Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Some More of Munich's Finest

We excelled ourselves on the Sunday we were in Munich by visiting three really fine beer gardens that just seemed to get better as the day wore on.

There wasn't much happening in central Munich that Sunday morning. Bavaria is a staunchly catholic country and, much to my son's annoyance, old customs, such as shops not opening on the Sabbath are still observed. "Never mind" I said, we'll just have to occupy our time in visiting a few beer gardens instead!

We started off at Leiberheim, an establishment that is not particularly well-known to foreign visitors, and which is definitely well of the tourist trail. Leiberheim was founded in 1918 by Eduard Ordnung a decorated war-hero on his return from the First World War. It is named after his former wartime infantry unit, the Royal Bavarian Leibregiment. The beer garden and restaurant is situated in the Walderpach area of the city, and our trip there involved both train and bus, followed by a short walk. We arrived shortly after midday when the place was relatively empty. The sun was quite fierce, after the previous day's rain, so we were glad of the shade afforded by the many chestnut trees, and soon settled ourselves down with a mug of the local brew. I must confess that the main reason for visiting Leiberheim was the chance to sample beer from a brewery not commonly seen in Munich. Erharting hit the spot, and we tried both the Helles and the Dunkel. We also has a light snack of Wurst and Brez'n.

Having previously checked the bus departure times we caught the bus back to Silberhornstrasse, where we changed to a tram and journeyed to Menterschwaige. From here it was a short walk through some rather well-to-do side streets to the beer garden of the same name. When we arrived the place was absolutely heaving and we were lucky to find ourselves a seat. I can't think of a better place to spend a a hot Sunday afternoon, despite being "buzzed" by some rather aggressive hornets. As well as couples and groups of friends there were plenty of family groups. The children, on the whole, played happily in the large play area. Lots of people had followed the time-honoured Bavarian tradition and brought their own food with them. The beer was from Loewenbraeu, and this establishment also qualifies for the BDG2M BOGOF offer.

Menterschwaige was once part of the estate of King Ludwig I, and it was here that he carried out an illicit affair with a Spanish dancer called Lola Montez. The affair ended in both scandal and public disgrace for Ludwig and led to his eventual abdication in 1848. Today though, despite its tucked away location, Menterschwaige is one of Munich's best beer gardens.

After a litre each of Loewenbraeu we decided to move on. The BDG2M showed that there was a 30 minute walk from Menterschwaige to another 5 Beer Mug BOGOF offer beer garden called Waldwirtschaft Grossesselohe. Despite the rather schematic map in the guide, we managed to find our way, walking at first through cool woodland on high ground over-looking the River Isar some distance below us. There were plenty of people out for a stroll that fine Sunday afternoon, and before long we reached the impressive Grossesselohe Bruecke, a high level bridge that carries the S20 and S27 S-Bahn lines across the Isar. Strung beneath the tracks, at a lower level, is a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, and from here we were rewarded by the sight of the river, and its gravel beaches far below us. There were several groups picnicking along the banks, and being a hot day quite a few of them were bathing in the river. As we approached the far side there is a separate and much straighter channel where the river appears to have been canalised. We watched from above as a Floss, or rafting party passed along the channel. Floss is something of a local tradition. The rafts are constructed from large logs secured together, and are reputed to weigh in excess of 20 tonnes. Up to 60 people can be accommodated on one of these monster rafts, although the one we watched had considerably less passengers. Needless to say the rafts are equipped with both a bar and a barbecue, so this is a novel way to enjoy your beer as you cruise along the river!

Once across we found our way to Waldwirtschaft Grossesselohe, which is referred to as "Wa-Wi" for short by the locals. The number of parked cars clogging the approach road gave us an indication of the popularity of this beer garden, but despite the crowds, which were predominantly family groups, we still managed to find a table. Taking full advantage of our BOGOF token, we ordered ourselves a litre each of Spatenbraeu, and a bit later on treated ourselves to a grilled mackerel apiece from the Stecklerfisch stand. As well as good beer and good food, live jazz is a key feature of "Wa-Wi", and the toe-tapping rhythms add to the already lively and fun-loving atmosphere. Not for the last time on our holiday I was left wondering why can't there be places like this back home?

As late afternoon slowly turned to early evening, the temperature started to fall. Neither of us had brought jackets so we decided to call it a day. Leaving "Wa-Wi" we headed for the station at nearby Grossesselohe Isartal Bahnhof. The former station building has been converted into a brew-pub, complete with its own in-house micro-brewery. The pub specialises in wheat beer, but also features beer from Hofbraeuhaus Traunstein. Being somewhat "beered-out" by now we didn't venture inside, but instead caught a train back into central Munich. On the journey back I received umpteen text messages from friends back home telling me that England had won the Ashes! This was the perfect end to a perfect day out; one that had taken us to some of Munich's finest, yet well-hidden beer gardens.

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