I had one more day in Germany before I head to Vienna to see Vipin. And I’d really really have liked to visit trappist monasteries. My urge to go to a trappist monastery came from way long ago when I first started drinking good beer (or beer, for that matter) in USA and a visit to the Peace Street beer store in Raleigh. I remember Matt telling me about Orval and shortly after, that spring break, he went to Belgium on holiday. He came back with a bunch of stories and no, he didn’t go to any trappist monasteries.
So, when I planned my trip to Belgium in 2012, I put trappist monasteries on my itinerary. I wasn’t able to them and moved them to my itinerary for 2014. But this time around, it seemed tough too. From all that I could find on the internet, I needed to be able to do one or more of the following:
– communicate in French
– have a valid driving license in Europe
– have a holiday budget that could allow me to rent a car and zip it around the European countryside
– be willing to wait long hours in non-English speaking villages between trains/buses
not miss any buses/trains
And I’m a little non-adventurous (chicken, perhaps!) in some ways. I’d rather play safe and deal with it if it goes down badly, than take the plunge and then regret what I did. For the most part, the EURail app was super helpful. I could use it offline as well and planned all of my train trips without wifi (while waiting for other trains or in bed or while drinking at a bar). I wasn’t going to be able to visit trappist monasteries, but I figured there were a few cloisters, closer to big cities, that would make for good half-day plans. So I put those on my itinerary instead. Those, and maybe a few brewery visits, if I could.
August 21st, back at the Munich station early morning, I bought my usual coffee and a bratwurst semmel (sausage sandwich, literally) this time (instead of a wrap or the Dean & David paninis I’d been having the past few days). I took a train out to Herrsching, thirty minutes from where is the Andechs Cloister.
I finished reading Inside of a Dog on my way to Herrsching, which, though not remotely related to the holiday, must be mentioned. It’s a wonderful book. It’s validated a bunch of doggy thoughts I’ve had while growing up and answered a horde of questions for me too. So, go read it, if you love canines. (Another review here, just in case.)
And when I got to Herrsching, I found a bus that took me straight to Andechs waiting right there! It saved me an uphill (and pretty) walk through the villages and through a forest of sorts, to the Andechs Abbey. Another thing I noticed was that most German towns and cities have a Luitpold Strasse right next to the “bahnof” (railway station). Leopold Street? Like the MG Roads, here in India, perhaps?
Andechs Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that has been brewing beers since the 1500s. Trappist monasteries are a subclass of Benedictine monasteries (as this article on religious orders suggests). The entire area has a bunch of lakes – you can see a fair portion of Amersee (Lake Amer) on your train ride from Munich to Herrsching too! And then there’s Stranberger See and Wörthersee and Pilensee and Wesslinger See.
I strolled around the cobbled paths that took me through the Andechs Abbey. It is open to visitors, for the most part and has a restaurant where you can drink the beers they brew and food prepared from produce they grow/rear at the Abbey. I’m not sure if it’s an active monastery any more, or maybe the religious folk usually shy away from public – again, something from the article I linked above. The parts that are open to public showcase some very modern cooking/brewing equipment and I snuck a few glances in at the stuff, between opening doors.
The inside of the church at the cloister was ornate, quite unlike most churches I’ve seen (they’re usually dingy on the inside). This one was all white and gold with a bunch of paintings in colour and inscriptions just below them. There were several confession boxes all along the sides too – more than one would usually expect. Made me wonder whether beer drinkers are sinners. *grin*
I picked up a mixed pack of 4 beers for € 8, 40, which isn’t all that expensive, come to think of it. Their beers usually start at 6% abv, which is good, for some people. *sinner grin*
I started off with their Special Ale (Spezial Hell) which was *strong*. It got me happy enough to not want to drink anything until I got to Vienna (for fear of missing trains or losing my way). While I’m not sure I remember when/where I drank the Weissbier, but I brought the Doppelbock Dunkel (yum!!! Double Bock PLUS Dunkel) and the Export Ale back to Bangalore. I should’ve been able to handle a 5.9% beer, but this one got me going! It had this great “bitter” about it and the fact that I was finally eating Schweinshaxe just made me all the more happy!
While I was looking up things to eat in Germany, I’d heard people rave about Schweinshaxe (Ham Hocks or Pork Knuckle). I’d also read that you’ve got to eat it at a cloister or any brewery that also has livestock – the pigs are usually fed the same hops that go into the beer and that makes their meat really tasty.
Pork is *so* good! My only gripe is that non-Indian cooking sometimes just ends up being fried meat and not enough seasoning. They were selling food by weight. And I don’t speak German and managed to sign-language for what I needed. For under € 7, I ended up getting 700 grams of pork knuckle (I could finish only half!) and some bread to go with.
Andechs was a great half-day trip. It made me happy in the knowledge that I’ve picked places where you don’t bump into hordes of Indians (or Asians) on field-trips.
Back in Munich, I figured out my train bookings to and from Brussels for the following week and gathered my stuff from the hostel and headed off to Vienna.
And as I boarded the train to Vienna, a lousy joke came to my head.
Germany – Man Beer Pig (ref: here)
(mostly because of the horrendous ways in which Indian end up pronouncing a large, usually brown, furry mammal)