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A Bavarian Appreciation

The winter weather with its pewter gray sky hung oppressively cold. Feathery snowflakes rode down on wind that burned my cheeks with its frosty kiss. My friend Thomas and I pushed our way through the heavy wooden door into the Haufbrau Haus, one of the most famous beer halls in the city of Munich. Inside the big room with its tan colored columns and walls, ornate vaulted ceilings, and hanging antique metal lamps; people sat on benches at long wooden tables eating, smoking, and talking. In the middle of the room, a band of men dressed in Bavarian clothing played brass instruments as they pumped the area with the “um pa pa” that is a musical expression of this part of Germany. The aroma of cooking onions and the essence of brew mingled together though out the room in a symphony of smells. I was in Germany for my annual visit and arranged to spend a day with my German buddy, Thomas. He lives in Munich (the one time capital of the state of Bavaria) and claims to know the city like the back of his hand. I like to experience the culture of a place through its food. Knowing this my friend thought it a good idea to visit the Hof Brau Haus, which he told me, is owned by the city. They serve all kinds of beer and food which represents part of the ethnicity of this district in Germany. We sat at one of the rows of long tables that edged the wall as we came in the hall. Thomas ordered a Weiss Bier, (wheat beer) for us. Two of my favorite German foods are Leber Knödel soup (liver noodle soup) and Wiener Schnitzel. Thomas, showing off some of his American slang, promised me I could “sink my teeth” into both of my favorites at the Hofbrau Haus. {Beer hall pic) Nearly every seat was taken. The loud brass music and all the people talking at the same time made it difficult to hear. But the atmosphere and the warmth of the room with its offerings of food and drink, music and camaraderie attracted people and made a nice contrast to the cold day outside. This was Gemütlichkeit (coziness) in the real sense of the German expression. A bouncer stood near the door just in the case someone got drunk and started enjoying himself too much. Teasingly, I told Thomas I wasn’t interested in being thrown out by this muscle man and he should try to be a “good boy”. Our beers came. After all, we were in one of the public houses in a city that is famous for its beer and we, of course, needed to have a sample. The golden liquid filled huge liter glasses with a handle on the side that dropped from the top to the bottom. A guest slipped their hand between the handle and the stein itself. Even at that, the drinker still wrapped their hand around the drinking container. That grip acted as a sort of extra insurance needed to get the heavy mug up to ones mouth. Thomas pointed out that regulars who come to the beer hall had reserved pewter tankards with their name engraved on it. They were kept in a special area of the hall under lock and key. We ordered food and then sat back to look around the room. I enjoyed the painted vaulted ceiling and listening to the German band playing songs like “Der Alte Peter”, and “Münchner Schäfflertanz” which I had learned over the years during my visits in Germany. ceiling pic My Leber Knödel soup came. The soup of beef broth with its big round dumpling made from liver and bread crumbs tasted wonderful. My Schnitzel, done in a local style, was a very slim piece of pork, dipped in a batter of egg and dried bread crumbs and fried to a golden color. Thomas had said that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Munich style Schnitzel, and the Wiener Schnitzel which is made from veal, and cooked in the famous Viennese style. He was right, I couldn’t. Thomas ordered a roasted pork fillet with a Knödel (a specially made bread ball) covered with gravy and a small salad. His meal looked good. In fact, I haven’t tasted anything in Germany I don’t like; and it is difficult to say which dish is my favorite. Thomas et al Next to Thomas sat a curly blonde haired woman with her boy friend. Soon the band played a special song, the woman grabbed Thomas’ arm and the three started rocking back and fourth. Everyone in the beer hall was rocking. This is a custom called schunkeln. I took a couple of photos as the group rocked back and forth to the music. It was really fun for me and in a way I was glad I didn’t have to schunkel. Thomas seemed really shy and I could tell by the expression on his face he was nervous. After lunch we continued to sip our beers. A man passed by our table with a large open box of Ausgezogene. They are a pastry about three inches in diameter, a half inch thick, and are sort of doughnut like. They look light and airy and are covered on top with powdered sugar. I wanted to try one since they are another Bavarian tradition. Thomas bought two of them for us. Later on, Thomas decided we should order dessert. He ordered ice cream and I had a Bavarian Dampfnudel – a big ball of sugared bread-like material that had Vanille Sosse over it. In a few hours, Thomas and I were again walking the snowy streets of Munich. The cold was bone chilling. As I walked along, I thought about the afternoon. I’d eaten authentic Bavarian food, listened to a brass band play traditional Bavarian music, and sat in the warmth of a huge beer hall that had paintings and decorations which have been on the walls for perhaps hundreds of years. I pulled my collar up to protect my face from the wintry wind and reflected that if this was a typical afternoon in Bavaria I was going to put on weight.

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