Nothing like a couple of fat Asian kids swimming in the middle of a Bavarian river while all the Europeans chillin on the gravel - some nude, some not.
Munich, you came around. I wasn't sure about you yesterday, but damn. The day started relatively early with us grabbing some coffee and a sando at the Bahnhof, a quick stop at a local music shop to wiggle my fingers on a few Spanish-made nylon strings. Then, just as D'Animal had dreamed, we rented bikes and took a ride to Englischer Garten, a serene park which stretches from the city center to the northern limit. By the entrance you see a nice looking standing wave where local surfers take turns to ride in a city with no access to an ocean. Kinda reminiscent of the artificial surfing found in a water park, only with much scenic background and no kids peeing in the pool. After we spectated for a few minutes, our bikes ran along local joggers, weekend cyclists and a series of gorgeous streams around river Isar. Fucking beautiful. So peaceful that it completely evaporated the frustration from yesterday.
About halfway across the park we came to a biergarten by The Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in which sits a brass band of old faithfuls playing drinking songs to the liter-stein-holding crowd. Next to us sat 4 dads, merrily and in control kept raising their steins, and consuming the amount of liquid that can fill a kiddy pool and at the rate that I couldn't even dream of keeping up with. Guess they never have to worry about their beer getting warm. I just shook my head. We kept on riding for another hour or so afterwards just for me to empty my stomach, and I didn't even finish the damn thing.
Now we find ourselves sitting riverside with locals, feet slightly wet, just chillin. Soon we find ourselves a local eatery that serves Augustiner Brau (recommended by Joerg the Bavarian, who hired me for one of my first cover gigs in Cali way back when) and an unforgettable meal of Wienersnitzel, chicken cooked in a milky Dijon/pepper/butter sauce over egg noodles and a cream of asparagus soup, all of which is to die for. My Dunkel goes down smooth as I watch a few locals sitting outside, enjoying early drinks. This might have been the most calm day of this trip, and is exactly what I needed. No drama, no yelling, very little tourism. Just a nice weather, fair amount of workout and good food/beer as a reward. Life is good.
Next morning. D'Animal, a student of War histories, decides that we should stretch out to The Alps to visit Kehlsteinhaus aka The Eagle's Nest, a Hitler's private hideout and the only standing building from The Third Reich era. It takes a train ride, a few bus swaps and an elevator ride up to the summit, all of which rounds up to about 3-hour trip and a quick hop over to Salzburg, Austria. The entire way down there is scenic; a bus ride with amazing views of Bavarian Alps on both sides, a local brew, a real good Goulash and a ridiculous Apfelstrudel (itself almost savory, comes to fruition when combined with an ice cream) in a tiny riverside resort town of Berchtesgaden, making us wish we could stay overnight. As we close in on our destination the tourism meter goes up significantly, mainly because of the limited real estate atop Kehlstein. Once there, however, you're rewarded with some of the most spectacular mountain views of your life.
I come from Toyama, in Japanese the name means "mountain-rich" which refers to what we call North part of Japanese Alps, a 10,000+ft mountain range which spans across 3 prefectures including mine. In my youth I was fortunate enough to enjoy some of the highest peaks in Japan mainland several times. My old man used to summit a few of these in his younger days. Even when I get to comparably lower altitude such as Big Bear I feel much happier than on the sea level. It's in my blood. I wanna live on a mountain. #babycakes After we inhale as much of this vapor gold, we sit in a room with the original fireplace where Hitler sat with Mussolini, or guests at a reception for Gretel Brown (Eva's sister) wedding or by himself looking down Obersalsburg, the world, and consumed whatever drug he was on. Food is surprisingly decent, but must admit Mickey Mouse on a menu is an eyesore. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Now, coming down from the mountain gets a bit hectic, since we missed our "reserved" bus from the Kehlsteinhaus to Obersalsburg, hence the bus/train back to Salzburg. A quick search online brings up a long distance bus option called FlixBus; about the same travel time for half the price, no transfer. I go ahead and book it, only to realize that I booked a day ahead. #facepalm indeed. PAY ATTENTION. FINE PRINTS. SILLY MONKEY. I've been wasting too much money on transport mistakes like this, but I guess it's the cost of having flexibility, which allowed us to make it to one of the most stunning sceneries I've seen in my life. That being said, PAY ATTENTION. FINE PRINTS. DUMB MUTHERFUCKER.
