My journey started with my flight out to Germany on September 8th. This is my first time ever flying to Europe so I was expecting the flight to be pretty grueling. The flight turned out not that bad! It was a 9-hour flight, which departed at 6:40 pm from Minneapolis. The airplane was equipped with TVs in every seat so I was able to watch a couple movies to keep myself entertained. This was also my first flight I have been on where there were meals served! We received a pasta dish with a roll and potato salad for dinner, and then we received breakfast as well since it was going to be around 10:00 am when I landed in Frankfurt, Germany.
Everything went smoothly with the flight and all of my luggage arrived safe and sound in Germany.
I was excited to reunite with Tracy McCann, my teammate from Mankato who is also playing in Ingolstadt with me this season, who I hadn’t seen since graduation day this past May. Tracy and our team manager, Susanne, were waiting for me as soon as my plane landed! Our team manager, who is in charge of recruiting and handling the import players, has been absolutely amazing throughout this whole process. She has been more than helpful with getting everything set up for us so that this transition would go as smoothly as possible. She answered any questions we had, set up our furnished apartments, and hooked us up with jobs to help with expenses while overseas, the list goes on and on!
Since my plane flew into Frankfurt we had about a 2-hour drive to Ingolstadt where I will be residing and playing hockey this season. Our first stop was the bank because I needed to sign a few papers to get my German bank account all set up. Susanne of course had all of this prepared and ready for me as soon as I got there so all I needed to do was sign some papers. Our next stop was to the phone store so that I could get a SIM card that would then give me a German phone number. Because I have an iPhone, iMessaging is free and allows me to communicate with everyone back home without having long distance charges. Tracy and I will be sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Ingolstadt. We were told that there was a really bad rainstorm that caused water damage to our apartment, so as of right now we are in temporary one-bedroom apartments in the same building until we can move into our two-bedroom apartment. With the help of Tracy and Susanne I got all settled into my apartment equipped with wifi and everything!
Meeting the team for the first time went great! Everyone on the team is super nice and happy to help with anything we may need help with. Without our teammates helping us, things wouldn’t run as smoothly as they have been. They helped set up our phone plans (the operator speaks German), get us groceries, let us borrow simple every day objects that we may need, etc. They are especially helpful during practices if we have a question about the drill we are doing. Our coach speaks good English so that is also a huge help when explaining drills in practice, or translating things back and forth between a player who may not speak as good of English. We had one exhibition game on the 13th of September versus a team in the lower league. We won the game 27-2, and no, that’s not a joke! Safe to say there is a pretty big difference of talent between the two leagues. We also had our first league games on the 27th and 28th versus SC Garmisch Partenkirchen. We won our first game 9-0 and our second game 8-2. Not a bad way to start off league play!
Everything thus far has been pretty good and ran pretty smoothly. The team has given us bikes as our means of transportation and it’s crazy how many people ride their bikes around here. One problem I have been running into is not that many places in Ingolstadt take credit cards from the States. This is a bit of a pain because taking money out of an ATM over here costs $5 per withdrawal for cash. One other small issue is that not everyone can speak English here. A lot of the Germans speak broken English but when you run into someone who has little to no English it is hard and often frustrating to communicate. I ran into this problem when I had a cold and went to the pharmacy to get some medicine, and the pharmacist spoke zero English. With the fear of taking medicine that I don’t know what it is, I chose to wait on purchasing some medicine until one of my teammates could come in with me and help translate.
One thing that is definitely blatant over here is that soccer is the beloved sport. Everything revolves around soccer! One super cool event we got to go to was the Munich versus Manchester United soccer game. We knew soccer was big over here, but I’ve never experienced something like a European soccer game. The stadium itself was massive. The entire outside of the building lights up in red (the colors of the Munich team). There is not one minute of the game where the crowd is not hollering, chanting, or singing. Scarves are the cool thing to wear to soccer games, and some of the super fans had around 20 or so scarves around their necks and tied to their arms, it was crazy! The game was awesome, and Munich won 1-0. Hockey in my opinion is definitely more exciting, but I am grateful that I got to experience a soccer game in Europe!
In September, Tracy and I also took our first opportunity at travel! We went to Barcelona on the 19th-22nd. Spain was beautiful! The first day we got there we didn’t land until later in the evening so we just got settled into our hotel and went out for dinner. The part of Barcelona where we were staying was right downtown. When we walked out of our hotel the streets were lined with different small restaurants, shops, markets, etc. We decided on this small restaurant not too far from our hotel and had a nice steak dinner that was delicious! Day 2 in Barcelona we decided to tour Parc Guell. Parc Guell was absolutely gorgeous, and it happened to be a gorgeous day as well! We spent around 5 hours here since there was so much ground to cover. There was a grill and gift shop right outside the gates where we had lunch and grabbed a drink. The very top of Parc Guell overlooks Barcelona, out into the Mediterranean Sea, which was breathtaking. Day 3 was spent on a much needed beach day. You can’t go to Spain and not enjoy their beautiful beaches! We went to La playa de Barceloneta. Right off of the beach they had vendors everywhere selling anything you can possibly imagine! The vendor market was huge, and Tracy and I both came back with a purchase. The day started out cloudy then turned into a gorgeous day to catch some rays. We walked around the downtown area for a good 2 hours after we were done sitting at the beach and toured a beautiful cathedral and saw a parade as they went by! This was our last full day in Spain, since we flew out early Monday morning.
After looking back on our first trip we both agreed that we wished we had planned it out a little better. But that’s what a first trip is for, you learn from it! Overall it was a fabulous experience, and we got to see a lot of beautiful sights.