Pub Crawl through Bamberg

Bamberg, spared from war, is a gorgeous medieval town in the heart of Franconia. Franconia, a region in northern Bavaria, has close to 300 tiny breweries, and we believe Bamberg must have more, per capita, than any other city in Germany.

Of the nine breweries within town, Kyle partook in five.

Now to properly set the scene, you must understand that Kyle loves beer. I mean really loves beer. And he’s spoiled in Seattle with so many craft beers accessible in local bottle shops. Beer abroad tends to be a bit more one note, i.e. lacking diversity.

In our journeys, he’d experienced the likes of Sapporo, Asahi, Angkor Beer, BeerLao, ChangBeer…all the Budweisers of their respective countries. He stumbled across a few limited craft beers in Japan but nothing monumental. Germany, too, has a limited range of styles, so Bamberg pushed the envelope just a little.

Craft Beer Discoveries in Japan & a BeerLao Afternoon

Craft Beer Discoveries in Japan & a BeerLao Afternoon

He came home from his afternoon brewery tour with those serendipitous stories of local interactions that seem to occur more when the sun goes down and the alcohol intake goes up.

At Mahr’s Bräu, he met a bachelor party, celebrating their friend’s impending nuptials. The groom’s role was to sell shots of schnapps at each celebratory stop and Kyle purchased a few to help out…although he decidedly does not feel about schnapps the way he feels about beer.

The famous Schlenkerla, known for its smoked beer, was packed and Kyle grabbed his beer at the window, stood outside and watched the street life go by…families stood near, kids playing while the parents drank and socialized.

A Few of the Brewery Stops

A Few of the Brewery Stops

At the Fassla brewery, Kyle was invited into a circle of middle aged family men on their annual trip from Würzburg to Bamberg breweries. On their way to catch the train home, they stopped into Fassla for one more drink and chatted Kyle up. Upon learning of our rtw trip, they asked why and when Kyle answered “for my wife,” they all cheered and toasted. Upon leaving they affixed on Kyle a button signifying Franconia, which he came home wearing proudly.

New Friends

New Friends

His favorite beer? The Bochbier at Klosterbraü…a dark holiday brew with a malty toasty flavor. He found the famous Rauchbier (smoked beer) a bit too much although I had a few sips and thought it akin to drinking a beer while eating a bite of smoked salmon at the same time.

The Bamberg tourist information office (TI) offers a brewery map and tour, replete with a cute backpack and beer mug. Kyle bypassed this however it looked like a nice service. The TI also provides an audio walking tour about the history and architecture of the town, which we did do and I highly recommend.

In addition to the breweries full of happy, riotous Germans, here is what we also loved about Bamberg.

Medieval Town Untouched by War

Medieval Town Untouched by War

Buildings of Beauty & Quirk

Buildings of Beauty & Quirk

Devoteness on Every Corner

Devoteness on Every Corner

Meat Meals of Immense Sizes in Cozy Corners

Meat Meals of Immense Sizes in Cozy Corners

Happy birthday, Kyle!  Prost!

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RTW Vanity

Almost five months in seems like an ideal time for a frivolous topic…vanity. If you’ve been following our blog & thought I was a down to earth gal unconcerned with appearance, I will now disappoint you.

How does one keep beautified from the road? Not very well. Here’s the straight truth for my gal friends who appreciate a little maintenance.

Rockin' Bugs Away Gear in Tokyo

Rockin’ Bugs Away Gear in Tokyo

Hair

My much beloved flat iron sits back at home. Less than a quarter of the places we stay have a blow dryer. My stylist back home, who kept my locks blonde, does not do rtw housecalls.  In going brunette again, I was confronted with an army of gray hairs. Safe to say, a good hair day is a rare sight.

In Lao, I desperately needed a cut.  There was a rumor in Luang Prabang that all hairdressers cut with razors — that only one stylist has an actual pair of scissors & that’s the one the falangs go to. I had also heard that the stylist was a “lady boy.” I spent my appointment trying to ascern whether my hair dresser was really a man or a woman but more importantly learned that one inch doesn’t translate and I became the owner of a very short & very uneven Prince Valiant bob. Alas, hair grows.

Lao barber shop

Lao barber shop

Massage

Those who travel to SE Asia insist that you must get regular massages. They are ridiculously cheap…$7 or so for an hour!