FlixBus drop off back in Munich happens to be nearby Augustiner Keller, a massive beer garden where D'Animal watched a 2010 Worldcup game, needless to say a memorable day. So we make this our last stop in Bavaria, but by the time we get there the place looks dead; beer garden is more of a daytime hang. I do see a crowd inside the banquet hall, so I take a peek while D'Animal visits the boys room. The party is definitely winding down but it is before midnight - I ask a tall older gentleman behind the bar and ask for beer. Slightly taken aback by my English request, he calls for an older lady in a St. Pauley outfit who also speaks little English. By the time D'Animal finds me I'm doublefisting liter-steins which makes him ecstatic. As we sit at a long table where some of the wedding party are still hanging out, we hear a random snare drum roll in the distance and tap my fingers along. Almost immediately I notice an older lady next table is doing the same thing and we notice each other. She says there was a local high school marching band that performed earlier, and we got to talk. Barbara, an art gallery owner, turns out to be a straight-talker and a delight to converse with, and the first one to ask us about the current US political turmoil. I'd say she's not left-leaning, a conservative in a traditional sense, but sure does not say anything positive to say about our Racitst Cheeto.
Throughout many conversations I have on this trip, I would learn (or reconfirm) that the rise of nationalism and the pushback against globalization are very prominent, but they do not align with what we in the US call "conservative" or "the right." Not one person I talk to has sympathy for what went down in our election, let alone the man-child in the Oval Office. Make a case for them making observations from across the Atlantic, not fully understanding nor with all the information as to what's going on, but the fact remains; he is despised. Looked down on. The fact that has a very serious and real consequences because, no matter how tall a wall we build around us, we cannot isolate ourselves from the outside. We cannot escape into our suburbs. If they're confident in what they're doing, they have to convince the rest of the world that they are, cause no one (except for oil and weapon traders) is buying that.
Back to Barbara, who now reveals that she's one of the ten locals that have been coming to this joint for 45 years straight. Every day for almost half a century, at least one of the ten is here either with others that don't frequent here as much, or by themselves. They even have a table reserved. We lose our shit and demand that she shows us this table, which she graciously agrees to. It's not much; a rather bare 12-person or so wooden table with a few drawers underneath. On that hot and/or crowded day that D'Animal was here last, they were here, sitting on this table in a shade, watching the game. When M9 hit northeast Japan and Fukushima reactors went meltdown, when those planes hit the Twin Towers, when the Berlin Wall came down, they were here drinking at this table. Right next to her table there's one that's a bit more decorated, which belongs to another group that's been coming here just as long, according to Barbara. That is how they Munich. I'm in love with this woman. Or rather the culture to which she's given us a tiny peek. I ask for a selfie, like a goddamn Asian tourist that I am. Only with friends though.
Upon telling her how awesome my last trip to Franconia was, Barbara goes "Ugh, we don't like too much Franconian." Just had to hear her say it ;)
This Bavarian capital done give us the coldest welcome so far; getting $60 fine by DB right after the arrival, for merely forgetting to "validate" the ticket. After all the disservice, delays and cancellations they give us, they require that the customers (probably tourists who most likely will fail to) stick to this nonsensical system of locating a tiny box on the platform with barely no instruction written, stick your purchased ticket to have it stamped before getting on a train. SURE, everyone does that at all time. They also demand this fine paid by cash, which gives me great suspicion especially when there is no written citation given. Okeedokes. I feel the worst since I knew this. Was warned. I even remember to do this myself in Berlin, why didn't I warn my boy?
