March 13, 2006

fallin for munich

After a rocky start, I thoroughly loved Munich. Interestingly, I originally only had Munich as a sleepover point between Berlin and Venice. I'm glad I changed that. Munich and Bavaria are beautiful, both city and country. Everywhere you turn, you run into traditional German towers and arches and clocktowers. The town, the people, and the traditions are charming.

I found people in Munich to be very friendly. This seemed to surprise several residents I spoke to. Apparently Munich has a reputation in Germany for being very stuffy and insular. I didn't find it that way, though it may just be that like any smaller city, people are naturally friendlier. One guy suggested my experience in Munich vs Berlin was similar to going to Portland vs New York or LA. In a larger city, people just don't have time or desire to bother with others. Munich's size also probably made it much easier to enjoy. It has an excellent network of trains and subways and of course, is the home of Weissbier! Bavarians (and Germans in general) like to drink. Beer here is sold and drunk like a soft drink is in the US. At newsstands, on the subway, walking down the street.

My biggest regret is that I missed the main part of Starkbierfest. Starkbier is a spicier darker beer with a much higher alcohol content, but unlike dark beers in the states, it doesn't have a heavy, thick, filling quality. Starkbierfest is like a mini gay Oktoberfest. The website (in German) that I found said it ran from 1pm to 11pm (as best I could translate it using my Mac). I had been out late Saturday night at another Starkbierfest party and while probably too inebriated for my own good (Jagermeister shots are common here too!) I slipped on an icy sidewalk and busted my wrist and hand while stumbling home (shut up! In my defense: I saw two others slip on the same spot). Between that and researching and booking my Venice stop (and my own laziness and procrastination), I ended up not making it out to the fest til around 830pm. I walked in to a few groups of drunken skinheads leaning all over each other and the band packing their instruments up. It was like walking into a one-time showing of a movie and getting there as the endcredits roll. Amsterdam and Berlin are late towns - go out at 11 on any night of the week and people will tell you you're way too early. Munich is an early town (especially for beer festivals, I was told). Lesson learned. Defeated but determined not to let my Munich experience end there, I stopped for a Bratwurst and then went out to my favorite watering hole, the Ochsengarten, and found myself among a lot of revelers from the fest who weren't done themselves - including some of the same skinheads and others in their leiderhosen. I met a lot of good people last night - a transplant from Vancouver and another from South Carolina, a visitor from Scotland and another from Hamburg, and I finally got to have a starkbier for myself. I love Munich.

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