While the start of autumn in the states means pumpkin spiced lattes and the reintroduction of oxblood & aubergine into every girl’s wardrobe, it’s a little bit different in Europe. In Europe, it means one thing: Oktoberfest.
I’ve seen no shortage of posts going around on how to make the most out of your time in the tents and things not to miss in Munich (you know, aside from all of the beer), but what about your plans for before and after you binge drink the day (and night) (and probably day again) away?
Explore more of Germany!
Though Berlin and Frankfurt seem to be the biggest post-Oktoberfest stops for people visiting Germany, this summer, I had the chance to visit two smaller cities that are often under the radar: Goerlitz, the easternmost city in Germany, and Freiburg, all the way across the country and near the border of France.
If you’re headed to Munich, why not pad your trip with a few extra days to see what the rest of Deutschland has to offer?
Goerlitz // If you’re looking to give your liver a break from all the partying—and your elbows a break from fending off the mass amounts of drunk people—Goerlitz is the perfect escape.
See the painted ceilings adorning the majority of the homes, retailers, and restaurants in the center of the city. These murals have been preserved for hundreds of years—some dating back as far as the 1500s. You might not realize their significance or even notice they’re there if you don’t look up, either by peeping from the street at the ceilings of apartments above you, or while throwing back a pilsner at a local restaurant.
Also, be sure not to miss the Flüsterbogen—or “whispering arch”—where you can spill your secrets into one side of the arch and have a listener on the other side hear every word.
Clearly the hubs was saying something inappropriate.
Eat after doing your research! One of the most charming parts of Goerlitz is that, though tourism is quickly growing, very few locals speak English. The restaurants rarely offered English menus, and waiters couldn’t usually explain what we were ordering. Though we had mastered guten tag, danke, and prost, we were at a loss when we looked at most menus. Some preliminary research would have been seriously helpful.
Having said that, we still managed to have one of our very best meals in Europe at Patrizierhaus St. Jonathan, which did offer a (rough) English translation in the menu.
Visit Poland! Ahwhatnow? Yeah, Zgorzelec, Poland is a literal walk across the bridge from Goerlitz. Take a stroll into this tiny little town on the river, eat some pierogi, and panic when you realize—HA!—you don’t have any zloty?! (It’s ok, our restaurant of choice accepted euros).
Stay a little off the beaten track. We spent our nights at the Hotel Am Goldenen Strauss. It wasn’t too long of a walk to the main square, and still offered significantly better rates than those more centrally located.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to carry on the party, Goerlitz is less than a two-hour train ride from Dresden, which I’m hearing is the next up and coming city in Europe.
Freiburg // We decided to stop in Freiburg between Goerlitz and Paris (our next stop), and fell in love with this “jewel of the Black Forest.” It’s pretty much everything you imagine when you think of a picturesque German city situated in the Black Forest, and we spent our few days seeing the sites, enjoying the food, and making our rounds at the Freiburger Weinfest—a total surprise encounter that unfortunately won’t be happening around Oktoberfest, but is definitely worth a visit this July!
See the city on foot. We were treated to a walking tour of the city by a “Black Forest Girl,” who wore traditional dress and helped us navigate the city as we learned about the history of Freiburg. We learned about the market in the main square (a local favorite), her own upbringing in a small village outside of the city, and the importance of the Bächle that run through the streets. The Bächle are small canals along side most of the sidewalks, and have been supplying the city with water since the 1200s–though now they are more of an attraction for local kids and tourists, rather than a functioning water source. Legend has it, if you accidentally step into the Bächle, you’ll be destined to marry a Freiburger.
Eat a traditional meal at the Hotel Oberkirch on the main square. Normally we shy away from restaurants right in the middle of it all, but this came highly recommended and was SO delicious. And don’t forget the Rothaus!
Visit the Black Forest. You came all this way, so you can’t miss a mini-hike! Also, the views as you climb up higher and higher cannot be beat–not to mention it gives you a clear understanding of just how big the Freiburg Minster actually is in comparison to the main square.
Stay a little off the beaten track. Don’t be afraid to head out to the ‘burbs of Freiburg–specifically to Vauban, a sustainable neighborhood easily accessible by tram. Vauban is home to the first housing community in the world where “all of the homes produce a positive energy balance.” You can read more about Vauban here, and check out possible rentals via Airbnb (which is how we found our crashpad for the weekend.)
Both Goerlitz and Freiburg are easily accessible via train, and the perfect balance to Oktoberfest in Munich.
– Thanks to the German Tourism Board for introducing me to Freiburg and Goerlitz for my first time in Germany. All opinions are my own.