A little flashback to our time in Kassel, Oct 2016. We took a city tram with our lovely host Mayumi, who showed us around just a few of the best POIs we could stop in our limited time. A lovely walk by Orangerie and Karlsaue, an awesome dinner nearby, we fall in love and decide to come back. (see earlier post) On our tram ride back home, we try to pay but the machine would not take cash nor non-European credit card. Left with no option, Mayumi tells us, from her own experience, that it is legal to stay on since the machine is down. Of course then comes a stocky middle-aged gentleman checking our tickets, and literally starts yelling at us in German. Mayumi, less than one year spent in Germany, tries her best to explain in English but all we get is "NO ENGLISH! (then more German yelling) 250 euro! (even more German yelling)" we just try to maintain our cool. A young local tries to interfere and be our translator for a bit, but the company man just wouldn't listen. So he takes our cash and tries to stick it into the machine, sure enough it doesn't eat. He asks if we have CC and sure, but not the one it takes. He basically blows off steam from his marble-sized nostrils and walks away. Our eyes were teary.
This has happened to me before. Fuck was I thinking?
Then, at Hofbrauhaus the Original, the WORST service I've ever received anywhere; we grab a seat in the patio, but every server in the section proactively avoids any eye contact. Starving, we grab one of the pretzel girls and shell out 3.75 or so for a massive one. Fun to look at, dry for my taste. 25min later, some ex-wrestler/KSK/convict comes to our table. I ask for a Dunkel, Danimal an HB Original in a small glass ala Amsterdam style but he says they only serve 1-litre stein. The Karl Gotch comes back with Dan's OG and SLAMS on our table, a true "Bavarian style." Takes another 15min to come back with mine, upon placing the order he brings us a check then goes "Pay me when I give you food." All this could've been fine if this prison guard had treated us with a teeny bit more respect, but with the hunger, the exhaustion and the rage of DB fine lingering fresh, I lose my shit. Honestly ready to walk out, down our liter-size steins and ninja/French goodbye. Or take this knife and try my luck with our yoked-up correctional officer.
I've got my demons. I'm aware of them. Let's just say I try my hardest.
So the food comes, I give my card to the ex-con and he asks if I wanna leave a tip, in a slightly more gentle manner. I scoff, "Let me do that with cash, don't worry about it for now" I tell him.
To be fair, the sauerkraut was not bad.
We walk out, feeling ripped off. Having traveled 9 hours to be greeted like we did, demoralized. Outside, the astonishing sights of Marienplatz where a forest of selfie sticks rise towards Glockenspiel, and familiar brand names fill the ground level of age-old buildings just like they did in Amsterdam. After all the distance, we remain deep in the same belly of Behemoth saying "Welcome to the-place-you've-never-been, now open your wallet and drop everything." I went to HB in Berlin just a week ago. Been to one in fucking VEGAS. I'm laughing at myself for stepping into the same pile of shit many times over. I never learn. #facepalm Then I look up.
Einfarht. Ausfarht. Entrance and exit. Then around the corner from it;
We die laughing.
"You don't have to be smart to laugh at farts, but you'd be stupid not to." - Louis CK
I have to talk about the best glass of beer i had in my entire life. Place; Forcheim, Germany (Franconia) http://www.gasthaus-eichhorn.de/
The wedding party and I walk into a local restaurant that up until then had 3 locals playing cards in one booth. The mistake i made was not ordering their pork knuckle since I had just come out of a 3-week-voice-rest-plus-cleanse, and i was dumb. The blessing was that the first sip of their "dark" which of course they brew themselves - a sip that leaves you absolutely speechless. Speechless. it's the kind you do a double take and examine the glass in your hand. That feeling you know you're never gonna get and kinda ruins beer drinking unless it is THAT.
