Germany, Prague, and our tour of their beer halls...
12.07.2010 - 12.17.2010 20 °F
Beer and Bratwurst, could it be any better.
With it getting closer to Christmas time we were excited to be in Germany, to see some friends, and to explore the Christmas markets
…oh yeah, and I’ve heard the beer is pretty good too. In the land of Bavaria, where beer may have been invented, we hit the Beer Halls hard. In a state where it is declared as a food, beer was item regularly served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We immediately visited the Augustiner Beer Hall where we sat on the customary long benches, rubbing shoulders with the locals and enjoying two masses, in other words a liter of beer each, the only size that beer should be served in.
1 Mass, 2 Mass, 3 Mass...Floor
We spent the rest of the afternoon perusing the market stalls and made our customary dash for the train. Barely making it with about 2 minutes to spare we were headed to Eichstatt, a small German village outside of Munich, to stay with our friend Anke, our first couch surfer to stay with us in Tampa. We were actually staying with her entire family including mother, father and three brothers. It was so nice to see a familiar face since travelling for so long and we had the best time staying with her. She was an absolute amazing host and we were truly experiencing the traditional German life. Every night they prepared us a lovely meal of some traditional dishes which always involved lots of beer on the menu. She was excited to have someone actually surfing at her place as we were only the second people to ever visit.
We obviously had too much beer at dinner.
While in Eichstatt we still travelled back and forth to Munich some days, making sure to experience more of the beer halls in town. Taking our first free walking tour in the city we learned a lot about its history. We highly recommend the NEW”City Name” Tours wherever they offer them. We also enjoyed the city of Eichstatt while there and visited the castle and museum in the city. The museum actually houses the oldest known bird fossil in the word, found right there in the city…Jen was super excited.
Even better, while there we got to go sledding with Anke’s little brother. With Jen being able to count how many times she had seen snow, she lived up the moment by attempting to make snow angels and snowmen.
There goes Alec.
Here comes Jen.
Before dropping into the zone.
We spent a few hours in the snow that afternoon and were thoroughly exhausted. Enjoying the city so much we decided to stay two more nights in Munich with a couchsurfer in the city.
The next day was spent at the infamous Dachau Concentration camp. What a site to really see. Learning a lot about World War II and the Holocaust in school, it was nice to see where and how it truly happened. Spending well over 4 hours there we were beat and were meeting a friend in Munich later that afternoon. It had begun now to really snow and the trains were slightly delayed, we didn’t estimate enough time and missed meeting our friend. After a long day we decided to head back to the Hofbrauhaus for, you guessed it, more beer.
Watch out behind you, he may steel your beer!
Anyone gets close to my beer, I'll wack'em with my pretzel.
It was also a meeting point for our host for the next few nights, Liviu. Liviu was a fun character. He hosted us for two nights even with other surfers there already.
Gluwein at the medieval market.
We spent the days back in Munich enjoying the city and the nights at his place watching movies and sharing stories. One day we finally met up with our friend, Jana, who is the girlfriend of the infamous Sam Prior, our couchsurfer from London who stayed with us for a week and we are meeting for New Years.
Jana showing us the true sights of Munich. Potato pancakes!
Munich is just an amazing city. You know they actually consider beer a food there and what better way to experience it than for breakfast, Weiss beer and weisswurst…that’s white beer and white sausage for you guys playing at home. They say that the weisswurst can never hear the noon bells, meaning it had to be served before then. What better way to wash it down than with beer.
At the Paulaner beer hall, sometime around lunch...I think.
This was just our first city in Germany and we loved every minute of it, we couldn’t wait for more…but first we were headed to Prague in the Czech Republic, before seeing more of Germany.
Back to the East
Stepping off the train in Prague with no reservations, literally none, not even a place to stay, we immediately searched for internet. Thanks to a new age you can pretty much find internet everywhere for free. And if it is protected, simply the numbers 1-8 too many times work as the password. After getting connected we found a hostel for 6 euro a person/night, we immediately knew we were back in the East, enjoying the low costs. The city was really amazing and had it not been now towards the end of our trip I’m sure we would have stayed longer. The city was just amazing. It reminded us a lot of Budapest, on the edge of the East but with a lot of the influence from the West. The Czech Republic boasts itself as the highest consumer of beer in the world, sorry Germany you lose this round, and at the price, we know why. It is literally cheaper than water and doesn’t taste much differently. I will give them some credit, we visited a monastery there that brewed an amazing IPA, much different than the traditional Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser (supposedly the original) that everyone else enjoys.
