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Beer in Bavaria

Written on: Tuesday June 9th, 2009

From Frankfurt it was an easy train ride to my most anticipated stop in Germany: Munich.  Preconceived notions filled my head as the train charged ever closer to the city.  I flashed back to the days of playing the trombone in the Junge Kameraden and smiled broadly at memories of those times.  And now it was real; I was in Munich.

Exiting the train station, I found a recommended hostel just two blocks away.  That was easy...still plenty of time to explore.  I marched down Bayer Strasse to Karlplatz, just the first of many city squares that impressed me with its buildings and fountains.  Continuing east I soon made it to Marienplatz, the main square in the city.  It was diffiuclt not be overwhelmed here, as hoardes of people filled the wide streets and Gothic buildings lined them.  The New Town hall, or Neues Rathaus, towered over the square.  I took a keen interest in comparing its Glockenspiel to others I had seen throughout Germany. Several impressive churches were also in close proximity, including St. Peterskirche, Heiliggeistkirche and the ever-popular Frauenkirche.  Strolling through the crowded city was enjoyable.  Stopping for a pretzel and a beer was moreso.

The following day was more of the same, checking out the sights, finding a few caches and generally relaxing as I got to learn a new town.  I located the famous Hofbrauhaus, touring its beer gardens and gift shop, already smiling in anticipation of having a beer here later in the trip.  I found other beer gardens around every turn, packed mostly with locals.  The cliches were true - Bavarians loved to drink beer, regardless of the hour of the day. I took a stroll through the enormous city park called the Englischer Garten, where people enjoyed running along the paths, sitting nude in the fields and, or course, drinking beer in one of the many classic beer gardens on the grounds.  I opted to stop for lunch at the Chinese Tower beer garden, and seemingly never tired of schnitzel and potato salad.  But one unwritten rule I did break: I had a coke with my meal instead of beer. :)

As I had travelled to Munich alone, I stayed in a hostel.  And staying in a hostel in Munich meant that one was surrounded by 150 very young folks who wanted nothing more than to drink large amounts of alcohol.   Consequently, when I was invited to go on an 'all-you-can-drink' pub crawl with them, I accepted with only minor reservations.  After all, most of the people were pretty cool, and there were plenty Americans, something that I wasn't used to in my travels thus far. Naturally, two hours of pre-pub crawl partying occurred at the hostel bar prior to heading out.  We played drinking games that were brutal to the losers, but fun overall.  Alas, our fearless leader arrived and rounded up the group.  Having led this pub crawl EVERY night for the past seven months, and for the vast majority of nights over the last 2.5 years, it didn't shock me to learn that our guide suffered from stomach ulcers at the ripe old age of nineteen.  Now twenty one, his claimed his stomach was better.

We started off at the tour's local bar, where beer and shots flowed freely for two hours.  Fortunately, a thick stew was provided to help offset the inevitable effects of tonight's activity.  From there everybody was itching to go to the Hofbrauhaus.  So we did.  We had a large group, taking up four good sized tables in one section of the garden.  We ordered litres of lager, and all I could think of was how crazy this place was going to be in a couple more months when the annual Oktoberfest arrived.  For now it was still manageable craziness.  The oompa band played, the pretzel girl made regular stops, and the group I was with was getting ever happier.  It was good fun listening to the guide's stories of the city, some historically accurate and some merely tales of questionable reality.  But it didn't matter; we were partying in Munich. That's what everybody here cared about tonight. 

The next stop was an Irish bar, where a band played and Jagermeister was consumed.  Before long the party reverted back to the hostel, where a pool table centered in the room was the main attraction.  I developed a bit of a reputation, winning five games straight before the bar closed.  But by no means did that mean the evening was over; rather, we went down the street to another hostel, who's bar stayed open til 4:00am.  Drinking games were once again on the agenda.  Oh, to be 20 again!  One by one the games took their toll on the participants, until only two of us remained, electing then to merely sip our beers and play a comparably civilized game of gin instead.

When I peered out my window the next day I was relieved to see that the skies had brightened.  The continual drizzle halted and sunshine made its way to the ground.  Finally! Perfect conditions for a run.  I strolled through the crowded sidewalks until making it to the English Gardens.  Thirty two mintues later I had circumnavigated the park and returned to the Hofgarten.  It felt good to run, expecially after last evening's events.  The remainder of the day was spent planning the next stops in Europe.  Eventually day spilled into night and it was more of the same with my travel mates from last night.

When I finally returned to the train station to depart Munich, I relfected how unusual this stop felt to me.  I didn't visit Dachau, the infamous Nazi camp that saw over 200,000 prisoners pass through its doors.  I didn't tour any of the numerous castles in the region, much to my chagrin.  And I didn't rent a car and drive to nearby Liechtenstein.  All of these things were on the agenda but none were accomplished.  Guess that provided three fabulous reasons to come back to this intruiging city, not that any reason would ever be needed.