(I'm writing this at 12:04am on an overnight train to Paris. Sarah is sleeping ((pics of that to follow)) so I figured I'd catch us up a bit.)
Wowwwwww! What a CRAZY few days we've had here in Munich. I think the last we shared was that we were meeting up with our 6 friends from California...anyway, we found them and have had a blast here, to say the least.
We met our friends at a huge park near downtown Munich and seeing familiar faces on the other side of the world is priceless. We kicked off the day at a fiesta in the center of the park with a band playing from a 3 story Chinese tower.
In getting prepared for the Fest, Sarah had purchased a very beautiful dirndl, the proper attire for all the women attending Oktoberfest. And let me just say that during the 18ish days while the Fest is going on, all German men wear their lederhosen and the women follow suit with their dirndls. Our hosts wore their attire to work, so I guess this 175+ year tradition is more than just a festival of beer. (And speaking of our hosts, a HUGE shout out to the best hosts we could ever ask for. Timo and Maria provided us the best possible experience and we were glad we got to catch Timo at Oktoberfest to celebrate.) And if I hadn't said it yet, half of this awesome trip is us experiencing amazing places and the other half is us meeting wonderful people along the way. I can't wait to tell you about our day today, BUT I must start with yesterday because it was equally amazing, but just in a different way.
We met everyone at Oktoberfest and Alessandro reserved us a table in the Hacker Festzelt tent. Waitresses only serve beer by the liter (34 ounces) and it's a great way to enjoy mug after mug. When someone (guy or girl) in our 3000 or so person tent is feeling brave, they stand on their seat with a full liter mug and chug the whole thing while everyone wildly cheers them on. I only heard it happen twice, but when you don't finish the entire beer, the whole place boo's at you and your sad attempt at being a true German. We painted in bright red lipstick on Keith's chest the word "bachelor" in german and he stood on the balcony overlooking the whole tent and finished his mug of beer to everyone's proud applause. The atmosphere is one of a kind in each tent and there have been tales of people drinking 20+ mugs of beer at Oktoberfest. Crazy and awesome.
We had our table reservations from noon to 5pm, and afterward we went around the festival grounds and checked out all the cool rides. We spent the rest of the evening at the outside bar at the campgrounds where our friends are staying. Good beer+ great friends + funny games = invaluable memories.
So today Sarah and I had booked a day trip to Nuescwanstein Castle (it's not spelled perfectly, but no wifi equals no spell check.) Our fare included a tour of the castle, bus transportation to and from the 2 hour long drive and a tour guide when we got there. There were certain options that were available, but out of the 59 people, Sarah and I were chosen by our tour guide and his lovely girlfriend to be the only ones that were going to have the option to tandem PARAGLIDE FROM A HUGE MOUNTAIN RANGE OVER THE CASTLE AND THROUGH THE MOST INCREDIBLE LANDSCAPE I HAVE EVER SEEN. I can say without a doubt, the 10/15 minutes in the air were the most picturesque, dreamy and un-be-lieve-able ever experienced. It was one of those out-of-body moments only seen in the most vivid of dreams. And to toot our own horns, there were only two spots available for our group to go and our guides offered it to us first because they said they could tell we were great people (which we appreciated). I also can't list every little detail about how perfectly it all worked out for us to get the opportunity to jump off that mountain, but God had his eye on us the whole way through. The one detail I will tell was that in order to take off, you need a head wind. I went right before Sarah and we only had to wait for about a minute until it was safe. I got to the bottom, landed and Sarah still hasn't taken off yet. She stood on the launch pad (a ramp down the top of the mountain) with a huge crowd surrounding her and taking pictures in anticipation. Mind you, the gist of our "training" was "run as hard as you can and don't stop." After 15 minutes of waiting for a headwind, her instructor told her that it wasn't safe to take off and that they would have to take the gondola down. He said he would give it 5 more minutes and at about 4 minutes and 30 seconds, the gust they needed came and they were on their way. We got video/pictures of our ride we will have to share when possible. I could spend a whole day writing about how amazing that experience was for us, but the blog must go on!
We hiked from the valley floor of, like I said, the most pristine landscape I have ever seen, to where our group was at the castle. This required us walking on a trail through pastures with cows (each had a bell around their neck), up along side a rushing creek with many waterfalls and through some of the most perfect greenery I've ever seen. We toured the castle still in a high from what we'd just experienced and it was very cool. It's so fun to see such an amazing structure up close and seeing how elegantly the royal King lived was interesting. It took 14 carpenters 4 years to do the wood work on his bed alone, which had carvings of all the towers of famous Catholic Churches on top of it. The history was great, but nothing compared to flying like a jelly bird across the treetops and alongside rock cliffs with my best friend.
We slept the whole bus ride back, showered and packed our lives back into our backpacks, then were on our way. Like I said, we're on a train for 10 hours with Paris as the destination and we're looking forward to saying hey to ol' Mona Lisa! :)