To the Hofbrauhaus!

After a night at our local tavern that included us providing Deutsch counting lessons, punks with head tattoos of highly contested content, and stolen marijuana accusations that led to near physical assaults, V, Joan, and I had to wake up early to catch our train to Munich. Joan is a friend from my time in Albany, a woman whose passion for food and hiking matches my own, but whose capacity for dancing and libations far exceeds most anyone. She had been visiting Germany and Switzerland for several weeks and decided to spend her last days visiting Aalen and joining us for a weekend trip to the closest tourist city. Ideally, this is the start of semi-regular adventuring for V and me.

The first leg of the journey was unremarkable. My travel companions attempted naps in the cabin, despite the stale heat and continual door slamming. When we transferred, we wound up on a train with a large number of soccer match attendees en route. The young, sunglassed boys behind us amused themselves by practicing English and offering us beers from an older man’s crate of bottles (he was happy to share with fellow sports fans). It was approximately eleven in the morning, and both V and J succumbed to the pressures. Despite drinking relatively little the night before, I was reluctant to begin drinking so early, knowing that München would inevitably lead to a few pints. Instead, I enjoyed trying out some Deutsch from our invaluable and hilarious Lonely Planet phrasebook. I asked, Was für ein Sternzeichen bist du? Unfortunately, I have yet to memorize the Deutsch answers.

Are there lockers at every major train station in Europe? How I love them. Our hotel about twenty minutes from downtown, we simply shoved our goods into one €3 locker and began our walking tour of the city unburdened.

Aalen’s high temperature has been averaging about 60 Fahrenheit; Munich easily hit 82 that Saturday, making for a sweaty, but pleasing day on our feet. The best building of the day was the Neues Rathaus, even with missing the Glockenspiel performance. While my knowledge of history and architecture leaves something to be desired, I was overwhelmed in its presence. How many years and people does it take to craft such a structure? The creativity of the included carved figures and designs is remarkable. Honestly, I could have sat at the Marienplatz all day, scanning the building for new discoveries. Some other notable sites were the Englischer Garten and the surfers on the “perma wave” (aka water tube surge), the Viktualienmarkt and the fountains where people drink from the spouts and cool their beers in the pools, and numerous bachelor and bachelorette parties in traditional Bavarian clothing of cleavage baring dresses and lederhosen. Lunch and dinner consisted of typical German fare, with Abendessen being at the infamous Hofbrauhaus. What a pain in the ass it is to find a seat there, but it was worth the rowdy atmosphere and head-sized pretzel. In the evening, a wandering soul (born in Mexico, name of French origin, lives in Barcelona, travels extensively) invited us out with his friend. We wound up at a tight, dimly lit, wooden-everything bar with odd paintings suggestive of Bayerisch men’s extraordinary sexual prowess. V and I could not even fit a drink in us, so instead we laughed while watching through tired eyes groups of Germans dancing and singing to what I imagine is their equivalent of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

Sunday’s weather was radically different. Storming. Cold. We picked up pastries for our subway ride to the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. My dorkiness and sentimentalism rears its head again; I easily could have stayed all day analyzing the crafts and I was moved by the knowledge that this whole, gigantic museum carried artifacts of people who have lived on this land for a far greater duration than us Americans of immigrant heritage can comprehend. Still thinking of all the meat from the day before, we opted for an Indian food lunch that was fantastic and nourishing. Indian is a cuisine that I could eat everyday and while much of my own cooking is inspired by its flavor profile, I desperately miss V’s mom’s specialties; every trip home to New Jersey meant a bounty of homemade, freezer-ready dishes bound to be warmed up over the coming weeks. The rain held long enough to visit the Hofgarten and Odeonsplatz (stunning in grandeur) before a quick trip to the Stadtmuseum and their Typisch München exhibit. It was nice to see paintings of the sites we had visited, but time warped one hundred fifty years or further into the past, with little figures depicted in radically different clothes, riding horses and picking market fish out of fountains. What must it have been like to live in the countryside and venture to a city like Munich for the first time?

In the end, this all felt much longer than 29 hours.

(I’ve included my first gallery in a post! Click the thumbnails below to see larger versions of my photos.)

4 thoughts on “To the Hofbrauhaus!

  1. It gladdens my heart that you’re seeing travel as the education it is and appreciating the grandeur and achievements of older civilizations!

    Learning about and understanding the heritage of other nations certainly adds great perspective to one’s own life and lifestyle of one’s native country.
    As you travel throughout Europe, the architecture and sense of history will amaze you. And learing about and indulging in local cuisine is one of the ways to really understand the history of a country and its people.

    I’ve always had great affinity for folk museums since they show the way people lived in the past. One can really get an understanding of the culture by examing the crafts and implements of everyday life. I’m very happy you’ve discovered that.

  2. Yeah, I guess I’ve never really thought about just what Europeans must think of us, in terms of being peoples who have left their homeland and lost touch with their roots. Do they feel sorry to meet an American like me, descended from German immigrants who came over 150 years ago, who has no connection to German culture? I guess if any do, I don’t care. They can’t help where they were born, and I can’t help where I was born. Which is why I think any kind of national/cultural/racial pride is pointless in the first place.

    Anyway, I do envy that they live so much closer to much more ancient artifacts (well, more longer-lasting ones anyway) than we have access to in the Americas. But I would care more about the fact that those artifacts are simply human, and not Germanic or whatever.

  3. I think looking at the objects as human and not necessarily German is a good point.

    Regarding if people would feel bad for us immigrants, that is sort of interesting… I think there is something nice about getting to know a landscape. It would be great to have a grandparent tell me the stories that their grandparents told them when walking on the same physical path. I think having a connection to land fosters love and respect for that land. I believe that part of the reason for environmental problems is that many of us do not have any connection with the land. Connection to the land is possible anywhere, but legacies certainly help facilitate that process. Also, the knowledge that your kin will have to rely on the same land may help you to be a better caretaker of it.

    The other side of being an immigrant is remembering that our relatives were adventurous. Perhaps that same spirit still lurks in us and motivates our actions.

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