When in Amsterdam, a trip to the Heineken brewery is most certainly a must-do. And if last month’s Sunday posts made you long for the mountains, this month’s may make you thirsty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This picture may appear to have been taken through the window at a traditional beer hall somewhere in Bavaria, but it is in fact, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Specifically, at the very cozy bar in the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery complex.
Four years ago at this time, I was on a trip back home for a fairly crap reason. But at least it gives me the opportunity to share a picture that proves how prevalent the German influence in my home state really is. Can’t swing a stick without hitting a bratwurst in Milwaukee… or a Fonzie statue. But that’s a picture for another day. 🙂
Once again it’s June, and that means that the Veldensteiner brewery has plastered the city of Nürnberg with its latest round of advertisements. Previously they’ve featured a freaky-deaky Snow White, and Noah’s Ark. This year however, their artist, Bruno Haberzettl, has decided to take on the selfie culture.
As an aside, I loathe the word “selfie.” However, it’s a whole cultural issue that just makes me nuts and it’s Friday so I shall stay off of my soapbox. For now anyway…
On to the art!
As to the beer drinker’s reaction to the selfie, on the rare occasion that I’ve seen tourists take pictures with Germans in the beer gardens or beer halls, they have looked at least somewhat happier than this guy does. So that’s good news.
BV and I decided that since Veldensteiner has taken on the selfie trend, we should get on board with it as well. Please enjoy this selfie, and a rare sighting of BV on the blog.
Luckily for us, our favorite local Gasthof has the Veldensteiner dark beer as their house specialty. It is delicious, and even better when we can enjoy it on the terrace under their giant chestnut tree which absolutely drips with pink blossoms in early summer. It’s safe to say that we look much happier than the guy in the ad, even if you can’t see our faces.
Last week, I read this incredibly funny post over at “Oh God, My Wife is German,” which had me giggling for a few days. I was very surprised by his comment that Kästen (cases) of beer were only bought by college students about to get obliterated, and while I have seen more than one case being dragged through a train by lederhosen-clad youths, I thought the time was right for a post on the mighty Getränkemarkt.
Most villages around here have at least one Getränkemarkt, or drinks market. Supermarkets do sell drinks, of course, but the majority of people load up on drinks at one of these markets instead. They have more selection, and I think they’re a bit cheaper. BV and I typically take one trip there a month, but this was our first trip since early July. We picked up quite a lot last time before my parents visited, and then took a week off the sauce after they left, so I think the beer lasted longer than usual this time.
Our local drink market has shorter hours than the normal supermarket, which means they’re only open until 4pm on Saturdays. This week we managed to be up and functioning on time, and loaded up the car to make our run. We left a few partial cases at home, but this is what we took back.
That’s two cases of water, one of juice, and four beer. It’s necessary to bring the cases back full in order to get your full deposit back, hence why we drove to Italy with six bottles of water in the car, and “DON’T THROW THEM AWAY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. They must return to Germany or the Pfand (deposit) gets all messed up!”
Our market is fairly small, and the people who run it are super friendly. When you arrive, you can load up your Kästen on their special flat-bed carts, and bring them in. The ladies will make a note of what kind of cases you have (different cases/bottles have different deposits on them), and if they aren’t busy, they’ll help you unload the cases onto the conveyor belt that takes them into the back. After that, you’re free to shop.
In our little market, you’ll find two and half aisles of beer, half an aisle of “limo” or soft drinks, a huge Coke corner, an aisle of juice and Schorlen (juice mixed with carbonated water), and two aisles of water. They do also have a selection of wine and liquor, and up at the front of the store you can find some six-packs, and small kegs of different beers. If you’re looking for imports such as Guinness or Czechvar (the ridiculous name given to Czech Budvar/Budweiser outside the C.R.), that’s where you go. If you want cheap, crappy, German beer like Beck’s, you got it. Also, if you’re looking for the flavored “girly” beers like the Veltins, this is your corner. I love the baby kegs. I shudder to think how many of those the average college house party in Wisconsin would go through. I’ve heard if you want an adult-sized keg, they can be ordered but it’s not too common. I’m guessing the Pfand on that would be absolutely ridiculous.
