An American (or two) in Munich

in which I meet Brittney in Munich and do and see what the typical American goes to Munich to see. That is to say, Dachau and the Hofbräuhaus. This all takes place on Sunday, October 25–I was simply too busy to blog about it properly when it happened.

Back when Brittney came to visit, I decided that her arrival presented a lovely excuse for me to head to Munich for a couple days,ot lucky, thinking if I got lucky, I could even convince Brittney to go hiking with me, testing out my relatively new Alps guidebook (Mit Bus und Bahn in die Münchner Berge). What followed was a much more typically American experience in Munich than I had ever had. After some transportation disasters, we meet at noon on Marienplatz for our first reunion since Korea. Which, granted, had not been that long before. The day, though rain had been predicted, could not have been more lovely.

Marienplatz, Munich. For the most part, I feel like Munich is a city that is striking only in good weather.

We caught up over lunch and then headed out to Dachau on a tour. Probably not how I would have done it, but it was fine, and there were certainly things I might not have noticed had I not had a guide. The concentration camp was predictably depressing, but also extremely well-preserved (most were so completely taken apart that there is little left to see). Certainly it left us with much to think about.

The infamous gates of Dachau.

It was interesting to compare notes with our guide, too, who had been living in Munich some four months. At any rate, as our tour came to an end, she handed out surveys, and Brittney had a chance to be completely honest about her motives for coming to Munich:

And with that in mind, the rest of our evening was devoted to more light-hearted (light-headed?) pursuits. Namely, a trip to the famous Hofbräuhaus so loved by Americans. Brittney needed her Maß (the 1 liter of beer). And thus, a couple hours later, we found ourselves with our own liters of beer and toasted to the upcoming week of travel.

Prost!

At first, it was lovely. We sipped our beer and talked about Bavaria, Germany, and Brittney’s recent travels in Italy. I chatted a bit with our neighbors next to us, Germans from Bamberg, and we ate bratwursts, goulash, and an enormous pretzel.

And then things got a bit more typical. After our lovely German neighbors left, we found ourselves receiving some attention from the raucous English speakers behind us, apparently on a huge drinking tour of Europe. After being asked, we decided to go ahead and join them while Brittney struggled with her beer. They reminded us of all the reasons why I have avoided the institution to date. I think this pictures sums it up well:

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself or regretted going to the Hofbräuhaus. But it, like Oktoberfest, was more of an experience. A fun one  to have, but not one I need to repeat. I was glad to have done it. After a long, valiant struggle, Brittney finished her liter, which impressed me greatly. I didn’t think she had it in her. I, of course, can drink the Maß without a problem, but then again, I have been training for it. Child’s play, really. But I was excessively proud of Brittney, and we commemorated the moment with a photo.

And then, beers finished, we called it a day and headed back to our hostel. And an excellent day it had been.

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4 thoughts on “An American (or two) in Munich

  1. thoughts:

    1. I am not ashamed of the US. Heck, I had my kids today read an extremely glorified version of the Thanksgiving story. It was sort of so glorified, I almost wanted to be ashamed. Yet I wasn’t. Thanksgiving is really the best of all American holidays, and I think anyone who wants to understand something of America needs to find themselves invited to a friends and family gathering. The first Thanksgiving might be a sugar-coated gloss over some facts, but the truth remains, it was a great moment in history. Even more “native American” tellings of the story leave no doubts about this.

    2. That said, there are some things I do not like about the US, and being a proud citizen does not mean having to support such things. Today, I was even asked if I owned a gun. No way. Though I conveniently neglected to tell the kid that my brother does… 🙂

    3. I do admit that I sometimes sympathize with the speaker in the Forster quotation in the article (love that book and Forster in general). Sometimes I do get annoyed at obnoxious American tourists. Just like I get annoyed at any obnoxious tourists, whether they be American, British, Spanish, Israeli, or any other nationality under the sun. I also do not like being judged by the standards of some such tourists.

    4. The issue with the Hofbräuhaus crowd had nothing to do with them being American. In fact, it would be hilarious if it was, considering uh, none of them were actually American. It was mostly about them being rowdy and drunk. I don’t care if someone is German or American or Australian–I tend not to want to be around drunk people in general.

    5. Like the horror case, I, too, hope to pass for German. But that has nothing with not wanting to actually be German or not wanting to be American. I just want my accent and my speaking abilities to be not recognizably foreign, or if perhaps foreign, not recognizably any specific group of foreigners.

    6. Though I hardly think it needs mentioning, but the article so hits the nail on the head (we do say that expression in English, right?) when it says you learn more about your own culture than the foreign one when you travel abroad. It is the rare abroad experience that truly connects you to a foreign culture–I can say that I have pretty much managed that in Germany, but everywhere else, it has been elusive and fleeting.

    7. Finally, all my time abroad generally serves to indicate to others (and to myself) how atypical I am with respect to being “American” (I do my best with language, alphabets, (except in Japan–I just threw in the towel there), read a book or two on recent history if possible), yet simultaneously and perhaps paradoxically reminds me (perhaps others, too) of just how quintessentially American I am. The way I look at things, approach situations, solve problems, my inherent pragmatism and flexibility (ESPECIALLY those two things)–I will never make any apologies for such things. These are things I am happy to stand by. And all the more so when I am at least vaguely politically in line with the ruling government!

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