Bier Trip to the Homeland: Munich Themes and Variations

Everyone seemed to survive the night, although a fair contingent did not make it to the delightful breakfast at the Eden Wolff Hotel.  Interesting quote from breakfast:  “I have trouble finding good liverwurst in Chicago” –Amy Bier, age 25.  The hotel is located just across from the city’s main train station, and I enjoyed watching the early Sunday morning traffic slowly increase in the early morning sun, as backpackers and travelers arrived to the city.  My roommate, Joan Shadel, is an excellent travelling companion.  In all, I recommend both her and the hotel.

Our formalized tours starting tomorrow, today our group split up.  A contingent went to the Museum district.  They took in the Documentation Center, a new museum at the site of the now-razed Brown House.  This is where Hitler launched his party from, and the museum details the personalities and situations that led to the rise of National Socialism.

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A light repast of pretzel, emmentaler, weisswurst, bier & cribbage at the Viktualienmarket Biergarten 

All who went learned something and came away with questions and answers.  Another intrepid trio also continued on to a hike around the city and the English Garden that yielded a total daily step count of 34,196 (11 miles).  They were the only ones to truly earn their dinner.  Louise and I became knowledgeable with the old area of Munich with the help of Rick Steves, and probably can now carry an umbrella as official tour guides.

 

 

The group reconvened for a lovely evening at the famous Hofbrauhaus, where we joined by my cousin Emily Laning who arrived from a work trip to Bulgaria.

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Prost!

 

Let me organize my observations into a few themes and variations:

 

 

 

MUNICH THEMES AND VARIATIONS

Leiderhosen  are a thing that people wear for real.  True, they are de riguer for the employees of tourist-heavy areas.  However, I spotted a fair number of common citizens attired thusly:  middle aged men shooting the breeze, a homeless man sifting through the trash, a guy next to us at the biergarten looking especially natty in an embroidered denim ensemble.

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Leiderhosen and Dirndls:  on trend and coming to a neighborhood near you.

Catholicism is a big thing in Munich.  A lot of the historical sites have something to do with stomping out the “Protestant Threat.”   We were touring churches this morning, a Sunday, during mass time.  The incense hung chokingly heavy in every church we entered, and I was surprised to see the pews mostly full.  We learned that St. Michael’s Church was built by the Jesuits as their northern outpost in the fight against Protestantism during the 1500’s.

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St. Michael slaying the so-called and much feared “Protestant Threat.”

St. Peter’s Church contains a weirdly fascinating side altar containing the bones of St. Munditia, a 4th century martyr.  These were a gift from Rome for a job well done–defending against the Protestant threat.

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Relics  of St. Munditia at St. Peter’s Church

The heart of the city is the Marienplatz (“Mary Place.”)  It contains a 16th century column surmounted by a gold statue of Mary.  The base has cherubs at each corner defeating symbols of the four greatest threats to the city at that time:  the dragon of war, the lion of hunger, the rooster-headed monster of plague and the serpent of–wait for it–Protestant heresy.

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Marienplatz.  Look at that cherub kicking some Protestant serpent butt!  (Note:  I do not endorse kicking anyone’s butt, Protestant or otherwise.)

You can’t escape the memory of WWII.  From the museum I mentioned above, to the fact that anything old only looks that way after being rebuilt, the shadow looms long.

The name Bier can get you anywhere.  The entire desk staff at the hotel knows us and our name.  In fact, the concierge was palpably confused when I told her that people back home are often reluctant to pronounce our last name correctly when reading it aloud for the first time for fear of offending us.  (We tend to get a lot of “Buyer” type pronounciation.)  The hotel bartender gladly received instruction on how to make a proper Wisconsin brandy old fashioned.  (The German version is basically brandy over ice with a slice of orange and a hint of bitters).

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Hofbrauhaus conviviality built on Bier–literally & figuratively.

Uncle Jim has pulled out his driver’s license so many times to flash his name that I’m thinking of getting a lanyard type situation for him to just wear it around his neck. This was done to greatest effect at the Hofbrauhaus, where Gene managed to score us a table for 10 in an impossibly crowded courtyard and a new friendship culminated in shared beers, gingerbread hearts, and hearty handshakes.