While BV and the lady sorted out some confusion with our cases (she had mixed up our slip with another customer), I admired the postcards.
Sorry about the cigarettes (and the iPhone quality of all of today’s pictures), but if you look to the left, you’ll see a ton of postcards. As I said, this is a small place, and the people are super-friendly, and I love that the customers all send them postcards from their travels. I think it’s lovely. We might have to do that, if we ever go on vacation again.
Finally, it was time to load up the car. Saturday’s trip was a light one, just the necessities.
BV was very amused by my taking pictures in the shop, and so I told him about the post that I read. He thought the story was pretty funny too, and then we started talking about the difference between buying cases and singles. He said that most people just don’t want to go shopping that much, and also want to be prepared, so they prefer to buy cases. And most of the time when we go to someone’s home, it does look like they have a mini-Getränkemarkt in a cellar or tucked in a closet.
Of course, when I lived in the city (and up four flights of stairs), I never bought a case. Typically it was a few bottles at a time, and he said that usually the only people who buy one or two beers at a time are the old, alcoholic ladies. Thanks, honey.
I left out the part where most of the time I just bought 3€ bottles of wine, because wine paired better with trashy reality TV and microwave popcorn. Heyo!
Have you been to a Getränkemarkt? Do you also think that Becks is the worst German beer?
Last weekend was a long weekend (yet again), due to Corpus Christi on Thursday and then the inevitable Brückentag* that almost everyone takes on Friday. Add to that the current World Cup madness, and you have a recipe for general feelings of festivity around every corner.
Since it was a long weekend, it was only right to take full advantage of that fact and indulge in an assortment of very, very, very Deutsch activities. First up….
A beer fest. Like you had to ask.
I heard about this beer fest back when I first moved here, but always managed to miss it until this year. Before in this blog, I’ve gone to beer fests in tents, under trees, and pretty much everywhere else, but this one is a little bit special. That’s because it takes place in the Nürnberg Burggraben. What the hell is a Burggraben, you ask?
Literally, castle moat.
Damn right, it’s a beer fest, in Europe, in a moat. From a castle.
Personally, I found it to be a much-needed reminder that though I spend a lot of time on this couch, worrying about things like money, and time, and life goals…. I still live in Europe and it’s awesome and I can go to beer fests in castle moats. Yes.
This year, the Fränkisches Bierfest Nürnberg, offered about 40 varieties of beer from Franconia, our region of Bavaria. Sadly I didn’t get to try all 40, but I did have three, along with some fellow English teachers who joined me for the event. Seating was fairly easy to come by, and though the sky threatened, only a few drops of rain fell. The fest extended for quite a long way underneath the castle, and bands were sprinkled along the route. There seemed to be a little something for everyone, and even balloons and some rides for the kids. Hopefully the children stuck to drinking Radler, at the very most.
I didn’t take a ton of pictures (too busy concentrating on the beer), but here are a few….
In this picture, you can see one of the bridges that crosses the Graben behind the castle. The moat and old city walls aren’t complete anymore, but they do still surround a good portion of the Altstadt, and there are walking paths and gardens inside now. And beer fests.
A very dramatic Creperie lit the night for us. I’m sorry I don’t have more details on the beers, but I will say that they were good. Specific, I know. I tried one from the stand on the right in the photo above, but I don’t remember the second part of the name. Blogger fail, as per usual.
So yes, part one of a very German weekend was festing. As for part two…. that will come shortly.
Does anybody want to help try all the beers next year? 😉
More info on the Franconian Beerfest (stay tuned for next year!):
*Literally: Bridge day, a day off taken between a holiday and the weekend. Some companies leave it up to the employees, but quite a few companies are entirely shut down on those days, presumably to avoid the chaos of people trying to beat out their colleagues for the day off.
Do you hear that? The ominous thumping? Sounds like an Oompah band mixing with the bass line of German Schlager music, aka DJ Ötzi and company? (Side note: if you don’t know what that is, Google. 🙂 I’m not linking to the silliness.)
