31 August 2008
Well, it's been sometime since returning from Munich, but the memories are still vivid. In an attempt to not bore everyone to death with the small details of travel, I will structure this into a numerical hierarchy. Five favorite moments from the few days in the capital of beer. Make no mistake... that's basically what it is. So here we go.
5.) The Deutsches Museum:
This place is absolutely insane. The sheer scale of this place is enough to scare even the nerdiest of engineers. It is the world's largest museum of technology and science, with approximately 1.3 million visitors per year and about 28,000 exhibited objects from 50 fields of science and technology. We're talking full sized planes, music instruments I know not the name of, huge looms, printing presses, and my favorite... a vast variety of clocks! Three hours in this exhausting monster, and you'll welcome the museum restaurant... and yes, you can repower with a nice tall malty brew. Here is a picture of a time measured candle. The balls were melted into the wax of a candle and as it burned, when they would fall, an hour would have been measured. I thought some of this older technology would come in very handy in post apocalyptic times.
4.) Bike Paths:
I can't remember the last time I got on a bicycle, but Munich's two wheeled passion is very impressive. If you plan on being a tourist there, for your own safety... STAY OFF THE BIKE PATH! They're nicely situated between the street and sidewalk, but the delineation between the pedestrian and bike lane is sometimes subtle. Munich-ians will ring the dickens out of the bell f you drunkenly stumble in their path, too. It's not just rooty tooty eco-freaks that ride. I saw 70 year olds buzzing around town, with packages from daily errands. With the amount of meats being consumed, staying active with your bike is probably the best decision.
3.) HOLY SAUSAGE:
Don't get me wrong, I'm not anyone to point fingers at bad eating habits. Please, I come form the land of hot dogs and mac and cheese. But, I think it is fair for me to comment on the lack of vegetable matter in Germany. Sauerkraut does not count, although it is very tasty! We got a sampler platter of sausgae and cheese. If you thought sausages was simple, oh ho ho ho, you are mistaken friend! You can have mildy, sweet, spicy, long, short, soft, hard, with skin, without, in a sauce, in a pie, sliced, linked... it's really impressive. Now the cheese... perhaps because I judge it with France, its not the best. BUT a notable cheese to mention is Romadur. Sweet cherubs in heaven, I have never smelt then ATE something this bad. Because of the strong smell it’s often called “Stinkkäse“ or “Stinky Cheese”. Manure. It smelt like manure, people. I had to eat it, since the lovely German family who clued us into it, were all staring! No need to be rude.
Wow, I really can't think of a more relaxing way to spend a sunny summer afternoon. Here's a bit of a definition and history to these fine establishments. Beer gardens in Germany developed in Bavaria in the 19th century, during which dark lager beer was predominant. According to a decree by King Ludwig I, this had to be brewed during the cold months, since the fermentation had to take place at temperatures between four and eight degrees Celsius. In order to provide this beer during the summer, large breweries dug beer cellars in the banks of the river Isar, which allowed them to keep the beer cool. In order to further reduce the cellar temperature, the banks were covered in gravel and chestnut trees were planted, since their leaves provided good shade in summer. An example of the cellar architecture can still be seen at Augustiner Bierkeller, which was my favorite establishment. Soon after, the beer cellars were used not only to store but also to serve the beer. Simple tables and benches were set up among the trees, and soon the beer gardens were a popular venue for the citizens of Munich. This aggrieved the smaller breweries that remained in Munich. In order to prevent the further loss of customers, they petitioned Ludwig I to forbid that the beer cellars surrounding Munich to serve food. Thus, the patrons were allowed to bring their own food. This decree is no longer in force, and many beer gardens do serve food today, but families still come and enjoy the shade with a lovely family picnic. My favorite garten, was the Japanisches Teehaus in the English Garden. With an area of 3.7 km² the "Englischer Garten" is one of the world's largest urban public parks: it is larger than New York's Central Park. We'll talk more about that place later... but the impressive things about these biergartens is the people watching. AMAZING specimens. My favorite was a shaggy, tan blonde man, in the tiniest nuthugging lederhosen, rollerblades, and HOCKEY helmet. I watched him skate by with a large grin, order a liter and sausage, then skate to a little table to enjoy his sauagey wonder. It was beautiful. I regret not taking a picture. A few more things to mention... PRETZELS THE SIZE OF MY HEAD and amazing waitresses who can carry 4 liters in ONE HAND. Those girls deserve mad props.
1.) The English Garden:
Why is this number one over the biergartens?? Ok. I'll tell you why. Picture a gorgeous sunny Sunday. The city is so well designed, that even during a rush hour, it's never overwhelming. Same for a weekend in the park. The vast lawns easily attracted hundreds upon hundreds, while dog walkers and bikers flooded the wooded paths. While walking, we decided to catch a bit of sun on one of the lawns. Approaching the center, I saw a young girl laying face down with her top undone making sure she had no tans lines. I started joking saying I should snap a picture for the guy friends back home, when started to look further in the distance. Either they were all wearing flesh colored bathing suits or.... OMG! Everyone was NUDE! Antoine laughed and said I should capture the woman blowing her nose, but he failed to see the 70 year old man walking RIGHT AT US, free as a newborn babe. He near ran off the lawn, pushing me with him. I guess I should have read the section of the travel book about the Schönfeldwiese. Between the Monopteros and the Japanisches Teehaus lies the Schönfeldwiese (lit. "Beautiful meadows"). In this part of the Gardens nude sunbathing has been permitted since the 1960s, and believe me... they utilize every inch of that lawn. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I recommend grabbing two Radler (lemonade and beer) liters at the Teehaus, and take a stroll through. Human zoo... only in München!
So if I were to give advice on your visit: warn your liver, pack a salad, and leave the swimming trunks at home, because in Munich, they let it all hang out!