Arrived in Munich today. Super weary. Almost a month on the road now. The intense work and my growingly annoying habit of enjoying the nightlife between longs bouts of shooting has me on fumes. Some bullshit with lost bags and air travel began my time here, but spirits perked when we stopped at the Weihenstephan brewery and beirgarten. Thanks to a snarl of traffic, our bus driver, Claus (who I ended up spending a lot of time with randomly over the next few days), had the foresight (and thirst I assume) to take a detour and stop at the abbey for lunch. The monks set up shop here in 725 AD to be close to a miraculous water source (the natural fountain still bubbles away in a cave below the grounds). Open since 1040 AD, Weihenstephan is the oldest continually producing brewery on earth. Arriving at my first true Bavarian biergarten, I gorged on the usually brots and kraut, and of course had a liter. The Kristallweisbier (unique filtered hefeweissen) was an amazingly refreshing and pretty beer. Back on the bus, everyone is stuffed and exhausted, but we plod onward. Excited for my first glimpses of Munich!
Munich is a nice change of pace. The city is just plain pleasant, thoroughly driving home that I really enjoy Germany. I learned here that Germany has been a contested and divided area for most of its history. The country we know today is historically a bunch of regions cobbled together by outside forces, and each region retains its distinct culture and traditions. Bavaria is a lot like Catalonia, North Ireland and Texas in the respect that the citizens identify more with being Bavarian than being German. People really wear lederhosin here, and they have a distinctly different variation on the language that even my ignorant ears could detect. Between our ever awesome tour director, Alex (a native of Bavaria), and the language barrier hindered chats with Claus, I learned a lot about the everyday life in this part of Germany. Alex taught me the word used for the Bavarian fondness for the simple pleasures in life. “Gemütlichkeit” is the state of being content, comfortable, relaxed. I cracked myself internally thinking back to my initial shock going from Italy to German. Turns out Germans have a decidedly less sexy sounding word for “La dolce vita”, but the sentiment is the same. Here in Bavaria they definitely enjoy the good life, say it with me : ga-MOO-licksh-kite.
Beer is undeniably a staple down here. Obviously being the home of Octoberfest adds a touristy element to the abundance of beer and biergartens, but many of the most recognized German breweries have existed here for centuries (Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Hacker Pschorr to name a few). Pretty much any down time we had, we spent at an amazing biergarten or bierhaus. Yes, a lot were touristy, but all fantastic places to drink huge beers and socialize. Obviously I’ve been to beer-gardens in the States that try to replicate the German standard, but the sheer immensity of these places in Munich caught me off guard. Football field sized outdoor arenas for enjoying one brewery’s selection of brews. My new BFF Claus told me early on that Augustiner was the best and preferred brew for locals so that was my go too, and on our last night we ventured out to the Augustiner Biergarten. Of all the places we checked out the Augustiner is my favorite. I had an attachment to the brand thanks to Claus, but this place stood out. All bavarian biergartens seem to have the same elements; rows of outdoor picnic tables, cafeteria style food serving, and a constant flow of beer to be picked up from a kiosk. The Augustiner took the cake. It was packed with a sea of beer drinkers, seemingly bigger than the others (which is saying something because they are all huge), and not for nothing it was the first place I took an entire liter in one pull. No standing ovation sadly…
7/19_Back to NYC
It feels weird to be going home. I’m exhausted, but as the last days ticked by I developed an urge to keep going. Germany turned out so amazing that I find myself wishing I could keep exploring. It feels like I’ve been gone a hefty chunk of time, not just a month. Florence, Venice, Lido, Verona, Milan, Berlin, Munich. Mostly work, but a lot of reflection and experience. The people I’ve met, places I’ve seen, and self discovery I’ve contemplated add up to an unforgettable little journey. It’s as if I’ve grown so accustomed to life on tour that “homecoming” is weird. It’s not the anonymous hotel rooms, shlepping bags of gear, long days of working/walking/seeing, but the oddity is the return to “normalcy”. The added layer of weirdness at the moment is that through some lucky accident on my transfer in Amsterdam I was upgraded to first class. I’ve never been and this shit is awesome! I’m trying to pretend I’ve been here before, but every time the stewardess comes over and offers me something awesome (as I recline in my fucking massage chair of a seat!), I feel like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places. The stewardesses are nice, they took my dinner ORDER, and they keep giving me champagne…for FREE! I’m pretty sure I could go fly the plane for a bit if I asked. “Flight attendants please take you seats…”, about to land back in New York. Back to reality, stewing in my thoughts and memories. The beauty of travel.