If you hear that, it means that you are somewhere in Bavaria and there is a fest nearby. Don’t see anything? It’s easy to find one, just turn around. Summer around here is pretty much a non-stop traveling parade of giant pretzels, people in Dirndl und Lederhosen, giant beers, and brightly lit rides. In the mail the other week, we got a complete guide to all of the village fests in our area, so if we want to, we can pretty much hit one a weekend from now until September. At least we can’t say there’s nothing to do on the weekends, right? Almost every village has it’s own separate Kirchweih, which just lasts a weekend. The bigger towns and cities will party for a longer time though.
A note: according to most people, a Kirchweih is officially a celebration to mark the anniversary of a town’s church. Somewhat suspiciously though, all of these seem to take place in summer. Kirch (church), is still in the name, but at this point the religious aspect is as elusive as a Wolpertinger. Today, it’s just a fun town celebration, an excuse to put on your Dirndl and do a little ridiculous dancing. Some traditional aspects remain, and many villages still put up their Maibaum at this time. According to the poster for our village fest in a few weeks, this will happen so I’m hoping I can get there in time. I still haven’t seen one go up, and I want to see this!
Since our fest isn’t for a few weeks though, today I’d like to share with you the Mother of All Franconian Fests: the Erlangen Bergkirchweih. Around the area, it’s affectionately known as the Berg (or Berch), or the much-less clear Kerwa. To be honest, that might be spelled wrong but that’s how it sounds in the Franconian accent. Except less clear. I’ve been hearing about this from my students since I arrived here, and was assured that this was Franconia’s (our region of Bavaria) answer to Oktoberfest. In fact they said, it’s better, because Germans actually GO to this one. I said that I hadn’t gone to Oktoberfest and not run into any Germans yet, but I would take their word for it.
Now, I don’t think I got the full experience, as we were there early in the afternoon on Saturday, but it was enough time for a beer and a few pictures. I was very happy that I had convinced BV to go along with this, as he was convinced that it would be packed and horrible. Which is exactly what all my students had been saying for the last three years as well.
“Germans go! It’s better than Oktoberfest! But so many people! I don’t go!”
I’m paraphrasing three years worth of conversations here, but you get the idea.
Granted, Saturday was hotter than bejeezus, so perhaps it wasn’t as crowded as it could have been, but I thought it was totally fine. But, once you’ve survived The Pit, aka, the standing-room only area in the middle of the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest, no other fest looks crowded in comparison. A word of advice? If you’re at Oktoberfest, do not go in The Pit. It’s horrible. Just don’t.
We walked up the hill- hence the Berg in Bergkirchweih, bypassing all the food goodies, until we reached the row of Keller. This was a pretty cool thing, I thought. At Oktoberfest, each brewery has it’s own huge tent, or Zelt. There aren’t any windows, so you have no idea what’s going on inside until you get in, and that’s if you get in! Once you’re in, you have to get a seat at a table in order to get a beer. If you try to flag down a waitress while lurking in the walkways, they will knock you over with the ten empty Maß (liter glasses) that they’re carrying. Or worse, the ten full ones. Those ladies do not mess around. Get out of their way. At the EBK (I’m lazy, sorry), there are different Keller, which are large seating sections, stepping up along the hillside. Underneath the seating area was a place to walk up and buy beer, and some had stages at the top. Most of them served Tucher (the beer from Nürnberg), or Kitzmann from Erlangen.
After taking a look down the row, we found a place in the front row at one of the Keller. This was easy to do as that was the only place exposed to the sun, and as I said before, it was hot. Our table was reserved later in the day, but that was no problem as we weren’t planning on staying too long. BV drove, so his fun was limited. We weren’t sure if there was service, as we didn’t see any waiters or waitresses, so BV consulted with the next table. They assured us that there was service, but said it may be faster to just go get the beer ourselves. This is a definite advantage over Oktoberfest… waiting for a beer there could be an Olympic sport. We were thirsty as could be by this point and waiting was not going to happen.
BV ran to go get us beer, and I baked a bit in the sun. While he was gone, I realized while he was gone that we were sitting in a Keller that served Tucher beer! The brewery had another name, but was owned by Tucher…. uhoh. It’s the biggest brewery in Nbg, and they’ve bought up a lot of smaller breweries, but usually it’s still their beer in the glass. Neither of us are fans of it, and there are just so many better beers around here! Luckily he caught our mistake too, and returned with liters from the Steinbach brewery, a small brewery right down the hill in town. Yes, we sat in an area with the incorrect beers. For shame! To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a big no-no, but better safe than sorry. When a waiter finally did pass our table, we turned our glasses just in case. I’m not big on scoldings from harried waitstaff, sorry. I would normally show you a sweet beer picture here, but the only one is of me looking very warm, so we’re skipping that today. BV needs to work on his portrait skillz. As far as cost goes, a beer this year was 8€ everywhere we saw, plus of course the 5€ deposit fee on the mugs.
