Before Adventures of a GoodMan existed, I sent my travel updates to friends and family via e-mail and included a link to a snapfish album for photos.
The story featured in this post was one of those e-mails after a solo-backpacking trip through Bavaria, Germany, in 2006. I was 26 at the time.
Beer and the Hofbräuhaus
Simply put, beer is everywhere! I happened to be in Munich during a warm stretch and people were out in masses. Spread throughout town were a bunch of beer gardens, which are large areas filled with picnic tables and food/beer stands.
People of all ages come out for meals or just to hang out on a nice day, but whatever their reason is, they all have giant beers. How giant? Well, it’s tough to find beer in a glass smaller than a liter. It’s wild to see old men and women pounding these things like they were water. It’s also a very social environment; the picnic tables are huge and you just sit down wherever there is room and make friends with those around you.
In addition to the outdoor beer gardens, there are numerous indoor beer halls spread around town. In fact, beer and beer halls played a large part in the history of Munich and Bavaria. The main one closest to my hostel was the world-famous Hofbräuhaus. It’s just like the outdoor places except larger (it seats 5000) and everyone who works there (and many who don’t) wears lederhosen.
There is a band that comes around playing traditional music while everyone continues to drink their liters of beer and bang their glasses on the table to the beat. This then spills beer everywhere and menus and sleeves quickly become napkins, as real napkins are nowhere to be found. The best part has got to be just sitting there and people-watching the folks from all walks of life who sit down by you. I can only imagine what it’s like during Oktoberfest.
Seems I don’t have to be on a school bus in Nicaragua to have some crazy transportation stories. Let’s start with the last one. I booked a 9:30am flight home for Sunday, Nov 26, from Munich to JFK with a short layover in Amsterdam. Well, that Sunday I woke up before sunrise and made my way to the airport…exhausted from being out partying until 4am the night before (hey, it was my last night in Europe).
I get to the check in counter and hand the woman my passport…she has no record of my eticket..and since it was an e-ticket, I didn’t have good old-fashioned airline tickets to show her. I just had my printed itinerary. At this point I take out my printed itinerary to show the woman and immediately see that it says, clear as day, Monday, November 27…not Sunday! I hand it to her hoping she won’t notice, but of course she does and nicely circles my mistake for me (check out the pic). No joke, I must have looked at that piece of paper 1000 times and always saw the right date.
“What am I going to do,” I ask? “I have to be at work tomorrow.” She types a ton of stuff into the computer and replies, “Well, for $200 I can get you on the flight to Amsterdam today, but the flight to JFK only has business class…that’s an extra $1100.” After thinking about it for a while I decide that I will take the $200 flight change to Amsterdam and catch my scheduled flight to JFK the next day. I had seen all I wanted to see in Munich and was so irritated I would not have enjoyed any more time there, although another visit to the Hofbräuhaus would have been nice. So I got on my 45 minute flight and spent my last day and night (take 2) wandering around Amsterdam taking photos and seeing the 21st James Bond movie – Casino Royale – in my second country (I saw it on German opening night).
The Disney Castle and a Ride on the Autobhan
One of the main reasons I chose Bavaria was to visit the Castle Neuschwanstein, which Walt Disney based his Magic Kingdom on. I had always seen amazing photos of it and wanted to take my own. Well, the hostel I was staying at in Munich had a sign up sheet for people to meet in the lobby and travel together, as the train ticket there was cheaper by the group. Juan from Chile was the only person that joined me on my adventure.
I told Juan upfront that I wanted to stay through the sunset to take pics and he agreed. So, we headed off together and after a two-hour train ride getting to know each other and looking at the amazing Bavarian countryside, we arrived in Fussen. The castle itself was gorgeous, massive and set in the middle of the mountains with the Bavarian Alps as the backdrop.
Before taking our tour we went to the best place to take photos (a bridge above the castle), but I never saw the exact view I had seen on postcards and the one I wanted to shoot. Well, after taking a tour of the castle I stopped into the gift shop and picked up a mousepad with the view I wanted and asked the cashier where I could take that exact photo. “You need a helicopter,” she said. “And if I don’t happen to have my helicopter with me,” I asked? “Then you go back to the bridge.”
Well, with little other choice left, Juan and I returned to the bridge and started snapping more pics. As it was super crowded and there was an hour till sunset, we decided to check out the dirt trail that continued past the bridge. It ended a few minutes later but there seemed to be a way to get higher up so I convinced Juan to come on an expedition.
This was the best idea ever, as our final spot was a few hundred feet above the bridge, had a better view of the castle as well as a stunning view of the Alps reflecting in a lake (a view that was blocked by trees on the bridge). With no one around and a view stretching out hundreds of miles, I really felt like I was on top of the world up there and just watched as the sun set over the alps.
By the time I got down from my vista the castles were beautifully lit up, so I got out my tripod and started snapping away. By this time, Juan was anxious to get going but I was determined to take a few more pics.
Apparently, so was this other guy who was setting up a tripod next to me. We started talking about photography in English – no German Translations required – and after like 20 minutes he said if me and Juan didn’t mind waiting around until he finished up that he would give us a ride back to Munich, as his hotel was pretty close to ours.
We accepted his offer, as it was late and the trains were not running as often, and soon found ourselves on the Autobahn. It was insane, we were going like 140 kph (around 90) but people were zooming by us going well over 100 mph. It’s amazing how slow 90 felt. Needless to say, we still made it back to Munich well before our train would have arrived.
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Observations from Bavaria, German: This & That
Germans don’t jaywalk in Germany; even if there are no cars coming they will all just stand there: it’s very weird.
The Eurail train system has the most leg room I’ve ever encountered.
There’s a crazy permanent wave in the middle of Munich where people surf all year round.
The Glockenspiel is the most boring thing ever!
I got stuck on a train from Holland to Germany because they couldn’t properly “convert to the German power source.” Their solution was to switch tracks and try to “jump start the power while moving.”
You meet the most interesting people when you travel alone.
I drank beer in places where Hitler tried to stage revolts before taking power.
Brent and Larry also messed up their flight home and were stuck flying back from Amsterdam on Thanksgiving Day.
I was constantly older than everyone I met at the hostels: the youngest being 17.
It’s hard to NOT sound like Borat when talking English to a non-English speaker. (For the record, random hostel people made this observation, not me).
The most beautiful sunset I saw was in Augsburg and had nothing pretty to frame it against…oh, and if you’re ever in Germany you can feel free to skip Augsburg.
At the Hofbräuhaus I met a guy named Greg who was from New York City and loved the New York Mets as well as seeing a dude I ran into at my perch “atop of the world.”
I had 198 work emails waiting for me upon my return despite everyone knowing I was gone.
No matter how much time you go for, it’s just never enough!
- Hofbräuhaus Band Plays
- More Hofbräuhaus fun
- People dance and have fun at the Hofbräuhaus
- The “highlight” of the Glockenspiel in Munich
- Surfing in Munich