December 19, 2011

Munich and Bavaria

After leaving Switzerland we took a train out of Lucern to Munich, visiting a city that is renowned for all the typical stereotypes of Germany; liederhosen, steins of beer and huge beerhalls.... essentially the characteristics of the region known as Bavaria (Bayern). We stayed at a hostel right outside the central Hauptbanhof and had three days to explore the city and the region. Switzerland had left us exhausted and craving the comforts of Germany that we had grown to love, and Munich did not disappoint. We took a day trip to visit some world-famous, beer-brewing Monks at the Andechs Monastery, and took another day to venture to Munich's outskirts to visit Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp. In between we sampled many varieties of Bavarian eateries, which we grew quite fond of. We were particularly obsessed with the traditional Munich breakfast of "weisswurst" (Bavarian veal sausage, packed with savory meat and subtle herbs) and pretzels served with sweet mustard. And of course, served with a beer. We (Dave) challenged ourselves one morning to be the earliest beer-drinkers at the restaurant, and it was not even close. We entered a wursthaus at 9:30 am and nearly everyone was drinking a beer already. Christina's order of a coffee seemed to truly throw the waitress through a loop and indeed we imagined that the coffee machine hadn't even been turned on yet. 

In any case we'll keep this entry brief and let the pictures do the talking. The scene at the infamous Hofbrauhaus was so wonderfully wacky that we actually took a video of the thing to try and capture what it was like. 

Oh, the tender caress of a German liter upon one's cheek. Switzerland had been hard on us, and Munich welcomed us with open arms and piping schnitzel.

The entrance to Dachau, where prisoners passed through the gate promising that "Work will set you free."
"The Bunker" at Dachau, where Nazi officers were based and special prisoners and interrogations were held. The doors shown here were to the holding cells, cramped spaces that felt rank with history. Some had plaques commemorating notable prisoners but most were vacant and spare.
A view of the prisoners' holding barracks, one of which has been reconstructed. Only the foundations have been maintained for the rest. At the far end is the crematorium. A terrible, grim place, but one we're glad to have seen.
The walkway leading up to the Andechs Monastery and Brewery. A glorious place.

Seeking the Monks who brew.

As is custom in Bavaria, restaurants are self-seating and contain only long tables where you find yourself sitting next to all manner of strangers. At Andechs we met this wonderful German couple, Greta and Willy. They introduced us to their beer preferences and a delicious cheese, paprika and beer spread that was great on pretzels, and then invited us to their home for a coffee before driving us to the S-Bahn station so as to save us from the taxi ride out of the mountains. Wonderful people.

Greta informed us of this Bavarian custom that we later saw at many other beerhalls, the "Stein Locker." Apparently these mug-shaped compartments are passed on from generation to generation, treasured and rarely made available to others, and then only by rigorous written application. Some of the locks looked like they were part of the passing-down, ancient and clunky things. Willy was giving an insider tip on how to procure a locker; call the Monastery every single day until they relented.
At the Hofbrauhaus, one of Munich's most famous beerhalls. Bavarian flavored chicken and a crispy pork steak, served with different varieties of potato. Uh-mazing.

Inside the Deutches Museum, a staggering six floors of technological and scientific history and exhibits.

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