The seating areas were pretty full, but as I said before, it was early so things were still fairly tame. There was the usual array of bachelor/bachelorette parties, people in weird costumes, and of course, plenty of people in Tracht (traditional clothing, aka Dirndl and Lederhosen). We enjoyed our delightfully cold beers, and watched the show. These adorable ladies were selling shots, presumably part of a bachelorette shindig, and I’m not sure what’s holding the attention of the gentlemen better. The girls, or the shots… what do you all think?
Not a great picture, but you can kind of get an idea of how the terraced seating looks. I absolutely loved being under the trees and in the open air! I will say though, that if you’re clumsy, you may want to consider drinking as close to the main thoroughfare as possible. The steps up were a bit steep and tall. A few Maß and I could see people tumbling down faster than Humpty Dumpty! And once the table dancing starts later in the evening…. look out. There were a fair amount of warning signs but who knows how effective they are. Drink with caution, kids.
We headed out in search of lunch after our beer, as we wanted something more substantial than fest food. But there was of course time for a few more pictures. The next one I’m including for a few reasons: 1) it shows part of the edibles area, 2) it includes the terrifying ear of corn that appears at all fests and sometimes haunts my nightmares, and 3) there are children in Tracht. Kids in Tracht are pretty much the cutest damn things in the world, but no, I will not be producing any in the near future. Sorry not sorry.
But since I don’t want to give you all nightmares too, I won’t let that be the last picture. Instead, here are some pretzels and the Erlangen Schlossgarten, on our way back to the car. Not a bad place to lay in the grass and people watch, right?
Have no fear, we absolutely had a pretzel. On our way to lunch. Fest!
So if this post has at all convinced you to head to the Bergkirchweih, you’ve got a few more days to do it. The fest ends on the 16th this year, so strap on your traditional finery, hop a train, and get on over here!
Have you been to the Berg? What are the best fests where you live?
Almost exactly two years ago, I posted about a particularly frightening advertisement by Veldensteiner Bier that was all over Nürnberg. If you’re feeling brave, you can see the original post right here.
This campaign featuring the art of Bruno Haberzettl is still going strong, and I finally remembered to get another picture to share with you. While these are nowhere near the scary factor of the Snow White one, they are still pretty ridiculous. Apologies for the iPhone quality and my finger getting slightly in the way… next time I’ll try to take the pictures before I drink several of the beers. (No promises, though.)
Speaking of beer, there was a list on Buzzfeed yesterday that happened to be sponsored by one of my very favorite American beers, Leinenkugel’s, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. If any fellow Wisconsinites are out there reading this, click away, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I consider myself somewhat of an authority on cheese curds so #1 immediately made my mouth water. An average trip home for me involves at least 4-5 stops specifically to eat cheese curds. Also as an alum of UW-Eau Claire, I got a chuckle out of both #14 and #28. I don’t miss #19 AT ALL, but I miss #20 like the desert misses the rain. And we just may have to grill tonight to fulfill the three commandments of bratwurst. Yum!
Anybody else want some cheese curds? Or will a nice, cool, Veldensteiner hit the spot?
Have a great weekend!
Last weekend was pretty action-packed. BV had his birthday on Friday, Saturday we spent in the car to Frankfurt and back where we picked up my friend Katie who visited for a few days, and Sunday we had planned to do a beer hike with a bunch of BV’s friends. All week the forecast was pretty crummy, but it slowly improved to the point where we felt safe venturing out. Sunday dawned absolutely gorgeous, and we felt pretty good about our chances.