In Luang Prabang, I asked my Aussie neighbor where to go.   This is almost verbatim what she said, “I go right around the corner. There are three blind men. It’s only $6 & its very basic but they’re quite good. There’s a simple mattress you lie on…I think its actually their bed…& they just go at it.” Now, this is a well put together professional young woman so I knew I wasn’t getting the full picture. But I thought to myself “Can I lie naked on a blind man’s bed?” Decidedly no.

Red Cross massage room...a very good cause

Red Cross massage room…a very good cause

When I did finally get a massage, I learned that one doesn’t strip down as we are accustomed to in the U.S.  Instead one wears somewhat loose pajamas.  And after investigation, the blind masseurs turned out to be a very reputable Red Cross organization.

Footwear

Tevas — did I mention how much I hate my tevas? You can be svelt & tall with long flowing locks & an adorable outdoor outfit from Lulumon but you put on those tevas…and you’re just another granola hippie. Now I can say this because I grew up surrounded by granola hippies…my parents were granola hippies…I KNOW the look & I don’t want to replicate it so why on earth did I buy Tevas?? Yech. Hate them. First thing in the trash when this trip ends. DYING for my FitFlops. Yeah, say what you want, it’s the truth.

Tevas...hate. Keens...love.

Tevas…hate. Keens…love.

Face

I’m a corporate girl. I have a corporate face. MAC helps me put it together each morning. I hadn’t planned on bringing make up on this trip. In the end I did bring down a pared down bag. What’s been interesting along the way is when I’ve felt the need to put it on. At home, it was EVERY day. On the road, I admit I’ve been influenced by where we’ve been. Cambodia? Nope, not a lick. Tokyo? Every day!

It’s been a great lesson for me how, even at 44 years old, I let myself be influenced. Being in a modern city like Tokyo or Munich, where the women around me have coiffured hair, make up & beautiful clothes…I can feel inadequate. The only thing I can do some days — short of a shopping spree, which is NOT what this trip is about — is put on a little blush & mascara & pretend my tevas are stilettos.

Bad hair? Check. No make-up? Check. More relaxed & happy than ever? Check!

Bad hair? Check. No make-up? Check. More relaxed & happy than ever? Check!

Clothes

Oh lord. There is NO variation in my wardrobe. I have to say, I do love my Ex-Officio Bugs Away pants. Good thing, I wear them almost EVERY day.

Smart wool socks. They are the bomb. Nuff said.

Shirts. I alternate two t-shirts from Everlane — they are identical v-neck shirts but one is black & one is navy. They were produced in the US, inexpensive & I love them.  They are not quick drying but I can put on a necklace & sort of fool myself that I’m dressed up.

A cooling towel as a fashion accessory.

A cooling towel as a fashion accessory.

Weight

In the U.S., we are snackers. Oh, it’s between meals? I must eat a snack to tide me over. In Japan & SE Asia, this was decidedly not the case & between the lack of snacking, amount of walking & small meal sizes, I lost weight. Sweet!

Of course, within two weeks of our landing in Germany, this was reversed. I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH BIG PORTION SIZES IN MY LIFE.  And yes, thank you, I’m aware I don’t have to eat it just because it’s in front of me.

Light snack in Germany

Light snack in Germany

Exercise

Kyle and I do a 7-minute work out app on the ipad daily. Is it effective? Uh, it’s a 7-minute work out.

So there you go…vanity on the road. It still exists & surges in cosmopolitan cities but there’s little recourse whether in a small Lao village or in downtown Buenos Aires, I can only rock my Ex-Officios…and I’m ok with that.

How much do I really need?

How much do I really need?

Munich’s Hidden History

Our first week in Munich, we walked happily over cobblestone streets, by impressive neoclassic buildings, through those small winding corridors that make you feel that you’re in 18th century Europe. We knew there was history around us but we didn’t know the details.

In every country we’ve visited, there are brutal war stories and stories of national regret. Of course, its well known that Germany is no different.

We spent a day with Taff Simon of Dark History Tours to learn more about Munich and its role in the building of the Third Reich. Imagine our shock when Taff took us a block from our apartment, looked up at a nondescript building and said, “Hitler lived here for nine years in his 30s.”

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It was a tired recipe that led to Hitler’s rise..a poor economy, a government in disarray, an inspiring orator, a scapegoat…and a resulting horror.

