Monthly Archives: March 2012
If you’ve read my other posts on Munich, about Oktoberfest and the Starkbierfest, you might think that beer festivals are all the town has to offer. But that’s not all that’s cool about Munich, as I found out. The Marienplatz is a distinctly different type of European old town square area. Instead of many of them where there is a square formed around the original old church, the Marienplatz is just outside the ornate Gothic city hall. Though churches do flank the area. And in looking for the Cafe Glockenspiel I’d heard about I realized that there are about a half-dozen clock towers in the area. (By the way, the cafe I was looking for was not in any of them but in a modern building.)
I went to the Hacker-Pschorr restaurant near the Marienplatz for a lunch. I had the Bavarian meatloaf (offenfried liebenkäse) and a Radler. A Radler. I didn’t know what it was either, but it’s apparently a half beer half citrus drink. Fairly refreshing, but too sweet for me. The meatloaf looks like, and is basically cooked spam. Not recommended.
And no blog post would be complete without a post about a bar. The Euro Youth Hostel bar is a good one. Though the sign on the door says it’s for guests only, if you’re nice to Burt the bartender, he won’t give you much of a hassle.
You ever get the feeling that people celebrate wherever you go? I’m not talking about people smiling when you announce you’re leaving – I get that a lot. But I’m talking about thousands of people coming together with you in a celebration of you being there. Well it feels that way whenever I’m in Munich.
I’ve been here before, as you may recall. On my mystery trip I ended up in Munich for Oktoberfest. Now I’m not claiming that Oktoberfest was just for me. Clearly that’s not the case. But it did kinda lose some of its oomph (but not it’s oompapa) when I left. Or so I hear.
Now I’m back in Munich and come to find out there is another beerfest coinciding with my arrival. The Starkbierfest or Strong Beer Festival, is to be held the weekend I’m here at the Paulaner am Nockherberg Brewery, just a stones throw from town. These are semi regular events but I highly suspect that they plan them around the schedules of visiting dignitaries and soon-to-be-legends like myself.
So I walked along Fraunhoferstraße which turns into Ohlmüllerstraße across the river on the way to the festival. It’s a pretty cool street. Record shops. Antique shops. Place to get what look like real dirndls. But why is there a Confederate Battle Flag?
Went in to the festival – a combination outdoor and indoor venue. First thing I did was went and got a maß (literally “measure” but use here for a liter) of Salvator, a schweinefleisch haxe (which is like a pigs knee or something) and a bretzel and dug in. The haxe was interesting – seasoned with rye an deep fried so the outside was crispy and tasted like a pork rind (which it is) but fairly dry inside despite being full of fat. Tasted great though.
When it started getting dark and cooling down I went inside the festhalle and accidentally sat next to 3 Americans who are here working at a hotel on a military base. They’re students studying hotel management at the University of Oklahoma. On my other side was a group of Germans. It was one of their birthdays. The guy would randomly look over and loudly sing “I’m proud to be an American! And I’m proud to know I’m free!” It was so funny I didn’t correct him but let him just go on butchering Lee Greenwood for hours.
After a while of that we all split up an I headed up to near the front where the band was playing and where a lot of volks were singing and dancing. Every once in a while the band would strike up an English song like Country Roads and I would belt out the lyrics like the rest of them. I left as they were shutting the place down, having thoroughly exhausted myself on singing, dancing and drink. The event was definitely reminiscent of Oktoberfest and I guess most Bavarian beer fests would be the same.
Nuremberg, or Nürnberg in German, is famous for their bratwurst. And rightly so. Several types of sausages are made in the Franconia region. And about 300 active breweries in the area! Gutmann Dunkel is a good one that you likely won’t find elsewhere. All the beers and wursts I tried were great.
