My friend Martin and his wife Renate hosted me for three fun-filled days in Munich. First, there was some important business to attend to. My friends Jo and Martina in Würzburg had recommended a traditional Munich breakfast (früstück) of weisswürst with weissbier. Martin took me to a Biergarten nearby and we had an excellent früstück.
What an awesome word, früstück! You have to pucker up your lips twice to say it, once for each syllable, I am beginning to love German. Another word that entertains me is “fahrt”, which means a drive or a ride or a trip. Martin and I spent a whole day fahrt-ing around in the Bavarian Alps, taking in the mega-touristy Neuschwanstein castle and a little more low-key and charming village of Oberammergau.
Martin and Renate took me to a traditional Bavarian restaurant near the zoo. We had a great meal in the lovely Biergarten. I had an exquisite roast duck with the obligatory salty brown sauce, knödels and red cabbage.
We talked about a lot of things, but inevitably, we ended up talking about history and the war. I learned that Martin’s father was in the German army in Italy. After the Italian front collapsed, he tried to return to Germany via Austria. It was difficult because the border crossing was heavily guarded by the Americans. He tricked the Americans by pretending to be a German peasant collecting wood on the wrong side. The Americans let him pass. Martin said his father always believed that the Americans knew but let him go. Unwittingly, I asked Renate about her story. Her expressin darkened. “I don’t talk about it”, she said. And then after a pause, “My family came from Poland. Many went Auschwitz”.
On the last day, I did a walking tour of Munich, checking out the sprawling English Garden and the many neighborhoods of the city. In the evening, I met up with my new friend Erika, who I had met in the train from Frankfurt to Würzburg, for dinner. Erika offered several options but in the end, it was another Bavarian meal at a very traditional and charming place called Augustine, smack in the tourist-filled shopping district. Erika got the German menu and I got the English one. The distinguished looking waiter did a double take when I ordered everything in German: Helles bier halbe, pfifferling kartoffel suppen und Regensburger würst mit sauerkraut.
I think that is the end of my fling with Bavarian food. As I told Martin and Renate later, I am all Schwein-ed out.
Erika told me about her family. Before the war, her parents were in Breslau, in the small German enclave of Schlesien that is now in Poland. During the war, her father was part of the German occupying force in Paris. When the Russians moved into Breslau, her mother was evicted with the rest of the German population and put on a train to Bavaria, where she reunited with her father. Many of her relatives ended up in East Germany. Everyone around here seems to have a family story that is linked with the war.
After dinner, on the way to the subway station, Erika showed me an old baroque church built by the Asam brothers in the eighteenth century. Erika accompanied me on the U3 line for a few stations before getting out to catch the U6 line. She stood on the platform patiently and waved until my train was gone.
I like München and Müncheners. I think I will be back.