The monks know one thing for sure, beer.
Another bonus for being back east, food portions. Here, a meal usually consisted of some large piece of meat with dumplings and gravy…no vegetable in sight.
Meat and more meat, and oh, with dumplings.
The city also takes pride in its astrological clock that every hour gives a show that is easily one of the most overrated attraction we had seen so far.
Wait for it, here it comes, ohhh...you missed it.
We took another free walking tour in Prague which was absolutely amazing and hilarious at the same time.
Cathedral St. Vita...at the largest castle complex in the world.
Our tour guide, Colin, was from Scotland and between historical info and humor, he was just great. Unfortunately the weather that day was a mind blowing -11 Celsius. We talked with family at home, it was around the same time Tampa was experiencing record lows as well, the only difference is we were getting inches and inches of snow.
This is where we perfected our souvenir shopping technique to avoid the cold. We spent about five minutes every 20 minutes of walking in a store looking at crap, most of the time, just so that we could begin to feel our toes again. While enjoying Prague we decided to experience a sense of normalcy by watching a few films at the cinema. With the release of Harry Potter while we were gone we thought we were going to have to wait to catch it in English but, to our surprise, they showed it in Prague. The only catch, it was only shown twice all day in English and the first day we missed it by 30 minutes, which meant we had to come back the second day. Also in Prague we experienced a wonderful concert performed by a flute, violin, and piano. It was nice to finally see a classical piece since we had travelled to so many cities that housed some really great composers. With our last stop in the east coming to an end we prepared ourselves for our trip back to Germany. Talking to family at home and hearing stories of the cold weather we were at least excited to get snow, it was literally dumping silver dollar size snowflakes at a nice calm pace.
It was then when we really knew we were going to be having a white Christmas.
In Germany I am free…
Arriving in Berlin we were amazed at the size of the station. This was easily the largest station we had been on in our 2 month rail adventure. It was 6 stories tall with a number of shops, restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacy, and of course…trains.
A little piece of home.
The first night was spent over a few German beers with our new hosts Andreas and Uli. With it getting closer to Christmas everyone was getting into the spirit. Their daughter would promptly wake us up every morning at 6:30am to open not one, but two advent calendars before school. Most our days in Berlin were spent wandering the sites.
Who's the better kisser?
We took another free tour but decided to end it early because it was bloody cold…we’re practicing our English for New Years in London. We spent some more time at the local Christmas Markets with their gluwien and bratwursts. While in a shopping mood we discovered a second-hand store that was 4 stories tall, everything must be bigger in Berlin. We ended up spending two afternoons there going through all the clothes and finding the perfect black jacket and beanie. The second day was spent with Matt, a fellow couchsurfer who had arrived from Spain with no winter clothes.
While in Berlin we visited some of the important sites: the Brandenburg Gate, Hitler’s Bunker, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Berlin Wall.
Holocaust memorial, a photographers paradise.
A couple of hours were spent one day at the Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, the architect for the new World Trade Center. The building was pretty amazing, meant to disorientate you while inside it is connected only by a datum of voids. OK sorry to get so architectural on you guys, I heard him speak at USF before I started grad school and have wanted to see the building ever sense. In other words, the floors were all zig-zagging and angles and a group of open spaces in line with each other connected them all together.
While in Berlin we shared a lot with our hosts. Cooking them a traditional American chili mac one night for dinner and talking about craft beers from the west coast. They were both really into trappiste beers, like those found in Belgium, and had traveled to the U.S. Uli was actually in a school for brewers. It was interesting to see their take on beer. Andreas had grown up in Bavaria, the home of beer, but didn’t want to settle for the typical Helles or pilsners found there. In Germany, in order for beer to be actually classified that it can only contain certain ingredients and nothing else.
On the last night in Berlin, Andreas, Matt, and the two of us went out for a typical German holiday meal consisting of a massive boiled piece of pig, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and mashed peas. After dinner we headed for a local pub/store where they sold all sorts of good German beers. We all purchased a few and headed for a brewery that was in the basement of the nearby college. En route we victoriously opened our beers on the metro in celebration of it just being allowed.
We are truly free!!!!!
Afterwards we headed home for some movies and beer. Matt and Andreas left around midnight for a club, the normal opening time in Berlin, and Andreas still wasn’t back when we left the next morning. Getting out of Berlin is a whole other story in itself that we will hold until the end of our rail pass which will include other freckled facts about our train travel.
Video for your viewing pleasure!
Sorry that it's sideways, but this one is for you Jackson!