The Bratwurstkuche lays claim to the title of oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world! They’ve supposedly been serving up sausages here since before Columbus’ parents were even born. And though I’d suspect the place has been improved and rebuilt a time or two, it still seems pretty authentic - low ceilings, exposed beams, bricks and stone, etc. The famous dish here is the grilled version of their sausages that come with a pretzel and some potatoes or cabbage. It’s wonderful.
If you’re in need of an Internet fix when you arrive be sure to stop into the little Internet cafe in the main train station. From coffee to beer to wine to Jägermeister, they can quench your thirst. And you can sit all day on their Internet, unlike many cafes.
All through St. Sebald church in Nürnberg are photos of the area before, during and after World War II. You can see how the place looked and how they rebuilt. Some poetry crudely translated from German adorns the placards. Some of it is funny. The place is certainly worth a look if you’re in the area.
As I was on the way out of town I saw they had some kind of booth set up in the train station with a wheel of fortune and a line with people waiting to spin it. I had some time to kill so of course I decided to hop in line. When it was my turn I spun the wheel and it landed on 10. They gave me 10 little coins. I asked what they were for and they said it was good for 0.50 Euro each in spending at the train station. Cool!
So there’s apparently a delay at Borispol airport in Kiev. Nobody at the airport seems to know why. But according to the Kyiv Post, the massive delays at Borispol were caused by an unpaid bill. According to the article, the billionaire oligarch who runs Ukraine’s largest airline failed to pay his airport bill for so long that they cut the airline off and shut down operations.
I can’t verify this, but I have some theories. First theory is that it was an honest mistake, the digital check got lost in the electronic mail, and that everything will be resolved quickly and amicably. Second theory is that someone on one side or the other is relatively incompetent and just didn’t do what they should have. Third theory is that this is a broader social issue around oligarchy in the region. Fourth is that this was a move to make money.
The official story is that there was a systems glitch. This caused payment not to be sent or applied. And everything would be straightened out quickly. But given that shutting off an airline would take a positive action on the part of someone, and that it would be guaranteed to cause massive disruption and frustration, it seems like it’d have to be a huge glitch that persisted over months with nobody’s common sense kicking in to fix it. Otherwise the organizations would work together to get it figured out and there would be no disruption. So that leaves us with one of the other two theories as being more likely.
What if some incompetent bureaucrat caused the shutdown? Given the region’s reputation for incompetent bureaucracies that seems like a likely candidate. Maybe the check or paperwork sat on somebody’s desk too long. Or maybe somebody went on vacation without approving whatever needed to be approved for continued service. Or somebody was just obstinate about process, paperwork or whatever and didn’t do the right thing by the passengers. That’s believable.
What if this were an oligarch fight? Aerosvit is owned by an oligarch, according to the article. But it’s not clear who owns and operates the airport. That may be another oligarch. So maybe this is a feud. Or maybe someone at the airport decided to stand up to an oligarch who refused to pay for services. Or maybe the airport was trying to squeeze the oligarch for more money or power or some other reason. That’s fairly likely as well.
But a complete shutout of Aerosvit isn’t exactly what happened. Instead, flights were coming in on time, but not allowed to leave for hours. So
peasants passengers were forced to spend extra time inside the airport itself, not just backed up at other airports. And therefore they were more than likely to buy stuff – food, drinks, souvenirs, cigarettes, whatever. So really there was an economic incentive for the airport to keep people there longer than need be. Maybe not enough incentive to offset the loss of goodwill by the passengers and airline, but who knows. This would be just the thing to increase revenues in the short term – perhaps to pay for things like makeovers for security agents or ongoing expansions in advance of the European Cup?
To save some money traveling by train in Bavaria, get a Bayern-Ticket. Get a few folks together and take advantage of the 29€ ride all day pass – good up to 5 travelers. Don’t know 4 other people? That’s fine just hang out by the ticket machines and ask folks. Seriously! Regular fare is 30€ or so, this way it’s only 6€. that’s for the local not the express trains. Express is about 50€ and saves only 30 minutes or so from Nürnberg to München. But for 10% of the cost it’s definitely worth it!