Where Have I Been the Last Month? pt 1
Oktoberfest in Munich always seemed to be a bit… over. A quaint Bavarian tradition had become a destination for those just looking to drink too much beer and shame themselves. And I, myself, not generally looking to drink any beer at all, found no allure to it. But it would be a surprise 40th Birthday Party with folks from Italy, Germany, and the US in attendance. So, to celebrate with the friends and having low expectations of the public event, I went with the man to Munich. Fortunately, in the summer with our long-time Münchner friend, I had begun to almost enjoy what they call a Radler. It is only half beer and the rest lemon aid or Sprite. A Radler is a cyclist, a rider, and the drink is a favorite for refreshing after or during a long ride. So, during Wiesn (as locals call the festival), I could order eine kleine Radler, to have something before me on the table and be a part of the genial festivities.
We all met at the secret dinner location, an Augustiner Bräu, to await Birthday Boy’s arrival and subsequent surprise and astonishment. All proceeded closely enough to plan. We reveled and enjoyed good, solid Bavarian fare with friends and random family. Plans were made to meet up the following day to outfit ourselves more. . . festively.
Dirndls and lederhosen! We have them! Local Friend, way above and beyond the call of duty for the guy, took us shopping. See, ten years ago, nobody wore traditional garments. And now, it is so popular, I felt misdressed without them. And it is such fun to wear and the man looks just great in his lederhosen! Besides, at home, the Italians will stare, regardless of how I’m dressed, so I might as well get dressed up in my dirndl if I feel like it.
And off to lunch with the whole gang ~ the weather was wet and the tents were full, so Local Friend took us ’round the back to a lovely beer hall, which had a big table for us, where we ate Wurst and Schnitzel and Leberkäse and Brezeln and Kartoffeln. As my friend who did all the planning for this said to me later, “You are the worst vegetarian.” It’s amusing that I’ve gotten the reputation for being a vegetarian, which I do not mind but cannot claim honestly, when it’s really that I just want to not eat meat. Sure, I don’t know how and don’t enjoy preparing it and meat dishes frequently put me off with their texture, but I mostly prefer not to support the industry. However, if it is prepared for me and we are in a meat-centric region and there are no preferable alternatives, I will hope that it had a good life and will dig in. And enjoy it. If I do make an error in judgement, the man is always at my side to see that no life goes to waste. He’s so good to me that way.
But we hadn’t been into any of the tents, the heart and soul of Wiesn. So the family friend with whom we always stay took us out to his favorite tent on our last evening in town. Walking in, I felt like walking out. The hall was shoulder to shoulder, everyone standing up on the benches, loud and beery. But he led us upstairs… where there were open tables… along the balcony… where we could sit, enjoy 2 mugs between the 3 of us, and look down on all the revelry. That was wonderful! To be above the fray was to watch the little dramas play out, be able to hear the music from the stage, marvel at the waitresses carrying 6 or 7 one-liter mugs in a hand. And everywhere dirndls! Bright colors, short skirts, long skirts, fine and matronly styles, and those darling little ruffly blouses! I love mine. (see photo)
But Munich was just the beginning of our road trip. To wind down after all the carousing and making merry, I had booked us into a hotel in the Rhein region spa town of Bad Kreuznach, and arranged for massages and a day in the spa. I love German spa towns, any spa towns, the whole idea of taking the waters, having a cure. Every town promotes the particular, even peculiar, healthful properties of its water. Some waters cure skin disease, others lung ailments, still others arthritis and gout. The waters of Bad Kreuznach are famous for their. . . wait for it. . . radon. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the very same radioactive gas found lurking in basements and causing lung cancer (also probably known historically as Bergsucht, a mountain sickness found in miners). Even today, one can join the group sitting around a steaming fountain and inhale the… er… benefits. Being a person not given to airs and pretension, I drink tap water unless there is good reason not to. Those good reasons are usually biological. After reading the wiki, perhaps I should have given the tap water in Bad Kreuznach a bit more respect. Oh well. I did enjoy the wall of twigs where we were bid “Bitte ruhe,” please rest. That part was truly tranquil and pleasant. A long wall, maybe 15 feet high and 2 feet thick, made of twiggy-bits, had water barely trickling down from the top along the entire length. Salt from the water was encrustulating, radon (I suppose) was emanating, a cool dampness permeating, and the pitter-plink of water droplets percolating. I sat in lotus and breathed deeply, meditating for a little while, but feel I could have done so for much longer.
But the road was calling. Belgium was waiting for us.