Of course I still keep drinking beer, but with the knowledge that it's just not the same. Guinness my blood, the only beer i allow myself to drink in the states, has been ruined since the night in Munich which will be discussed in a latter post. Have not made it to Dublin, yet I learn that what we get home is not the best it could be. Danimal says it's the quality of tap itself and the actual technique of pouring. I need to get to Dublin. I'll make it to Bali and hopefully to Hyesan, but Dublin is a must.
Some generalizations are made in the following text, feedback/insights are welcome but don’t be offended ;)
You think Germans drink beer like it’s water, which they do, but it doesn’t mean that they get wasted all the time. Considering the amount and frequency they consume, the number of drunken assholes spotted is next to none. When I say they’re serious about drinking, it’s the attitude. They don't lose control, which seems to be the point of drinking for some. The quantity is definitely serious as well, but not everyone drinks like Bavarians who almost seems to have their pride on the line to finish your stein as large as your torso. "Don't even bother with a smaller glass, what is wrong with you?" Bavarian beer definitely tasted better than other German cities, except for Forcheim. Let the battle of Franconia vs Bavaria begin.
German beer is pretty diverse in flavors, especially considering the Reinheitsgebot; by law, you cannot mix anything other than water, malted barley, hops and yeast. The flavors tend to be very vivid without being eager to stand out, or dare I say, loud. and CHEAP. Since they hate giving you tap water for a drink at any meal, you're given the choice of paying the same amount for either (sparkling) water or beer. and they come in beautiful tall glasses of varied shapes.
Now, Amsterdam beer culture has its own style which suits me better, giving people a smaller potion when requested to maintain the cold beer temperature for the time of consumption. They also pour straight down to a glass and cut the foam by the knife, or schuimmes, foam cutter, beer comb etc, further helping the speedy service. May not be as economical, but #zerofucksgiven As far as I can tell, most places serve either Heineken, Amstel or Grolsch on tap and not much else (given that we only went to older establishments) but almost always have an espresso machine. Same in Paris. I did double-fist a double espresso and a heineken at one joint if I recall.
While dubbed an "European Budweiser" by some true europeans i've met here, Heineken here is not to be fucked with by Dennis Hopper and/or Pabst Blue Ribbon. Fuck THAT shit.
The very first café that Danimal and I hit in Amsterdam was Karpershoek, established in 1606 as a guest house for the crew of the ships of the Dutch East-Indian Company. Let that sink in for a bit; the bar was here before the Unites States existed, hosting deckhands that just got off a 2-year voyage from East Indies carrying spices. Located right in front of the Centraal, it’s a tourist magnet yet never jam-packed inside as they tend to prefer the patio seating. It became our reset button every day, to sit in a wooden chair in a dimly-lit room, low ceiling, sipping a cold one with some old school R&B disco in the background (assuming it’s bartenders’ Pandora) comfortably separating ourselves from the craziness of outside.
Amsterdamers seem to have more relaxed approach to drinking, much like how they are in general compared to their siblings to the east. Dutch are kinda like Germans that smoke weed. Thomas Amsterdamer Manfiesto applies here as well; you do you and I do me. You wanna drink in a smaller glass? Sure, no one like a warm beer. I know you're visiting from somewhere, just pay for it and be a decent human, that's all we need to be cordial here. Long as you chill, the others also will. So we remained chill, some bartenders openly discussed with us their dislikes for tourists, including the ones that she just served a minute ago in front of us. Some douchebag from New Jersey replied to one of her comments by saying "I don't wanna hear about your stupid boyfriend" etc, so she proceeded to tend to her job, opening the hatch on the floor and disappearing into the storage right underneath where she stood. #DoubleTake The whole time we talked about the tourism which has been exploding in the recent years, none of the locals seemed hateful or overly emotional, almost like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ because that's how it is now. As long as they keep dropping money without destroying the city, they just do them and we do us.
I guess we have to talk about Thomas here. Next post.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. Currently travelblogging at #beatvagabond and working on new material.