There’s always room for dessert.

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Apple strudel. The polite and of the table and . . .

 

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our end of the table.  How’d that hole get in the table?

 

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Disney Detox

I haven’t written for a bit.  That’s because a little over a week ago, we returned from a family trip to Disney World.  We were there for the World Dance Competition, which was simply amazing, but more on that later.  I want to discuss a radical proposal.  Now, I love me a Disney trip.  I am seduced by the attention to detail, the amazing customer service, and the familial joy.  Note, however, that I did not refer to said excursion as a “vacation.”

Family Vacation

“Family Vacation,” Normal Rockwell.  Yup, this is about right.

By the end of a Disney jaunt, I feel like a wrung out dishrag, and the faces of the parents at the Orlando departure gate would indicate that I’m not alone.  We all sat with a slightly glazed look while our children, high on sugary, sunburned energy buzzed around our aching feet.  Likewise, a number of the dance moms who’d gone on the trip posted celebratory couples only shots at Summerfest over the subsequent week, reveling in their alone time.  Please don’t get me wrong:  I realize how lucky my kids are to have gone to Disney more than once in their young lives.  Heck, my first trip there was in the fourth grade, via full-size van and involved running out of cash on the return trip and a drive straight-through back home.  I get that it’s a special treat.  But for the parental set, I’d like to suggest some modifications that will allow for the noun “Vacation” to apply.

A Radical Proposal:  Disney Re-Entry Experience, a.k.a. Disney Detox

This 1-2 day experience will be located well away from any tempting Disney-related attractions, lest you feel compelled to check off one more “most-do” item from the list.  I’m thinking a parking lot near the airport or a nondescript office park on the outskirts of Orlando.  It doesn’t have to be a glamorous location;  nobody will be going outside for any length of time during re-entry.  It just needs to be outside the sphere of Disney (and other theme park) influence.

I’ve drawn up some sample language for promotional literature.  Let me know what you think:

During the re-entry process, parents will be gently separated from their children.  We acknowledge that you love them, but during this re-entry period it is important for you to attend only to your own toileting / hunger / thirst / entertainment / impending meltdowns. Children will undergo their own re-entry experience in the care of qualified, boringly-dressed professionals who do not give out autographs or call anyone “princess.” Daily programming will include clearing one’s place at the table, unembellished sandwiches / cereal / casseroles for meals, being responsible for one’s own belongings, and long periods of boredom. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine without you for two days.  Besides, let’s be honest–they need a little time away from you as well, Ms. Sweaty Boob Crabby Pants.

book nook

The adults-only facility features muted color, dim lighting, soft music and staff without name tags.  The option for separate bedrooms is entirely up to you and your partner.  Trust me, we get it.  Daily programming consists of napping, reading, board games, spa time, TV watching, and yoga or light stretching.  You can go for a leisurely walk if you must.  There is no schedule, opening / closing times, or lockout period for any of these.  YOU CAN DO THINGS WHEN YOU WANT, THERE IS NO NEED FOR A FAST PASS.

In addition to our serene detox environment, we are proud to highlight the following:

 

  • An excess of bathrooms.  You will never have to hunt for them or pre-emptively empty your bladder in anticipation of a long line.
  • Set menus requiring no decisions and no discussion of allergens.
  • Common areas arranged kind of like study carrels in a library–cozy chairs arranged such that you can avoid eye contact and, as a result, forced chitchat with any other re-entry guests.  For those inexhaustible extroverts among us, there will be a dedicated chatting lounge.  It is in pristine shape as it has never been used.
  • A return to a cash economy.  You must be shaken awake from the ridiculous ease with you have moved to paying for things with your wrist.
  • Foot massages.
  • Evening sunset-viewing from our shaded deck with 2+ dedicated chairs for each guest to choose from.  There will be NO fireworks.
  • Did we mention the foot massages?
  • No ponchos.  Anywhere.

feet in bed

 

So who’s with me?  I figure all we need to do is line up a few investors, arrange for a drop off point for the Magical Express, garner the support of the legions of Disney Mom Bloggers, and we should be set!