October 22nd, 2007


I ask the girl behind the counter at the hostel where I should have dinner. "I would like to have some real German food," I tell her and she recommends a beer hall that is away from the city center. "It is good, and tourists don't really go there because it's out of the way." I follow her directions, away from the train station and down some darkened streets and finally come to a large beer garden. 

I make my way into the restaurant, a large room with big tables, heavy chandeliers, and lots of antlers decorating the walls. Everyone regards me as I come in. They are mainly older gentlemen, and remind me of my older relatives. No one comes to seat me right away, so rather than stand around like an idiot I slide a chair out and make myself comfortable at one of the smaller tables where no one is seated. I can tell everyone is watching me curiously, and then one of them calls out, "Blondie!" It's one of the grandfather types and he is smiling good naturedly, so I nod and smile. (They all have white hair too, so I could have made a wisecrack but did't). 

The waitress comes over and she looks like a slightly younger version of my grandmother. It is strange to have all of these family look-alikes running around. She is very happy to help me and I order the pork and potato dumpling with red cabbage, as well as one of their weissbiers. The food is so good and I eat it all, sawing into the dumpling which is the size of a softball as well as the pork which is superiorly tender and juicy. Everything is perfect, and I bless my stars that I am not a vegetarian. 

After I have eaten and am sitting enjoying my beer, a couple of the old men come over and begin to talk to me in a happy, boistrous kind of way. I laugh and let them know that I can't understand them. They ask me where I am from and I tell them Chicago. "Chicago!" They seem to love this response and suddenly there is a lot of animated conversation at their table. The two men go back to their seats then, and another one of them comes up to me. He looks so much like my grandfather I feel as though I am back in time, speaking to him before he passed away. "You have come all the way from Chicago to come here?" He seems absolutely thrilled. We talk a little more and then he leaves, wishing me well on my journey. Then yet another older gentleman comes and sits down at my table, and he speaks the best English of the lot of them. "We come here every Monday and Thursday, and no one like you ever comes in here!" He is amazed. "You are here alone? You are in Bavaria! This is very unusual." 

When I have finished my beer I pay and gather my things up. All the old men turn and wave to me as I leave, smiling and wishing me well. They may not have understood why I was there, but they seemed to enjoy my presence, and they did their utmost to make sure I enjoyed myself in their special hangout. I couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome to Munich.

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