December 23, 2008

How we rolled at Oktoberfest

NOTE: Catch-up post

Where we slept...
The Tent (

Nestled in Munich's Botanical Gardens (or Botanischer Garten as the Germans would say it), just off tram line 17, this weird mix of campground and hostel was our home for four painful, painful nights!

Guests can opt to either a) pitch a tent, b) sleep on a foam mat on the wooden floor of a large tent, or c) sleep in a bunk in a very large tent. Being the backpacking scabs we are, we opted for the cheapest option, which, of course, was 'a' – bad move, Lisa and Craig, bad move.

While The Tent itself had the potential to be awesome – warm cafe serving delicious toasted sandwiches, cheap breakfasts and yummy stews and currys for dinner, bonfires each night, cheap as seriously expensive chips, and lots of like-minded people about. Our problem was with the the weather, it was freezing and raining the entire time we were there, combined with the copious amounts of drinking we undertook, we were left with monstrous flus.

One fateful night, unable to bare the thought of yet another freezing, uncomfortable night, we decided to free camp in the van – um, which is illegal in Munich. Oh how warm and snuggly and comfy it was, never had I loved the van more in my life. Then, at around 4am we were woken by a flashlight circling the van, we stayed as still and quiet as possible while we waited for the police/wheel-clampers/robbers/randoms to leave, and then hotfooted it right back to our cold, damp tent.

Where we drank...
The tents at Oktoberfest.

While we did test our tastebuds at a number of tents, we admittedly spent most of our time in the typically touristy Hofbrau and Lowenbrau tents (totally uncultured, yes. But you can't argue with a good time.) 

We wiled away the hours knocking back stein after stein (and in Craig's case, after stein, after stein, after stein, after stein), singing along to German and English songs (Robbie William's Angel seemed to be a favourite, I bet he's proud), waving our stein glasses around, and getting steins smashed in our faces...

Oh yeah, on our first night in the Hofbrau tent, an American guy smashed his stein across Craig's face because he was trying to get on our table and Craig told him to go away. But don't worry, the bouncers were in there like a shot and beat the Yank up good, real good, and we've got photographic evidence to prove it:

Anyway, back to my post...

Who we rolled with...
Adam, Linda, Sam, Andrew, Dave, Edi, Dani and Katie. Never heard of them? Neither had we.

While trying to warm up next to the heater at The Tent after getting drenched in the tent-putting-up fiasco, Craig got talking to Adam, who was there with his girlfriend, Linda, they soon invited us to come along to Oktoberfest that afternoon, where they were meeting their friend, Edi, who was currently travelling with Sam, Dave and Andrew,who had met Dani and Katie somewhere along their European adventures.

Confused? Never mind. All you need to know is two days of heavy drinking and
shenanigans ensued – it's amazing how it only takes a few steins and some cheesy pop songs to make instant besties. 

It's a small world: After we ditched the van and went back to the UK, I was showing my friend  Jackie (who we were staying with at the time) our Oktoberfest photos. 'I know that guy!' she squealed. Turns out her and Fiona had partied with Andrew, Sam and Dave in Mykonos back in July. We later met up with them all again for a messy night at the Walkabout before the boys flew home to Oz.

What we ate...
Meat, meat and more meat.

After weeks of Vegemite-sandwich and tinned-food torture, we went crazy for dead animal. While the foot-long hotdogs, pork stews, schnitzel burgers and the one bit of free meat I stole from a platter going past me (see pic for proud Lisa with free meat) went down a treat, the culinary highlight of our Oktoberfest was well and truly won by the pork knuckles we devoured in the Hofbrau tent.

Succulent, juicy and downright mouthwatering, these chunks of pig goodness will forever hold a place in our hearts.

December 17, 2008

Random five days

NOTE: Catch-up post

Tuesday, 16 September, 2008
Breakfast: None
Lunch: Peanut butter on a baguette
Dinner: Chicken nuggets, mashed potato and carrots

After four fun, exhausting, pinch-yourself days, it was time to say goodbye to Paris. Next stop, Dijon, France. We punched in the address of the Dijon camping ground mentioned in Lonely Planet, and let our Garmin navigate us out of the crazy puzzle of lanes, tunnels and overpasses that make up the French capital.

After the hell that was Bellebrune, we held our breathe for pretty much the entire four-hour journey, questioning every rattle and bump, waiting for something horrible to happen. While we managed to get there safely (and enjoyed some of the beautiful French scenery along the way), the trip was not without incident – a perplexing rattle on the roof forced us to pull over, and we discovered the windscreen was a bit loose. Craig pushed the glass back in the seal and we soldiered on with visions of the windscreen flying off in our heads.

We arrived in Dijon to a frosty reception from the camping-ground chick – our initial attempts to communicate in English were shut down with a 'I don't speak English'. I'm tempted to write to A Current Affair regarding her miraculous ability to pick up the English language after just a few short minutes of me trying to say 'two people, one van, two nights with electric' in French.

