30 hours doesn’t sound like an ideal amount of time to explore a city for the first time. Luckily, our group made it (sort of) work.

In preparation for our study abroad trip, my friends and I planned to travel on our free weekends to various places in Europe. Through communication only through GroupMe and Courtney’s excellent Excel skills, we all managed to book the same flights and hotels to Munich Germany. However, time management became key to jamming city sights and sounds into 30 hours. Check out some of our favorite spots!

1 a.m. to 2 a.m.: Wake Up and Pack the Backpack

My phone alarm blared through the speaker and I immediately groaned. Lack of sleep and anxiety about how our large group of nine would get to the airport on time. I begrudgingly rose from my springy bed and regretted it. The comforter still warm, I got up and trudged to our brightly-lit bathroom to wake myself up before I had to officially start my day.

My roommate Olivia didn’t wake up to her alarm so I gently pushed her awake. She woke up in a panic, threw her earplugs on the floor and ran to the bathroom to get ready.

Lufthansa Airlines limited our luggage options to a backpack where we kept a change of clothes and toiletries for one night away in Munich. A Canon T6i camera, my golden-yellow Moleskine journal, and my wallet emptied of forints and full of euros joined the increasingly-heavy North Face backpack with rose-gold zippers the morning of our departure.

Olivia and I locked the door to our apartment to head downstairs to meet the rest of our group for our early morning ground transportation to the airport.

3 a.m.: Bus to the airport

Approaching 3 a.m., with no miniBUD airport shuttle in sight on our street, I started to panic. Growing up, I always heard that “To be early is to be on time and to be on time is to be late.”  This phrase repeated in my head until I saw a black and rain-coated bus appear out of nowhere.

The nine of us boarded the bus, and we instantly smelled a strong aroma of lunch meat. In the bus sat a group of Russians also in route to the airport. Reagan and I headed to the back of the shuttle, wanting a moment longer of sleep while Courtney and Olivia sat next to the Russians and started to talk to our temporary travel companions.

4 a.m.: Arrive at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport

About 40 minutes later, the sights of airplanes taking off into the still pitch dark early morning filled my vision and I knew we arrived at the airport. Action mode turned on, I readied myself to get off the shuttle, print my boarding pass, and go through security as quickly as possible to get some more sleep at the gate. But upon entering the glass doors of the terminal, I saw hundreds of people crowded into ticket counter area. We instantly thought we would be late for our flight. In some moment of insight, I realized there weren’t any attendants at the flight desk to check people’s luggage. Backpacks on our backs, we didn’t have to wait in the crowd, squished up together as if we were about to run the Baylor Line on a hot and sweaty Saturday in August.

I collect airplane tickets, so with a destination as amazing as Munich, I wanted to print my boarding pass as a keepsake. I inched my way through the hoard of people to a kiosk, quickly tying in my name and flight record locator.

5 a.m. to 6 a.m.: Breakfast, a quick phone call, and bound for Munich

A quick walk through security later and we sat down for a small coffee and food to cure the “hangry” mood of our group. The hot chai latte and flakey-butter croissant filled my stomach enough to get through the hour-long flight.

I made a quick call to my dad to tell him I made it to the airport OK. He told me to stay safe in Germany and that he loves me “to infinity and beyond.” I ended the call and boarded the plane, off to explore Munich.

7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Landing in Munich and Breakfast time

After staring out the window for an hour, we landed in Germany. I took my backpack and got off the plane, stepping to the side of the line of people exiting the gate to wait for the eight travelers with me. We navigated through the airport to find a machine to purchase transportation tickets. After a struggle of understanding the German ticket kiosk, we walked to the train stop and quickly jetted off to the city center.

Before we did anything, we stopped for some food. Tatum, one of my travel companions and foodie genius, looked up a cute brunch place for us to eat for breakfast. The walk from the train stop to Rosi Kaffeehaus and Bar proved to be well worth it, as I tried a traditional German breakfast complete with a salty pretzel, white sausages, sweet mustard, and prosciutto with a cheese spread (along with coffee of course).

Full of food, we made our way back to the train station, bound to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Arriving to the city of Dachau and riding to the concentration camp, I felt the tension of death on the bus transfer. Everyone around me talked about their other travel plans in the city, joked around and browsed through their phones. I stayed silent as I looked out the window, imagining what this city looked like 85 to 90 years ago.

We walked through the gate Dachau’s prisoners once walked through themselves, and I read the iron bar message “Arbeit macht frei,” which translates to “Work sets you free”.

The sound of feet shuffling against gravel filled the entire memorial site. I stood in the empty square, knowing that some time ago people were called here, standing for hours on end waiting for their name to be called, a silent torture.  

Caroline, Tatum, Austria and I walked through the maintenance building to watch the haunting film about the camp’s history. I stepped out, feeling saddened by the horrific images.

2 p.m.: Marienplatz and Viktualienmark

The group once again split up, one group going to the hotel and one going to Allianz Arena. My group of Courtney, Olivia, Reagan and I decided to travel back to the city center to visit the heart of Munich.

Once we sat on the train, an elderly man stepped on to take a seat. After an in-depth but brief lesson on public transportation etiquette, Olivia stood up and offered her seat to the older gentleman. He kindly accepted the seat and thanked her in German, saying “Danke schön.” She kindly smiled at him, not knowing how to respond. He continued to talk in German to Olivia, and she continued to smile and laugh along as if she knew every word he said. 

