"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It is that time of year again when London is at its most dreary. It is cold and the sky is steel grey. So, inevitably, are the people of London with Christmas cheer nothing but a memory and the next payday a few weeks off.

As ever, this is the time when DH need to get out of the city, go somewhere warm and sunny and recharge our batteries. Last year we chose, er Berlin where it was -7 and snowing. We still had a fantastic time what with all that currywurst. So, when it came to choose this year’s trip we looked to Germany again and stuck our pin in the poor, unfortunate city of Munich.

HP went into overdrive with his planning and I came home one day to find him poring over every guidebook he could find in the bookstore alongside a plethora of notes he had already printed out from the Internet.

That of course, was all well and good. We have a perfect system when we travel together. HP does all of the preparation to create a basic framework while I am the one who extemporises when we are there by going “what’s down that alleyway?” It usually works a treat. I have to admit to being a little more alarmed than usual this time however, when I found that HP had also found what kind of plane we would be flying on from City Airport and, not only that, had downloaded a clip of said plane from You Tube. At this point, I had to leave the room.

Anyway, Munich it was and, after a totally painless flight, we arrived at Munich’s Terminal 2, collected our bags and headed to the city. Only we didn’t. HP’s research had told him that the airport not only had a large selection of shopping options, it also had its own beer hall, Airbraeu who brewed their own beer. It would have been incredibly churlish not to stop off for a quick one or two.

Munich, as we were to find, has a huge range of dining options. Just about every cuisine you can imagine is on offer and at prices which go from the cheap and cheerful to the nosebleed inducingly expensive. We had made a definite decision to stick to traditional Bavarian places on this trip and started as we meant to go on by ordering a large bowl of Grammelsmaltz to accompany our beer. Basically, its fat folks. But this is good fat, laced with fried onions and bits of local ham it is what dripping wants to be when it grows up and, when spread on rye bread, perfect with the house brewed beers.

By the time we had drained our second large glasses, we had a nice buzz, which lasted all the way to our hotel and saw us fortified to head out onto the streets.

HP, of course, had most of Munich’s beer halls marked out on a handy sized map. It was not quite as frightening as a recent trip to Spain where every asador in Valencia was marked with the word MEAT in large letters, but I still had to admire the effort involved. Me? I was just interested in more beer and, of course, some wurst.

I will leave you to make your own wurst jokes. There are thousands of them, I am sure. But, for the people of Munich, the subject of sausage is no laughing matter it is a basis for an entire lifestyle. From the morning Weiβwurst upon which the light of noon must never shine to the schweinwurst that slips down all too well with a dark Dunkel beer, there are hundreds of the things and the people of Munich attack them with considerable gusto.

In fact, the people of Munich, Bavarians, not Germans as they are keen to remind you, do most things with considerable gusto and it is easy to see why. Munich has the highest quality of living in the country and the opportunities to enjoy your self are everywhere from the restaurants, bars and cafes to the galleries, museums and parks. It is a lovely city and, down to the foresight of its forefathers who had all the original plans, was rebuilt completely in style after the decimation of WWII.

Our first stop was The Augustiner Beer Hall on Marienplatz which just about summed up Munich and the attitude of its people.

On a Friday lunchtime, it was packed to the rafters with locals and visitors enjoying the food and the beer. But there is no sign of being ripped off here. Regulars and tourists rub shoulders perfectly amiably with no sign that the former will try and rip off the latter just because they are visiting. In fact, compared to London, prices are incredibly cheap and a Dunkel accompanied by a plate of schweinwurst set us back about £6.

The Dunkel started getting good to us at that point, so we headed around the corner to arguably the most famous of all Munich Beer Halls, The Hofbrauhaus. Being the most famous, it is of course, the largest magnet for tourists and at mid afternoon was packed with drinkers from many nations, including ours. It is perfectly fun and the oompahing of large, ruddy faced men in leather making a perfect soundtrack to more dark beer, but there are far better beer halls in Munich, so, after one drink we headed out into the cold air.

German beer is not for the faint hearted. It is strong stuff. Fortunately because of the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity laws, it is not full of crap like so many lagers in the UK and leaves you less prone to hangovers. Mind you, it still leaves you prone to getting pissed and, once the cold gets on your kidneys, in constant search of a place to have a pee.

So, we walked and, every now and again, dipped into a bar to top off at one end and siphon off at the other. It is a great way to spend an afternoon and Munich is one of the loveliest cities you can imagine spending it in.

By the early evening, we were ready to meet up with our new chum, Stephan Berg, who is one of a group of eccentric German bartenders who form an alliance called The Travelling Mixologists.

I first met Stephan at The London Bar Show where he interviewed me for his website using a microphone hidden in a cucumber. You had to be there, I guess.

Anyway, although hailing from East Germany originally, Stephan is now well and truly ensconced in Munich and had set his stall out to show us a bit of nightlife. He certainly did that. If the restaurant scene in Munich is vibrant, it pales besides the bar scene which is top notch with mixing as good as I have encountered anywhere.

Drinks first at The Sofitel before moving to the spectacle of the gorgeous Falks Bar at the Bayerichehof Hotel, one of the few rooms in the hotel to survive Allied bombings.

In between the cocktails which were beginning to take their inevitable toll by now, Stephan heeded our pleas for some hearty Bavarian grub and steered us in the direction of The Ratskeller, a restaurant situated under what was formerly the Town Hall. Stephan took control and we were soon presented with large plates of wurst with mashed potatoes, cold meats and bread with various toppings including some more of that excellent grammelschmaltz.

Once more, there was nothing dainty about it but, with the freezing cold on the outside and a challenging mix of beer and cocktails on the inside, it was just what we needed.

Two final cocktails at two of Munich’s best known bars, Schumann’s and Tobacco, saw us finally hit saturation point and stagger to a taxi and back to the hotel.

As ever, on our first day in a new city, excitement had got the better of us and we had over done it. However, if you are going to over do it, there are few better places than Munich to choose.


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Anonymous Jaws said...

Must have eaten the best of the wurst munchen in Munchen...Jaws

Sunday, January 20, 2008 1:58:00 am  

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