A Travellerspoint blog


Six Timezones and Half a Lifetime Away

The connection between New Munich in Germany and Old Munich in Montreal

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While in Munich, recently, I went to the Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbräuhaus was founded in the 1500s by Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria, and is an absolutely massive beer hall. It has multiple rooms over a number of floors, and long communal tables. It was generally quite busy, and you just find a place where you can.


I made two trips to the Hofbräuhaus. The first night, I sat with two Italians and a Polish couple, both of whom were in town for a sportswear conference in Munich. The second night, I sat with a couple of Brits, and a group of 6 Indians. The Brits were on holiday, but the Indians were there for the sportswear conference. Its nice at the communal tables, especially as a solo traveller, as you wind up meeting people and talking to them.


In addition to the company, you also get musical entertainment, in the manner of an oompah-pah band. The blaring brass is good beer drinking music, and the Hofbräuhaus even makes an appear in the well known drinking song In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus. Ein, Zwei, G'suffa! (In Munich, there's the Hofbrauhaus, one, two, drink!)


The strange thing is, sitting in that beer hall in Munich reminded me of another experience I had years ago in Montreal. There used to be a bar in Montreal called the Vieux Munich (Old Munich), which was a Munich-style beer hall. Apparently an offshoot of the popular German pavilion at Expo '67 (which featured a beer garden), the Old Munich was a communal seating beer hall, where you sat at a long table, drank beer and listened to Oompah-pah music.

I first went there when I was 18, in 1988. In Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where I grew up, the legal drinking age was 19. However, one province over, in Quebec, the drinking age was 18. Therefore, for my 18th birthday, I travelled with some friends up to Montreal to celebrate. It was a bit of a hazy weekend, admittedly, with lots of drinking. The Vieux Munich, though, stuck with me. I loved the happy atmosphere, the celebratory nature of the place, the music and the people.

Leaving at the end of the weekend, still with my cardboard Alpine Hat on my head, the Vieux Munich was my favourite part.

I next travelled to Montreal in the mid-1990s with another group of friends, and despite my hopes, we never made it to the Vieux Munich. "Oh well," I thought, "next time."

Since then, I have travelled to Montreal often. I never did manage to find the Vieux Munich again. I would often search for it, asking hotel staff and locals, but no one seemed to be able to direct me to it.

Turns out it was because the bar closed in 1994. Over time I started to even doubt that the Vieux Munich was as I remembered it. I began to think I imagined the communal tables, the folks singing along with a brass band and clinking glasses. I started to chalk it up to the sepia-coloured quasi-fantasy of nostalgia, believing perhaps that I was over romanticizing my first legal drinking experience.

Then I went to Munich, and to the Hofbräuhaus, and suddenly I realized that the Vieux Munich had been real, and had been as great as I remembered it. I sat in that beer hall in Munich, clinking glasses with a Polish couple and two Italian t-shirt manufacturers, and smiled as I looked back on my 18 year old self, doing the same thing six timezones and a half a lifetime away.


Posted by GregW 12:00 Archived in Germany Tagged music nightlife Comments (0)

Superbowl XLV - German Cowboys and Cheeseheads

Superbowl XLV at a party hosted by the German Football League's Munich Cowboys

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View Munich 2011 (Superbowl 45) on GregW's travel map.

Perhaps it is because of the number of American military bases that are in Germany thanks to the Red Menace (deceased), but American Football seems to have taken hold in Germany more than anywhere else outside North America. An American Football Bundesliga was formed all the way back in 1979, and Germany was one of the few countries to embrace the NFL Europe experiment. By the time NFL Europe closed in 2007, 5 of the 6 teams were based in Germany.

The American Football Bundesliga was renamed the German Football League (GFL) in 1999, and consists of 14 teams. One of those teams is the Munich Cowboys, whose love of American Football is not just about playing it, but also watching it on the satellite from America. As such, they hosted a Superbowl Party in Munich, open to all who wished to come (and could afford to pony up the €8 to get in). The party was hosted at Kultfabrik, a former noodle factory which has been turned into a warren of bars, clubs and gentlemen's establishments.


The party, befitting a team called the Cowboys, was wild west themed, with attractions like a calf roping game and mechanical bull.


This being American Football, American food was on offer. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and nachos were all being scoffed down by the crowds.


And crowds there were. A good selection of American expats and German fans. The two teams playing this year were Pittsburgh and Green Bay. About 75% of the crowd seemed to be Green Bay fans, with many supporting Green Bay merchandise, including the Cheese Head hat, worn as Wisconsin (where Green Bay is located) is famous for making cheese.