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.: The English Gardens and a small walk through town

In the need of much-deserved break, the four of us headed to The English Gardens, a tranquil and calming German version of Central Park. We settled into a patch of slightly-damp grass and soaked in the sun, listening to the rush of water coming from the small river running through the gardens. The girly side of our group quickly came out, as we all picked daisies amongst the weeds and placed them on the shell of our ears to take cute selfies.

An hour and a half later, feeling rested and toasty in the hot June sun, my friends and I walked back into town to meet the rest of our group (to decide what our next point of action would be and asses our next step. However sending each other our locations through Apple Maps proved to be difficult to follow so I turned on the navigation part of my brain, remembering our path back to the city square, and led the group, sending a text in Groupme asking everyone to meet back in Marienplatz.

One long train later, we exited the train station, climbed the staircase and immediately faced the Marienplatz, the central square of the city. Tourists filled the area, taking pictures of the clock tower and its iconic Glockenspiel. As a person who appreciates the things of a previous time, I felt goosebumps as I walked into the square after traveling through Munich’s outskirts and seeing new constructions.

Just a few steps down the street from Marienplatz held another large square called Viktualienmarkt, a food market selling different cuisines from local vendors. A quick walk through the food stalls tempted us enough for Courtney to buy a basket of strawberries and Olivia to purchase a hefty chunk of cheese. Tasty treats in hand, we headed out of the market to the Englischer Gartens.

6 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Hofbräuhaus Biergarten and Dinner

According to the older students in our group who are more accustomed to drinking, visiting a biergarten in Germany was going to be the highlight of our visit. As I just turned 19 and have never had a drink before, I decided to go along to Hofbräuhaus am Platzl just for the atmosphere.

The smell of beer and comradery hit me in the face. I saw lines of wooden tables surrounded by people drinking from giant glasses of amber-colored beer while listening  to sounds of glasses clinking as the small German band played a drinking song. To describe the hall as extending farther than my eyes could see would be an understatement. Different languages in several conversations all came together in the name of drinking beer.

We managed to fit seven of the nine travelers in a small booth with three other visitors from Canada. After a quick chug of a lemonade I felt the need to order some food. I grabbed the menu and before I knew if they had the dish, I asked for a schnitzel, a classic German dish with thinly-sliced pork fried in a batter paired with mashed potatoes.

A few hours later, exhaustion took over and forced me to leave Hofbrauhaus and go to our hotel. Austria, Tatum and Christina quickly became true friends of the evening as they saw how tired and how desperate I felt to leave the Hofbrauhaus after several hours being in such a loud place. Tatum and Reagan agreed to let me stay in their room with them, after I learned that I previously booked a co-ed hostel room, something I was not comfortable dealing with in my state of exhaustion and weariness.

Taking the train to our hotel for the night, I breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of a hot shower and a warm bed. A long day full of sightseeing wiped me out, and I needed to crash for a few hours before we did anything else.

7 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Breakfast and Hillsong United

I woke up and immediately regretted it. Desperately wanting a few more minutes of precious sleep, I shut off my alarm and sighed at the idea of another half day of activities and traveling back to Budapest.

Reagan immediately apologized to me when she saw that I woke up and began to get ready for the day. In my head, I saw no reason for her to apologize for anything. She told me she came to our hotel room at 1 a.m., banging on the door to be let in after Tatum and I didn’t answer our phones. According to her, I went to the door to let her in and immediately climbed back into the warmth of the comforter and soft mattress. While I had no memory of this, I’m glad that my drained state of mind was conscious enough to let her in.

To wake up and prepare for the next day, Tatum and I walked to grab some breakfast at a small cafe near our hotel. I developed a great appreciation for breakfast on the trip, as it fueled my morning enough to bear the early hours and lack of sleep. Eating eggs, bacon, a croissant with nutella and a latte served me well, and after a conversation with Tatum about our study abroad experiences and personal lives I welcomed the day more energetic and alert.

Once checked out of the hotel, our entire group managed to find the isolated and strange location of Hillsong United Church, which held services at a dance club paired with a bar. An international church with several branches around the world, Hillsong United in Munich became the place for our Sunday worship. We arrived and instantly greeted by friendly faces welcoming us into the church. They took one look at us and asked “Californians?” Tatum, the only native Californian, said yes, and they directed us into a room with a stage and a sea of chairs for us to sit in. I pick up the papers on my chair that say “Welcome Home” both in English and German and I felt warm inside, knowing that my presence was appreciated and accepted.

The worship session of the service ended up mostly in German. One out of the five songs was in English, but I didn’t mind. The message spoke to me more than the fact that I had so much trouble following along to the German words on the big screen.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Airport Blues

It quickly became apparent that our time in Munich had finished, and we instantly deflated at the idea of leaving beautiful Munich. Our train back to the airport consisted of sleep and silence, as everyone mourned the trip being over.

Our arrival to the airport and move toward the gate proved to be more joyous than leaving Munich. A careful search through the duty-free shop gave me a ceramic mug to remember my time in Germany, as well as some creamy Milka chocolate.

One last German meal of sausage and fries with curry sauce ended our brief time in Munich. Seven of us crowded around a table, laughing at each others stories and remembering our favorite food joints in Waco. It was the first time on my study abroad trip that I thought about returning to Baylor in the fall, and I couldn’t wait to return and reunite with my fellow travelers to reminisce about our travels.

30 hours. It shouldn’t be enough time to explore an entire city, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best experiences you ever have.