Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beer Hall Push

As you might be guessing, Sarah and I have made it back to the States safe and sound. Since then, we've been busy getting caught up with friends and family, and generally just getting used to "normal life" again (in my case, "normal" loosely means "being a 31 year old, unemployeed, married male, living at his parents house").

But, since my internal clock is still way off from local time, everyone else is asleep right now, while I am wide awake. So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to get the blog caught up on our last day or so of travel.

After our last entry, Sarah and I grabbed our bags and hopped onto a night train to Munich. Because we were getting tight on funds, we opted to just do standard seats, as opposed to a sleeper cabin. But, the ride still went surprisingly smoothly, since the train carriage was less than half full and we were able to spread out a bit and at least pretend to sleep.

Still, when we arrived in Munich about 11 hours later, we were beat tired. Luckily, Sarah had reserved us a room at a nearby hostel. Unfortunately, we couldn't check in until 2pm. So, to pass the time, we dropped off our bags in their luggage storage, had some breakfast and signed up for the free walking tour they held each day at 11pm.

Our walking tour guide, Ozzie, ended up being one of the best tour guides we'd encountered over the last seven months. As he described himself, he was "the lone choclate chip in this sea of cream." While most of his family was black, his grandfather had been German ("Imagine being an interracial couple in 1920's German. That had to be a good time."), and so while he had grown up in Canada, he now resided in Munich.

But, the true thing that set him apart from other tour guides we'd had was that, as he led us through town, he not only pointed out historical and culturally important sights, but actually managed to weave everything together into a narrative that covered the last 100 years or so of German history. And, specifically, used the Beer Hall Putsch to tie the history of the city together and explain Munich's roll in the Nazi party's rise to power.

These two towers were some of the very few things to survive the war. The Frauenkirche is the largest church in Munich.

The entire tour was fascinating and affecting for several reasons. After the war, very little of Munich remained standing. So, when they rebuilt the city, they deliberately tried to recreate how it looked before hand. But, in doing so, they not only effectively white-washed over the effects of the war, but also removed much of the signs of the cities roll in the creation of the Nazi Party. There are monuments to the war scattered throughout the city, but most of small and hidden under the visitors feet.

The Opera House. When the original opera house was burning down, the firefighters tried to get beer from the neighboring beer hall to use to put out the fire. The people in the beerhall refused. So, the new opera house was built using money raised from taxing beer.

With the tour over, Sarah and I made our way to the city park to check out one of the few things not ocvered in the tour: The surfing wave. At the edge of the park is a section of river where the current forms a perpetual wave that surfs visit from miles around to try. Needless to say that it was surreal to watch a surfer ride the wave, surrounded by the park and all of Munich.

A surfer rides the wave.

Next, we climbed the 300+ steps of a church tower to get a wonderful panorama of the city around us.

The final city of our trip... Munich!

Us in Munich!

After that, we turned our attention to what is possibly Munich's most important feature: Beer. Bravaria (the region in which Munich sits) is one of the world's leading beer producers, and the average Bavarian drinks 1.5 liters of beer a day. So, if Sarah and I had any chance of keeping up with the locals, it was time to hit the beer halls.

A normal sized beer in Munich: 0.5 liters.

First we checked out a smaller beer garden, that our guide had recommended. It had no particular significance, but he maintained it was his favorite, so it seemed like a good place to start. After a couple of glasses each, and some large pretzels, we happily made our way back to our room to check in.

A small beer at our hostel: 0.2 liters.

After checking into our room, and grabbing another small beer at our hostel, Sarah, myself and an Australian traveller who shared our hostel dorm room head out to get dinner and hit another beer hall: The Hofbraeuhaus - which, at three stories tall, is the largest beerhall in Munich.

Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the beer hall was already packed with drunken Germans, so the only table we could find was in the far corner of the beer hall. But soon things were made better when we had our liter sized mugs of beer and large meat-based meals in front of us.

A large beer at the Hofbraeuhaus: 1 liter!

Pork knuckle! A standard meal at the Hofbreauhaus.


Sadly, while the beer and food proved to be great, and the ambiance was perfect, the company started to grow a little tiring. While Sarah and I were hoping to celebrate our last night on the trip, our Aussie companion seemed more interested in talking about the legal policies of Switzerland. So, it wasn't long before we decided to call it a night. Which was probably for the best, since we had to catch our flight at 8am... which meant we were getting up 4:30.

So, climbing into bed at about 11pm, Sarah and I hopped to get at least a decent nights rest. Unfortuantely, life had different plans, since around midnight, two more girls rather loudly checked into our hostel dorm. But, instead of going to sleep themselves, they went back out to hit the town. So, at 3am, they were back in the room, stumbling around and talking loudly. As I lay there, two thoughts kept going through my mind:

1) Why can't they just turn off the lights and go to sleep!
2) They are going to hate life when Sarha and I get up in an hour and a half and start packing our bags to go.

Clearly, seven months on the road has made me a more compassionate person.

Anyhow, about two hours later, we were on the tram to the airport. And, two hours after that, we were boarding our first of three flights homeward. And, twenty two hours later, we were back at SeaTac airport, hugging my parents and gathering our overwiehgt backpacks from baggage claim. Safe. Sound. And state-side.

Us, back at my parents, later that evening. Tired, but happy to be home!


chriscla said...

Welcome back! Your blog entries and e-mails have been awesome and I look forward to meeting up in person. Are you going to be moving back to the hill?

The General said...

Hey Chris, Thanks! Actually, we are looking for a place to live right now. We are hoping to find a cheap studio. The Hill is one of the places we are looking, but we are also open to other neighborhoods. We'll see how things go!

Austin said...

Welcome back! I have 1.5 liters of beer for each of you! Come over and cash in on your round the world salute.

I have especially enjoyed your use of unicode characters to accurately write cities names. Bravo.

The General said...

Actually, to be honest, most of the time we'd use the unicode because the Wacky Foreign Computers(tm) actually had those characters on their keyboards. Often it was easier to type a "o" with some umlauts over it than it was to type an umlaut-free "o."