Last week was my official “winter” holidays, even though they took place in spring. A single week to punctuate the transition into warmer weather and longer days. And boy, have the days gotten longer.
My housemates deserted the apartment to return to their families, and I was left alone for a short while in the sleepy little village of Erlangen to battle the ennui. But lo and behold! Elisa, one of my most important and oldest friends in Europe, arrived in Nuremberg after a 9 hour bus ride from Belgium to spend a week with me. I had last seen her 4 years ago when I visited her in Liège, and one year before that we travelled together in Stockholm, Sweden, so naturally I was quite excited to see her again. Since the last time I saw her, she had not only become a vegan but also, to my pleasant surprise, a beer geek.
After picking Elisa up from Nuremberg, I took her to a vegan restaurant, the Green, which was not only surprisingly good but had possibly the hippest, youngest clientele in the city. Now, I’m quite a seasoned meat eater, and almost every meal I consume includes meat; therefore, this week was an interesting gastronomical switch for me, and I tried to eat as vegan as I could bear for the duration of it. At the Green, I ordered one of those unbearably pretentious, frequently-Instagrammed vegan bowls which consisted of fruit, granola, puréed açaí berries and a plethora of strange seeds, nuts and grains which I had never heard of it in English, let alone German. In the end it wasn’t too bad but not particularly great value.
Once we had arrived at my abode back in Erlangen, Elisa unpacked her suitcase which contained a number of Belgium beers she had brought for me (a few of which were new to me). Jackpot! The next day I showed her the old town of Erlangen, and we hiked up the Burgberg where the annual Bergkirchweih (another one of these once “religious” German festivals where people just get blind drunk) takes place. For lunch I cooked up a vegan version of Nuremberg’s famous Drei im Weggla, and for dinner a vegan version of the Swabian classic: Spätzle mit Linsensuppe und Saitenwürsten. The former was passable; the blandness of the latter was not too bad considering that the original dish is somewhat bland already.
The next morning we got up super early to catch a 5:40am bus to Munich and were pleasantly surprised by Fastnachtsdienstag (Shrove Tuesday) festivities as soon as we entered the old town. We followed a procession of men marching out of Zum Augustiner to the Viktualienmarkt and then ventured north to explore the lush English Garden and view the surfers on the River Isar.
For lunch we headed to the famous Café Katzentempel, a cat café, which is also vegan. We ordered the vegan version of the classic Bavarian breakfast, albeit with tofu Weißwurst and alcohol-free Weißbier. I probably wouldn’t recommend the Weißbier to anyone; it just tasted wrong. After lunch, we headed to zum Augustiner. Of the six traditional breweries of Munich, Augustiner is easily the most popular amongst the locals, and we imbibed a couple of brews from this historical locale.
After Augustiner, we headed to Ayinger am Platzl, a slightly younger nonetheless excellent brewery, which lies opposite the tourist-infested Hofbräuhaus. After a couple more brews and din-dins, we ran to our 5.40pm bus and literally just made it a couple of minutes before it left.
On Wednesday he headed to Bamberg, the capital of beer, grabbed a sneaky kebab, a beer from Wilde Rose Keller and caught up with fellow English assistant Cormac. Since it was Ash Wednesday, a special beer was tapped at Schlenkerla, a Fastenbier, an unfiltered smoked beer brewed for lent fresh from the wooden barrel, and a Fastengebäck, lent pastry, was available. Unfortunately, Elisa and Cormac were not so impressed by the smoked beer; it really is something people either love or hate, but I could drink it every day.
The next day we spent recuperating in Erlangen and even went to the forest near my school to see the boars. Later that evening I invited Josephine over for dinner since she was heading to the UK on Friday and it was my last chance to see her for a while, and we watched the slightly trashy Germany comedy, Willkommen bei den Hartmanns.
On Friday we headed to Würzburg and began our day at a vegan restaurant, Vrohstoff, which we discovered by happenstance; it was outstanding. Elisa got a burger and I a very interesting yet still delicious lasagne. Afterwards we did the typical hike up to the Marienburg Fortress and naturally got some Franconian wine on the way home to sample.
On Saturday after I gave Elisa a little tour of Nuremberg I dropped her off at the bus station for her 9 hour ride back to Liège and said our goodbyes.
The rest of the weekend I spent dreading the return of school, but I didn’t need to worry since my school is currently hosting a group of visiting Danish students, and since all communication with the visiting Danish students and teachers is in English, I’ve been able to skip lessons to join them on excursions and stuff. I even gave a short presentation about my impressions of Germany which many found amusing. Also, it’s been quite amusing for me to hear the non-English faculty staff members attempt to communicate to the Danes in English.
In other news, I’ve signed up for a couple of classes at the VHS (similar to WEA in Australia): a German conservation course on Mondays and a beginners’ Swedish course on Wednesdays. I had my first conservation course this week and we spent most of the time talking about Franconian beer, of all things. I just got home from the first class of the Swedish course and it was quite enjoyable; it might be a little tricky to learn Swedish entirely via German (Vad roligt!), but I think that it’s the sort of challenge I need.