This was the third beer hike that I’ve done since living in Germany, but this was the first time on the Fünf-Seidla-Steig. One of my classes recommended it, and it has the advantage of being a lot closer to Nürnberg than the one that I’ve done before. The disadvantage to this one is that it isn’t a round-trip, instead it’s pretty much a straight line. You can make it a round-trip, but that ups the hike from 10 kilometers to 19 kilometers. We thought that might be a little much with five beers along the way, so we opted to take the bus to the far end, and make our way back to the train from there.
We met half of our group at the Nordostbahnhof in Nürnberg, then hopped a train to Gräfenberg. The train was full of fellow beer hikers, some already with drinks in hand, some with their trusty Nordic walking sticks, and a whole group with yellow flowers in their buttonholes and on their hats. In Gräfenberg we waited a few minutes for a bus, and then took a 10-minute ride to the far end of the hike in Thuisbrunn, where we found the first brewery.
|Gasthof Seitz, Thuisbrunner Elch-Bräu|
The beer garden at Gasthof Seitz was already about half-full, despite the early hour. Beers were served up those stairs in the second picture, from a man inside a rock. The building was surrounded by rocks with doors in them that I can only assume led to hobbit holes. Table service was also available from servers in Dirndl, provided you could wave one down to get you a coffee. After beers for some, coffee for others, and some small morning snacks, we were off again for Hohenschwärz, our next destination. Along the way we soaked up some sun, and enjoyed the green fields, yellow flowers, and blue skies….
|Towers on hills in Thuisbrunn|
When we reached the next brewery, the Brauereigasthaus Hofmann, we planned to meet up with the rest of our group who were only doing part of the hike. But before we could reach them, we had to get through a stag party. They had been at the first stop as well, and we had been a bit perplexed by the pink bat-like suit that the groom had on. The mystery was solved though when they stopped us, and tried to convince people to take shots at the groom for prizes. What does that mean? Well Katie was about to find out…
We were really confused about the holes in the outfit, but now it was explained. You had the option to kick or throw through the holes for prizes, or to just go for broke and hit the groom in the “foul” center circle… aka, try to hit him in the nuts. Sadly, she missed entirely, but they still granted us entrance to the packed beer garden and the rest of our group.
|Beer garden from the front, and no room at the inn.|
We had lunch and beer, but no pictures of either… sorry. My mug didn’t have a cool brewery logo on it, and so I picture-failed.
After lunch, we wrangled the over-worked waitress (clearly they were not planning on a busy day), and got the group on the way. The next chunk of the hike was a bit further, but again we enjoyed the blue skies and green fields.
|Pictures of pictures.|
|BV has focusing issues.|
|Katie and I enjoy fields.|
Sadly though, those gorgeous blue skies were not to last. As we came into Gräfenberg, the sky was beginning to darken…
The third brewery was at Friedmann’s Bäustüberl, which was also pretty packed.
We did all manage to find seats, and even drank most of our beers/waters/colas before the heavens opened on us and we all smashed our way under the umbrellas with all the other guests. It was a pretty short cloudburst though, and so we continued on our way. This was the end of the line for half of our group, so we parted ways and they headed for their cars. The rest of us bravely soldiered on, and made for the last brewery of the day in Weißenhohe. There are two breweries in Gräfenberg, but unfortunately the second, the Brauerei-Gasthof Lindenbräu, was closed for the day. I guess that means we’ll just have to do this again sometime. Preferably on a day with no rain in the forecast.*
My students had warned me that one end of the hike involved a huge hill, and therefore you should do that end first. They were right, as we did have to hike up and then down an enormous hill, and I should really learn to take notes on things like that. On the bright side, it was raining a lot at that point, so we didn’t get too over-heated. Silver lining!
At the bottom of the hill we found our last stop for the day, the Wirthaus Klosterbrauerei Weißenhohe.
The rain had pretty much stopped when we arrived, so we opted to sit out in the garden. It was really gorgeous, with the trellises all covered in wisteria. The servers mopped off a table for us, and optimistically went around cleaning off the other tables, and redistributing the cases of coasters. This was short-lived though, and when we started to hear thunder rumbling again, they went running around recollecting everything. We were about two-thirds through the last beer when the sky opened up on us again, and we ran into the Wirthaus for protection. We thought we’d be able to grab a table and maybe have a piece of cake before the train, but the place was completely packed and a table for eight was impossible. Instead we lingered in the entryway, finishing our beers, and watching as soaked people came in, went into the dining rooms, and came right back out again. Next time, we might want to try for a reservation.
