Surfing and Zip-Lines – The Little Things
Serendipity is often only found by veering off the beaten path and heading outside of your comfort zone.
One of my favorite parts of travelling isn’t visiting the “must-see,” tourist monuments and museums. To be honest, I don’t really fancy taking photographs of the heads of other tourists collectively adding to the absurd amount of Mona Lisa photographs that exist on the Internet.
No, what I love the most is the little things that you don’t always expect to find. And often, serendipity is only found by veering off the beaten path and heading outside of your comfort zone.
I’m used to structured family excursions with a carefully concocted itinerary typed up on pristine white paper. At Walt Disney Word, for example, I knew exactly what day I would visit each park, which nighttime spectacular I would view each evening, and my plan of action for hitting all of my favorite attractions several times over.
While having an entire city at your disposal is different than vacationing at a theme park resort, it was still eerily liberating to be armed with nothing but a camera, a map and a “tageskarte,” otherwise known as a daily pass for Munich public transportation. No itinerary, nada, for two whole days. I had neglected to research the city, since my trip was planned rather abruptly at the tail-end of a grueling academic quarter. I found myself eager to explore, but unsure of exactly where to. And I must say, whoever said that old habits die hard was clearly wrong in this case; I quickly got on board with the idea of wandering around aimlessly, discovering Munich the way the locals see it.
Necessary disclaimer: Don’t do exactly what I did. My exploration was entirely impulsive. I was alone, and I used unreliable context clues to determine if an area was safe; e.g. when I saw unchained bicycles in a residential area, I figured I was in the clear. It worked out for me, but try to orient yourself with particular areas that might be dangerous before gallivanting throughout an unfamiliar town.
Anyway, one such day I found probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in Europe – surfers.
For those non-geographically-savvy readers, Munich is pretty far inland. In fact, the nearest ocean is several hundred kilometers away. So you can understand my shock when I saw people casually walking around in wetsuits and lugging surfboards through the streets of Munich.
But I promise you, that happens.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that “river surfing” was actually conceived in Munich, which boasts one of the world’s most popular river surfing locations – the Eisbach, a small man-made river cutting through the city, upon which I just happened to stumble. (Take a look at this video on Eisbach River Surfing )
A few days earlier, after a lengthy drive to Salzburg, Austria, I had a similar experience on my way to visit Frohnburg Castle, which was featured in the Sound of Music as the exterior of the von Trapp residence.
But the filming location wasn’t the highlight of that excursion, for me, even though I walked in the footsteps of Julie Andrews, who is nothing short of a goddess in my eyes. Nor was it the cute-as-a-button goats that let me feed them grass. I actually spent most my time exploring the playground that led up to the goats and the castle.
Playgrounds aren’t exactly a foreign concept for me; I had several neighborhood playgrounds to choose from, growing up. But this one featured a zip-line, and other apparatuses that are antiquated from an American perspective.
My first thought was, This playground is so dangerous. I can’t believe children are actually allowed to play here!
I proceeded to hate myself for thinking that, as I realized how sheltered American culture can be. Elementary schools in my home school district are plagued with cookie-cutter playgrounds made of brightly colored plastic without any sharp edges. If I experienced any culture shock during my travels, it was when I came across this park that seemed to have been extracted from one of my childhood memories.
Both of these experiences taught me that the little things shouldn’t be sacrificed in favor of a streamlined trip consisting only of headliner attractions. I’m not saying you should skip the Eiffel Tower when you visit Paris, but don’t make it the centerpiece of your travels. I did end up visiting the Olympic Park when I was in Munich, but that’s not what I tell people about when I mention my trip. I love to talk about what made my trip unique, like cool playgrounds and surfers, and what I learned about the world; just because something is famous, doesn’t mean it is the most interesting feature of a city!