oversized “OKTOBERFEST” hats on their heads. Clearly, they had just as much fun as we did.

Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and hit the road again. We were headed for Florence, but had a few stops to make along the 10 hour drive. Included in the itinerary was a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. This famous fortress was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleepy Beauty castle. It was one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen and the inside was so intricate with details and furnishings. The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive King Ludwig II, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886.

Neuschwanstein Castle

(Entrance View)

Inside the Neuschwanstein, with the Hohenschwangau Castle in the distance



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