When the last beers were finished, we took the short walk over to the train station, and headed back to the city. Despite the rain, it was a really nice day, and I’m looking forward to trying this again… preferably with some sun, and all five restaurants open for business!
More info on the Fünf-Seidla-Steig (in German)
*Which means it may never happen. German spring, you are on my shit-list.
I first visited the Alps in 2001 as a 17-year old on a post-graduation France trip. It was my first time to see “real” mountains, and not from an airplane either. Initially our group had fought our teacher on the decision to do a 3-day extension to Chamonix at the end of our 17-day tour. We all wanted to go to Italy, but our teacher wouldn’t budge.
“The kids last year hated Rome. It was hot and crowded.… we’re much better off going to the Alps,” she told us. We whined a lot, but it was to no avail.
We arrived in Chamonix after a hot and crowded few days in Paris. We were there for the end of the Tour de France, and so the city was packed and our un-airconditioned hotel provided no relief from the heat of the city in July. We were all country kids, we’d been traveling for two weeks, and this was so far out of our comfort zone it wasn’t even funny. But then…
…and also this….
I was sold. We took two cable cars and an elevator to visit the Aiguille du Midi, which gave us a view from 3842m. Far below us the brightly colored jackets of the mountain climbers stood out in the snow as they made their way up Mont Blanc. It was an amazing view, and I couldn’t believe that some of our group had opted out due to their fear of heights!
On the way back down we took a break between cable cars and ran around the side of the mountain. There was snow in the shade of some of the huge boulders, and we went sledding in our jeans. We’d been traveling for over two weeks, it’s not like they were clean anyways. In the sun the grass was green and full of wildflowers. I wanted to change my name to Heidi, get some goats, and move on in.
Turns out, our Madame C. knew best. Just don’t tell her I said that.
After France I had to lead a mountain-free existence for many years. It was sad, and sometimes I felt like Bilbo Baggins….
But then I came to Germany.
One of my first trips in Germany was to Berchestgaden. And once again, I was hooked.
I love everything about the mountains in Germany. Here are 10 reasons why….
1) I love the rolling landscapes…
|View from the Feldburg in the Black Forest|
2) And the ummmm…. pointy-er landscapes…
|View from the on the Zugspitze|
3) I love getting to see the same views in summer and winter…
|Both views from before heading up the Zugspitze|
4) I love the picture-perfect mountain towns…
5) And the picture-perfect mountain town festivals…
|All from Berchtesgaden|
6) I love fields of sheep behind Alpine hotels….
7) And hiking through fields of cows wearing giant bells….
|On the Feldburg. Shhhhh, don’t tell BV he’s on THE INTERNET.|
8) I love whatever this is….
9) I love the view from the top…. oh, and the feeling of accomplishment from getting there on your own two feet….
|View over the Blaueishütte, Berchtesgaden|
10) And I love that you can get a beer at the top whether you took the hard way-hike or the tourist train (or bus, or cable car, or whatever).
|At the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden. Shh, don’t tell my dad he’s on the internet either.|
Now I’m not saying that I’m looking into real estate or anything, because I’m not looking to “settle down” right now. But someday I would love to live in the mountains. I’m okay with being a city mouse for now, but in my opinion nothing would be better than waking up to this every morning…
Unless of course, it was if I was looking at that view from a house that looked like…
It’s a little close to the road for me, and a little big, but you get the idea. Wooden shutters, geraniums, cows next door… I love it all.
And of course I’d have to go whole hog on the decor….
|A little blurry, sorry.|
But if you’re going to live in an Alpine-style house, you have to go all wood and floral and deer on the inside, don’t you? In retrospect I think this is all due to the fact that when I was a kid, I wanted to live David the Gnome’s house.
And over a nice big fireplace, I want to hang these pictures. They are currently for sale at a nearby antiques shop, and I know this is REALLY WEIRD, but I love them. LOVE THEM.
Actually these pictures are what started this whole post off. Talk about a train of thought rerouting. Yeesh. On second thought, it might be time to leave Germany, because I’m clearly going insane.
Mountains? Beaches? Where do you want to go?