Good Beer Meets Good Cheer!
20 April 2014
A waitress donning the traditional Bavarian garb, a dirndl, walked past my table. Pausing halfway, she turned towards me and in heavily accented English, asked keenly if everything was alright. I nodded enthusiastically, and quickly sent her on her way.
There was no time to waste.
I focused my attention back on the enticing plate of roasted pork knuckle laid before me. Beneath the overarching lamps suspended precariously on the ceiling of an underground red-brick tavern, the dish glistened brightly with an irresistible sheen - that kind you see only in recipe books and restaurant menus. Sinking my knife into its crispy reddish-brown exterior, I hear an audible crackle as the rind snaps off cleanly, breaking up into smithereens of smaller pieces. I inhaled deeply, and savored the aromas that filled my senses.
Slowly, I picked up a piece and and then gingerly chewed on a morsel. Savoring the nutty flavors from the juices locked within, I ticked an item off my bucket list - To try an authentic pork knuckle in Munich, Germany.
The typical München beerhall may appear intimidating with the non-stop clanging of beer steins and boisterous crowds, but getting into the spirit of things was not at all difficult. If I wasn't too busy deciding between a Bavarian cream and a Blackforest Cherry Torte for dessert, then I must be busy taking swigs of the famed Bavarian bier (Beer). Crisp and elegant, the famed Augustiner beer - perfected over time - was like nothing I had ever tasted before. Draft and bottled lagers at home has got nothing on this. With characteristic German efficiency, our beer steins were never allowed to be empty, even during the bustling dinner service - which is just as well, because it would be an absolute shame not to drink my fill in a city that is widely recognized as the beer capital of Europe. No need to mind your dining Ps and Qs here - it was all about enjoying yourself and having fun. Good cheer and even greater beer makes for the quintessential München beerhall experience.
Still light-headed from the copious amount of beer that I had downed, I stumbled clumsily up the 300-odd rickety steps of the oldest parish church in Munich, the St. Peter's Church. My efforts were not in vain. Goosebumps appeared on my skin as soon as I set foot on the viewing deck. I would have claimed that this was due to the piercing, cold winds that my flushed cheeks were openly exposed to, but I suspected that it was the awe-inducing views at the top that did it for me this time around. I look beyond the weather-beaten bronze fence that wraps around the deck. It was getting dark. Like little fireflies dancing in the night, the lights dotted across the Marienplatz (city center) provided comfort of the truest kind. Scattered light gleaming off antiquated street lamps mirrored the colour of the golden nectar that I had plenty of, and it worked to soothe the mind of the weary traveller.
For centuries, countless wars have been waged on Bavarian soil. If the words of Tomas, my tour guide, were anything to go by, Bavarian beer was, on numerous occasions, the de-facto peace offering for rulers and kings alike. (One need not have to ask him why!) Gazing down from this unique vantage point, a sobering realization hits me. All that blanket the streets - now completely cast in a bright yellow hue - bear a familiar resemblance to that of beer gushing out from an imaginary, ginormous barrel. This golden liquid makes its way across the city, snaking through cobbled paths and discreet alleyways, spreading merriment as it flows outwards from the city center in the form of golden arteries. Of course, it's hard to argue against this because beer was, and remains, the lifeline of this historically-steeped city!
Not too far away, another rambunctious cheer erupts. It comes in the direction of the Viktualienmarkt, a carnival-like venue where locals and tourists alike gather to indulge in freshly-grilled bratwursts and delicious beer amidst a sea of collapsible tables and wooden stools. I may not understand much of the German language, but I sure can recognize good, hearty laughter. Such unadulterated bursts of joy make me smile.
What this city lacks in striking mega-structures of glass and steel, it compensates with understated character and soul. The allure is subtle, yet sublime. Munich is one city that doesn't deliberately seek to impress. If anything, it portrays an assured and comfortable demeanor. It stands confidently, as if bidding it's time, for that opportune moment when it seduces the unsuspecting tourist wholly with all of her charm. The tourist would be none the wiser, but his moments here would remain etched in his mind for a long, long, time to come.