After a day of driving, we decided to spend the rest of the arvo chilling. We headed to the supermarket to pick up some supplies, and ended up spending the evening at the camping ground with a group of four Aussies who were also doing the 'van tour' thing. Our first travel friends!

Wednesday, 17 September, 2008
Breakfast: Peanut butter on toast
Lunch: Vegemite sandwiches
Dinner: Two-minute noodles

After a night downing cans of random French beer with our one-night friends, we treated ourselves to a highly deserved sleep-in. Once we had mustered up the energy to shower and get dressed (no doubt in the same clothes worn the day before), we moseyed on into the Dijon.

Ah, Dijon, the mustard capital of the world. Why we chose this place to stop in anyone's guess, but I suspect that it may have something to do with the whole mustard association, plus it was getting us closer to Oktoberfest.

We decided to get a feel for the town by doing a lap in the free shuttle bus that loops around the main attractions. We immediately fell in love with the little fella (purely for the novelty factor), and shared our ride with silver-haired pensioners who were also getting a kick out of the free ride.

Our day was mainly spent searching the charming streets for a decent Dijon magnet. And let me just put this one out there: Dijon, your magnets suck! Seriously, the variety was appalling. We chose one eventually, but to this day, it's the Tori Spelling of our magnet collection. (Er, in other words, it sucks).

Thursday, 18 September, 2008
Breakfast: Croissant for Lisa, zip for Craig
Lunch: Baguette
Dinner: Spaghetti cabonara

With Oktoberfest looming, it was time make our way into Germany, the land of sausages. Having heard lots of good things about The Black Forest (well, I'd heard of it and Lonely Planet made it sound good) we decided to check it out.

Called The Black Forest because of the hue all the pine trees cast when looking at them from a distance (the Blue Mountains has a similar thing going on, but with blue), this place really was extremely picturesque. We chose Freiburg as our first port of call. And instead of going to the Lonely Planet-recommended campsite, we decided to take a punt and just follow the random tent/caravan signs we spotted as we drove into town.

The tent/caravan signs really know their shit. Not only did the lead us straight to a camping ground, we were also treated to possibly the best campsite showers in the universe. After showering in freezing, smelly, dirty, lukewarm conditions, these babies were a real treat. First, the building was fully enclosed and sealed, the showers were all regularly cleaned and the water was hot, hot, hot.

With the day closing to an end, we decided to make a quick dash into town to check things out. Taking the scenic route, we walked along the river, stopping to watch the ducks play in a mini waterfall like it was a waterslide. The town itself was bustling and very pretty, lots of cobbled streets, trams and traditional German architecture.

With the light quickly diminishing, we decided to call it quits and head back to the van. Confident I knew which direction to walk, I pretty much lead us round and round in circles, and eventually to the complete wrong side of town before I admitted defeat and let the sat nav lead us home.

Craig wasn't too happy with my navigation attempts, but he soon came around when I whipped up a delicious spaghetti cabonara for dinner. Which just happened to totally rock!

Friday, 19 September, 2008
Breakfast: Eggs on toast
Lunch: Spaghetti cabonara sandwiches
Dinner: Toasted sandwiches

After enjoying the longest showers of the trip yet, and scoffing down some surprisingly fabulous spaghetti cabonara sandwiches for lunch, the town of Freiburg once again beckoned.

Truth be told, there isn't a whole lot happening in 'The Burg', so the day was spent walking around the canal-laden streets – there were biggish ones (like in the pic) and some were just a mere 30cm wide.

An indoor food market soon became our favourite destination. Our poor backpacker budget-deprived tastebuds leapt with anticipation as we walked past schnitzels, currys, sausages and crepes and the adjoining wine bars made the whole culinary scenario extra tempting, but, knowing Oktoberfest would be the biggest 'blow-out' of our trip, we resisted and saved our euros for the steins and sausages that were to come.

That evening, Craig scoffed down four toasted ham, cheese, tomato and avocado sandwiches, prepared lovingly by yours truly.

Saturday, September 20, 2008
Breakfast: None
Lunch: German sausage hotdogs
Dinner: Pasta

Shock! Horror! Garmin let us down. Having arrived at the 'been there, done that' point in Freiburg, it was off to nearby Titisee (insert boob joke of choice here). Garmin got us to the town OK, winding us up and down through some pretty spectacular hills, but when we got to the town, it kept trying to take us down a pedestrian strip.

Usually in these situations, we would just drive the wrong way and then Garmin would present us with a suitable alternative route, but not this time, it kept insisting we drove in the legs-only zone. So we did what any lost Australian couple in a beat-up old campervan would do, we drove down it. It was extremely embarrassing making our way through all the people – everyone was staring at us – but it was even more embarrassing arriving at a dead end and having to do the whole head-dropping journey again.

