The World is your Cloister

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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*

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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.

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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)

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