If we could see the ghosts of the Third Reich men, they would have been all around us. The Apple Store? Once the meeting room for the German Workers Party where Hitler started sharing his views. The beautiful new town hall? Its square hosted one hate filled speech after another. The beloved Hofbrauhaus where we cozied up to locals and tourists and shared a weissbier? A rallying point for the nazis. In fact, on close inspection, swaztikas can be seen on the ceiling, modified in an attempt to disguise what once was. The ghosts were everywhere.

Then and Now

Then and Now

We spent New Years Day at Dachau, the first nazi concentration camp. Formed in 1933 to house opponents of the nazi party, it became a forced labor camp for political dissidents and citizens persecuted due to their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference. The museum is blunt in its retelling, with a graphic film and pictures. Audio of first hand accounts from survivors and witnesses reinforce the absolute horror of what went on here. Approximately 200,000 people were housed at Dachau with a quarter dying here and others being shipped via train to that house of horrors, Auschwitz.

Dauchau Concentration Camp

Dauchau Concentration Camp

Back in Munich, a plaza called Odeonsplatz holds the memory of a 1923 coup attempt by Hitler and the location of subsequent military gatherings once Hitler became the country’s chancellor. Munich citizens were expected to perform the infamous nazi salute when passing by the marker of those who died in the coup. A quiet side street named Viscardigasse bisects the walkway to Odeonsplatz and Münchners showed their silent resistance by detouring down this side street to avoid the salute. Today the street is marked with a path of white cobblestones to honor their bravery.

A Street of Silent Protest

A Street of Silent Protest

My grandfather, Eugene Smith, was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles and fought against the nazis in the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne.

He spent nine months in an English hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds (he was one of the lucky ones…over 80,000 Americans died fighting at Bastogne). Eugene earned a Purple Heart, returned to the U.S. and met and married my grandmother, Barbara. He never talked about the war.

Eugene Smith, aka "grandpa"

Eugene Smith, aka “grandpa”

And there’s a sense of this in Munich too…a desire to leave it behind.  Memorials to the victims are hard to find and those that do exist appear to be under debate (an unlit everlasting flame?). How do you acknowledge the ghosts without placing plaques with his name all over the city?

Germany is not alone in its history…brutal human conflict exists today.  What is the best way to remember the horror of which humans are capable but that we just as strongly have the ability to walk a different path or…bravely hurl ourselves out of a plane into enemy territory in the name of humanity?

Methodical & Manic Munich

Munchner are a well ordered people. They stand in the cold, awaiting a traffic light, when no car is in sight. Similar to Japan, bicycles lean against buildings, unlocked…awaiting their rightful owners. There appears to be a proper approach to most social situations and you may be chided if you don’t comply. Julia was scolded — we’re talking a finger waving scolding — for petting a dog without asking first.

But I realize now that they can keep this calm, obedient air all year because they become manic on New Years Eve.

We had read to watch the fireworks from Marienplatz or from the bridges of the parliament building. What I didn’t realize is that there is no official show in this part of town. Instead, hundreds of individuals put on their own show from a large stockpile of TNT hazards.

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Kyle and I ventured to the bridge in front of the Parliament building. We were surrounded by people carrying two primary party supplies: 1) bottles of champagne and 2) fireworks. Dangerous combination.

German Grandpa, who earlier in the day waited patiently at the light while scowling at you for speaking too loudly, was now taking a swig of champagne before launching a rocket dangerously close to your face. Prost!

At one point, a thick fog overtook the street…oh wait, that was smoke. A couple of ambulances and police cars crawled across the bridge from time to time, darting firework volleys.

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I’d heard that Munich streets glitter on New Years Day with the broken glass from smashed champagne bottles. I’m happy to report that this wasn’t my experience…in fact, I saw a few independent gentlemen making the rounds, picking up solid glass bottles, presumably to make a tidy sum from deposits. Ahh, the methodical Munchner is back, and the manic Munchner secreted away for another 364 days.

We loved the people of Munich and feel grateful to have welcomed in the new year with them. There is just so much to appreciate about this city.

The Architecture!

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The Art!

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A River Runs Through It!

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After an exuberant evening, we spent our New Years Day with a sobering visit to the Dachau concentration camp. More on that and the dark history of Munich in the next post.