Friday, January 16, 2009

Beer and Good Times in Germany

The last couple of days on Twitter, various people have been tweeting about what they were doing 10 years ago and it has taken me on a very pleasant trip down memory lane. In January 1999 I was a mere 20 years old, feeling pretty invincible and starting to discover the joys of travel.

I spent the academic year in a Bavarian town called Passau – which lies on the Austrian / German border and where the Rivers Danube & Inn converge.  This beautiful town was a perfect base from where to explore Central Europe and it gave me a real taste for independent and authentic travel.  Many people will not have heard of Passau, but it is a place where men still wear Lederhosen at the weekends (and not in an ironic sense) and there are 4 local breweries serving the alcohol consumption of a 50,000 population.  Each brewery was beautifully located, with the obligatory beer garden and served good old fashioned Bavarian cuisine, a far cry from the All Bar Ones and Pitcher and Pianos that I was used to back home. 

One of the highlights of the year for me, was a beer festival called the Mai Dult. This was a local version of the well known Oktober Fest,  organised by the breweries of the town.  As a slightly self-conscious 20 year old, I would never have pictured myself dancing on the tables to an oom-pah band, a huge stein of beer in hand, but there I was. Elderly men sat with us at our table teaching us the words to the drinking songs (which still occasionally come out now after a few too many) it was one of those experiences where you felt totally absorbed into the environment and felt you truly belonged to the community. 

A few years later, Ben and I went to Munich for the weekend and having told him all about the Maidult, we went to the Hofbrauhaus there to try and recreate the experience. But somehow, being sat in a room with no local people and lots of English speaking tourists, it was all different.  There was no dancing on tables, but even if there had been, I don’t think I could have done, it would have seemed too false.

Do I come across as a pretentious travel snob? I hope not, but I do truly believe that you find some of the most authentic and real experiences when you lose your inhibitions and throw yourself into something, rather than expecting an experience by numbers to be delivered to your plate…

1 comment:

Lisa said...

1999 brings back great memories! My husband and I spent a fantastic month in Australia, stopping in Singapore on the way home.

I enjoyed every minute of it except (it has to be said) Ayers Rock, I was waiting for the glorious sunset over Uluru and the reality turned out to be water cascading down the rock. The locals thought it was fabulous as this rarely happens but my lasting memory was feeling cold and wet in a 'strange' place. I'm sure it would have been different in the sunshine!