After some chatter from a host, including interviews with a few local football players, they turned over to the American coverage for the singing of American the Beautiful and the National Anthem, and then the game got underway. Superbowl XLV pitted the Steelers against the Packers.

Oh, say can you see

Oh, say can you see


The game was a good one, with the Steelers drawing it close at the end, but the Packers were too strong, and ended up winning the game 31 to 25 to win the Vince Lombardi trophy - a trophy named after a legendary coach from Green Bay's past. The crowd, largely Green Bay fans (at least by the end of the game, if they weren't at the start), was happy.


Me, I was happy, too.


It was one of the best Superbowl parties I have been to during my "Superbowls Around The World" wanderings. The crowd was excited, the food spread was excellent and there was a good selection of alternate activities - from bull riding to Xbox to Sky's 3D TV on trial - to keep you entertained during the long pre-game show. Plus, as the S-Bahn runs 24 hours a day, I was able to get back to my hotel without any fuss and bother.


So congratulations to Green Bay for winning, and also the city of Munich and the Munich Cowboys for putting on a good party.

I may not be a Worldwide Player, but I am a Worldwide Watcher at least.

I may not be a Worldwide Player, but I am a Worldwide Watcher at least.


For other experiences viewing "The Big Game", check out the rest of my Superbowls Around the World blog entries

Posted by GregW 00:51 Archived in Germany Tagged sports superbowls_around_the_world Comments (0)

Boogie with a suitcase...

What everyone is talking about, at least they were in 1978...

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View Munich 2011 (Superbowl 45) on GregW's travel map.

Since my first visit to Paris in 2005, I have been waiting to do this...

For those who don't see the "radio, video," boogie with your suitcases over to Youtube and watch it here.

Posted by GregW 08:16 Archived in Germany Tagged music tourist_sites Comments (0)

Only suckers drink in bars

Drinking on the banks of the Rhine in Cologne, Germany

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I've been to Cologne before, or rather, I've been through Cologne before, on my way during my trip from Paris to Hong Kong via rail. The train from Brussels to Moscow passed through Cologne, and included a 30 minute stop in Cologne. Just enough time, I was told, to go and check out the massive and impressive Cologne Cathedral. Unfortunately, Stan and Ollie, my train attendants on the train, wouldn't let me off the train, so instead I had to do with looking at the nice train shed roof from my cabin while waiting to carry on to Moscow.

This time, I had 2 days in Cologne, and can attest that had I been allowed off the train, I could have seen the cathedral, for it's just steps from the train station. I learnt that upon leaving the train station on arriving in Cologne. Unfortunately, after 15 minutes of aimless wandering, I figured out that my hotel was on the other side of the train station. A smarter traveller than I would have printed out a map from their train station to their hotel ahead of time, as opposed to I, who just knew that it was "about 3 blocks" from the train station.


The Cologne Cathedral is a massive and imposing structure. It's very tall, and as you wander around Cologne, you are sure to be constantly getting peeks of the cathedral. At night, they light it up and it glows like a star, but during the day it appears almost jet black, much like the monolith in 2001. I kept expecting monkeys to touch it, and then starting to beat each other with sticks.

Now, some of you are probably wondering why a city in Germany shares it's name with Old Spice and C.K. One. Back in 1709, French revolutionaires hiding out from the man in Cologne meet up with Johann Maria Farina, an Italian working at 4711 Glockengasse, was making a refreshing men's perfume to be worn or consumed, that would have "the odor of an Italian spring morning after the rain." The French, upon returing to Paris, called the perfume "eau de Cologne", which has stuck. The house still stands today, and has a nice little glockenspiel clock.


The sun was shining in Cologne, and after days of rain in Brussels, I was ready to sit outside and have a beer or two. The local brew is called Kölsch, clear beer with a bright straw yellow hue that is often served in little .2 L glasses. It was also very inexpensive, and it made me wonder why, when everything else in Europe is so pricey, that the beer in Cologne bars was not of much cost.


I soon figured out the answer, as I watched people walk around with open beer bottles. It is even cheaper to go and buy a .5 L bottle of beer at the local store, and consume it without having to pay the overhead for waiters. After learning that, I mostly bought beer for €1.40 (€1.32 if you returned an empty) at the store instead of the €3 beer from bars, and sat in the main square or along the banks of the Rhine river enjoying the sun and my inexpensive beer.


And in case you were wondering, public toilets are available, for when nature calls after a .5 L bottle of beer.


Cheers to Cologne.


Posted by GregW 05:21 Archived in Germany Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

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