around the world – part 33.5 (hiking in franconia)

February 03 2009:

They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun – to which I might add, only mad dogs and Canadians go hiking in the midwinter freeze.

Schwarzachtal - looking north towards Mettendorf

Schwarzachtal - looking north towards Mettendorf

 I foolishly took up an offer for a ‘short’ walk in the neighbourhood which turned out to be a three hour hike over hill and through dale in a clockwise fashion along icy roads and paths, up steepish hills, through woods and eventually back to the salvation of the AmMarkt and beer.  [Is there nothing that beer can’t do?].  Notwithstanding the distance and duration, I must say that I did enjoy our excursion – enjoined at a pace calculated to keep warm and burn off enough calories to justify a gutmann helles *or three upon completion.

This little corner of the world is known as the Schwarzachtal (or Schwarzach Valley) named after the meandering stream which flows roughly north to south, paralleling the Autobahn 9 (A9) into the Altmuhl river near Kinding.  The valley is situated firmly within the Altmuhltal Natur Park, one of the largest wilderness** areas in Germany.  In summer it is full of cyclists, hikers and due to the favourable updrafts, plenty of gliders.  It is without a doubt one of my favourite corners on the planet – beautiful without being overstated, far enough from anywhere to escape hordes of tourists, and yet no more than an hour from Munich, twenty minutes to Nuremberg and dotted with tiny hamlets and towns.  


 *helles:  light [as in colour rather than alcohol content] beer.   As opposed to Dunkles or dark beer.   Other useful beery words to know:  “noch einz bitte” – another one please….

**wilderness being a relative term of course.

around the world – part 33.2 (free beer)

Jan 30 2009:

img_0016I do like a good beer, and I especially like not having to pay* for it.  

Question: if Air Canada can offer Harp and Sleemans in their Maple Leaf Lounges why are we stuck with sludge like Molson Canadian and Heineken in flight?


*yes, I know I am paying for it in my ticket, however I like to delude myself into imagining it is everyone else on the flight who is buying my beer so to speak…

around the world – part 27.3 (bavarian second breakfast – do-over)

13 April 2008:

It is 0915hrs and anticipation is building – less than two hours to go until Weiss-wurst, Bretze and Weizen – truly one of the best (possibly accidental?) combinations of food groups ever discovered.   Later, a quick blast up the autobahn to Wurzburg to view another of the apparently limitless supply of historic places.

More later……

around the world – part 25.5 (rauchbier)

December 09 2007:

About an hour north of Greding, and approximately half an hour north of Nurnberg lies the town of Bamberg at the junction of the rivers Regnitz and Main and also a UNESCO world heritageSchlenkerla Rauchbierimg_0046_edited.jpg site.  It is a gorgeous little town, often overlooked by those crowding into img_0046_edited.jpgimg_0046_edited.jpgRothenburg o.d. Tauber, and just as well.   Among its more well known attractions are the seat of the ErzBishof (ArchBishop) with its residence and cathedral, and St Michaels monastery.  Perhaps a lesser known attraction is the Schlenkerla Rauchbier or Smokebeer.  On occasion, colleagues of junior are known to haul cases of Schlenkerla Rauchbier through town on their way back to Greding…. 

 How to to get there:

  1. By Car from: Munich:  A9, north to Nurnberg – follow signs for Erlangen, then A73 to Bamberg.  Most of the car parks are on the east bank of the Regnitz river and a short walk over some quite picturesque bridges into the old town.

around the world – part 17.4 (oktoberfest)

Sept 2006: 

octoberfestOktoberfest – the saga continues…Some of you may remember that at this time last year I had written of going to Oktoberfest in Munich.  Last year successful, this year not so much.  Not that it was entirely unsuccessful, just not what we had planned to accomplish.  Some background is in order for those of you who may not know what you should need to know about Oktoberfest.   First, it isn’t held in October despite the name.  It is held in the last two weeks of September every year.  Second, Munich, a city of about 2 million, receives about 6 to 7 million visitors in those two weeks, thus it is wall to wall humanity in the train stations, subways, downtown and at the Theresienwiesse.  Third, Oktoberfest is hugely popular with families because despite impressions, it is not simply a huge drinking binge. It is, by now, a family affair complete with rides, carnies and of course the beer tents.Beer Tents: many of the large German breweries sponsor their own tent – but they are quite unlike any tent you may imagine. They are semi permanent structures complete with wooden floors, tables, chairs, washrooms, mezzanine levels and stages etc. The Hofbrauhaus’s tent holds approx 8000 patrons with their competitors capable of holding similar numbers.  Although there are tables with seating, the average tourist will never obtain one as they are booked up to a year in advance – most attempt to claim a standing table and remain there as long as they are capable of standing.

The beer arrives largely in 1 litre mugs known as “Maas” (although I suppose for the weaker patrons one could with some embarrassment order a smaller beer) wielded by sturdy waitresses carrying on average about a dozen at a time. Patrons are expected to order and consume their beer at the same table because the waitresses ‘rent’ their tables from the establishment and thus it is a faux-pas to order your beer at one table and then take it to another – since you have not ordered it from the waitress at the table you have just arrived at.   Last year we were successful in obtaining a table at the HB tent but this year things worked out somewhat differently although satisfactorily in the end.

The story this year:  We departed by car from Greding to Ingolstadt Hauptbahnhof where we purchased two group tickets to Munich. Group tickets are the way to go, since 5 people can travel the entire transit system all day for 25 euro  including the Regional Express from Ingolstadt, the Subway, the  “>Schnellbahn, streetcars and buses. Unfortunately we departed a little later than we should have as it turned out. Important tip: if you intend to get into any of the beer tents – arrive no later than 0930hrs.  By now you will have guessed that not only did we arrive much too late, we didn’t get into the tent – not at all.

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