Eventually we found a camping ground right on the lake – can you believe this place charged 50 cents to have a five-minute hot shower! Like the 15 you're charging us just to park our van for the night isn't ridiculous enough!

With only one day to check this place out, we headed straight into town, enjoying the walk around the scenic lake. Magnet hunting was the top of our agenda – since we had failed to find any in Freiburg, we chose a Black Forest one to cover both destinations – then, we discovered the meat. Meat, glorious meat, there were shops full of sausages and deli meat, the smell was divine and the free taste testing was even better! We'd make our way around the shops, sampling a bit of salami (or something salami-like) here, and a bit of wurst there, it was heaven – and free!

Eventually we decided to free ourselves from our usual vegemite-sandwich prison and splurge on some kinda wurst (German sausage) on a roll with mustard. Craig whoofed his down without really tasting it, while I savored every meaty bite. Tasty!

A whole day was probably too much to spend in this sleepy town, so we made like the rest of the tourists and hired a paddle boat on the lake. The sun was shining, the lake was glistening and birds were probably singing somewhere – it was pretty damn spectacular.

The afternoon was spent searching for a supermarket. Seriously, Wally (of Where's Wally fame) has nothing on this place. Luckily Sherlock O'Shannessy was on the case, and we eventually found a small mini mart, where we stocked up on dinner supplies and I found the most awesome chocolate mousse in the history of supermarket-bought chocolate mousses.

That night, with our van parked right on the lake, was seriously the most freezing night of our lives. I was wearing thermals, PJs, two pairs of socks, a beanie, was in a sleeping bag and had a doona over the top and it was still extremely painful.

December 11, 2008

We was robbed, I tells ya!

True story.

I'd post some photos, but they stole our camera. The camera I spent five months researching to find and that's no longer in stock. Yep, that's the one.

The bloody bastards managed to get through three locked doors and meticulously went through our apartment and the downstairs apartment – stealing hundreds of dollars worth of Christmas presents (Tiffany bracelet included), two cameras, jewellery, a bottle of vodka and a laptop from our flatmates, and our only valuable possession – our camera.

OK, they thankfully missed my Mimco bag, diamond and white gold necklace and $300 hair straightener (and my iPod was with me), but Goddamn it, did they have to take our most prized possession – and priceless memories to boot?

Luckily, we had all our Lymington, Wimbledon, Oxford and Bath photos put onto disc when we left Lymo, and I had freakily put all our France, Germany and Czech Republic pics on my friend's flatmate's computer one day when I was uploading some onto Facebook – and totally forgot to delete them. So we only lost our recent Amsterdam and London Eye photos (which, by the way, seriously rocked).

While we should be able to claim our camera on our travel insurance, the fact that some derros trashed our place and went through our stuff is kinda heartbreaking.

Just when we thought things were beginning to look up, too...

December 03, 2008

The comeback post

It was inevitable.

From the moment I started this blog there was always gonna be a time when I went off the rails and metaphorically shaved my head, hired and fired several assistants, forgot to wash my hair for weeks at a time, went to rehab, lost custody of my children and stepped on stage at the MTV awards in a bikini having eaten a few too many In-N-Out burgers.

Keeping a blog is damn hard work — even when you are narcissistically posting about you and only you, it can be hard to maintain the enthusiasm. Combine that with the insanely high cost of internet in Europe (€4 an hour!) and some seriously stressful moments, you get a blog that's as neglected as Sean Preston and Jayden James.

But in true Britney style, the blog is back!

For now, I'll give you a quick rundown of what's been happening in the dramatic world of Lisa and Craig ('cause unlike Brits, our every move isn't splashed all over Us Weekly, OK! and, then over the coming weeks I'll get you fully up to speed with some more in-depth posts.

So, here's what's happened since we left you in Paris...

  • We made our way to Dijon, France, where we met some other twenty-something Aussie vanners at our camping ground.
  • We hotfooted it to the Black Forest in Germany, where we spent our days trying to decipher menus (schlachtplatte or tafelspitz, anyone?).
  • We totally rocked Oktoberfest, drinking beer by the stein and eating pork by the knuckle.
  • Once the Oktoberfest festivities were over, we made our way to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic — the most picturesque place I have ever been. It was here we made our decision to drive back to the UK and sell Ace VANtura, aka 'the bane of our existence'.
  • 1,400 kilometres and two days later, we were back in the UK and sleeping on my friend Jackie's floor.
  • We slept on Jackie's loungeroom floor for five weeks, while we got jobs (Craig a three-month contract at an insurance brokerage, me some freelance gigs at You and Your Wedding, Star, Zest, new!, more! and OK!) and found a place to live.

Phew! And here we are, living and working in London about 60 days before schedule.

Stay tuned for further updates. Here's to the comeback of both Britney and the blog.