June 10, 2007

That’s one Maß-ive Krug of Beer!

Since we are fast approaching our halfway point here in Germany, I’ve taken it into my head that I need to see as much of this fair country as possible – as soon as possible. And to that end, last weekend I dragged Kevin kicking and screaming to beautiful München, the birthplace of Oktoberfest. Although it is only June, you can easily spend your weekend going from Biergarten to Brauhaus sampling the delights of the Bavarian beers and the brass Oompah bands as if it were already September, which is when, oddly enough, Oktoberfest actually begins. And so, on our first day in München, that’s exactly what we did.

Our first stop was the Biergarten at the Chinesiches Tur in the Englischer Garten. It’s a strange fusion of cultures when you think about it: A traditional German Biergarten, surrounding a five-story-tall Chinese pagoda in the middle of a 18th century English garden, but if I’ve learned anything about the Germans, it’s their love of anything with a hint of Exotisismus. Anyway, the garden is supposedly the largest public garden in the world – even larger than Central Park, or so we heard a tour guide explain to a group of 20 American high school students. “So that means, if you get lost, you die, got it?” Um, got it. But even though Kevin and I didn’t have a map, we managed to stay on course just by following the general flow of traffic, which, after an hour’s brisk walk, led us directly to the Biergarten. (And to think, we were still only halfway through the park!)

Although this Biergarten can seat thousands of people, at five o’clock on an average Saturday afternoon, most are already filled. So I sent Kevin to get beer and pretzels, while I secured us some seats. When he finally returned, he was carrying a Maßkrug of beer the size of one of those Sam's Club peanut butter jars and an enormous pretzel. It looked like a snack for giants! “And where’s mine?” I joked. But Kevin was in no humor, “Do you know how much this cost? It’s like 20 euros!" “Besides," he said, “I couldn’t have carried any more.”

Of course just then, we saw a group of three large German men carrying trays of five beers apiece. Kevin looked chagrined. I joked that they must be carrying them back for their friends and family. But then it was my turn to be chagrined: They sat down at a table by themselves and began promptly throwing back their five liters of beer – and I suspect that was just to start.

In the end one Maßkrug filled with one liter of strong Münchener beer was more than enough for the two of us. Hell, I couldn’t even lift the thing until after Kevin had already drunk most of it! However, one pretzel – even one three times the size of my head – was just not enough. It is commonly believed that the further south you go in Germany, the better the pretzels are, and that München – the cultural and economic capital of Bavaria – has the softest, most buttery pretzels in the world. And being something of a pretzel connoisseur myself, I can attest: They do. So when in München, get your own pretzel, a big one. At the very least, you’ll need all the extra bread to sop up all that beer.

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