Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Town & country pubs in Munich

Gasthof Hinterbrühl - in summer
I said in my introductory post about Munich that visiting in winter would give us the opportunity of exploring some different places to enjoy a drink in, and despite the relatively short time we spent in the city, we managed to do this.

We didn’t touch down in Munich until some time around 5pm, due to the late departure of our flight. We then took the Lufthansa coach from the airport, and arrived in the city centre about 40 minutes later. Our hotel was just a 10 minute walk from the main station (Hauptbahnhof), but by the time we’d checked in and unpacked, it was probably nearer 7pm.

Altes Hackerhaus
We decided to stay local for the evening and to head for an establishment called the Altes Hackerhaus, which was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. The pub occupies a corner location and looks rather non-descript from the outside; almost as though it is hiding behind a modern façade. We entered and stepped into a lobby running towards the rear of the pub, with a couple of rooms leading off to the left. There were also steps leading down to a cellar bar.

We chose the front room on the ground floor, as this appeared the least crowded, and waited to be shown to our table by the matronly-looking waitress. The room had a real old world feel to it, characterised by wood-panelled walls and ceilings, and there were plenty of old portraits, photographs and old advertising material adorning the walls. Much of the latter related to either the Hacker or the Pschorr breweries, which is not surprising as the site was the original home of the brewery which was started by the Hacker family in 1738. Following a fire in 1825, which partially destroyed the building, the brewery moved elsewhere. There had been cooperation between the Hacker and Pschorr breweries for a long time, so it was not surprising when the two companies merged in 1972, to form Hacker-Pschorr. Today the company is part of the Paulaner Group.

We ordered a glass of Helles each and also chose the same thing on the menu; namely the roast pork in gravy, accompanied by one of those spherical spongy potato dumplings, so beloved by Bavarians. There was also an accompanying side dish of sauerkraut. It felt good to be back in Munich after a two and a half year absence, and we were in no rush to leave this homely and comfortable pub, so after finishing our meal we stayed for a further beer.
Typical Bavarian fayre
Eventually we paid our tab and then headed along Sendlinger Straße towards Marienplatz. The large square in front of the town hall (Rathaus), seemed strangely quiet and missing the usual throng of tourists. It was then that we first really noticed the difference between summer and wintertime in Munich, and realised we rather liked it. We decided another beer was in order before returning to our hotel, so we headed for the famous Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom; a one hundred year old pub in the shadow of Munich’s Dom or cathedral; the Frauenkirche with its distinctive twin towers and their onion-domed tops, which resemble a pair of massive pepper-pots.

Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom - in summer
The Glöckl am Dom reminded me of an old English pub, perhaps one owned by that most traditional of English brewers, Samuel Smiths. The place was fairly quiet, but it was Sunday and with work the following day for many people, this was perhaps not surprising. We had no trouble in finding a seat in the front part of the pub, and then waited for the waiter to bring us a beer each.

The Augustiner Helles, served direct by gravity, from a wooden cask, was a fitting beer to end the night on; but not before we had soaked up some of the atmosphere of this tranquil old pub. There was dark wood everywhere, covering both the walls and the ceilings. The lamps hanging from the latter were not really sufficient to light the room, but the dimness added to the atmosphere, creating the perfect environment in which to relax. There was a further room at the rear, but as the pub’s remaining patrons slowly began making their way home, we and a handful of others virtually had the place to ourselves, as the photograph shows.
Glöckl am Dom - interior

All good things come to an end, and resisting the temptation of one more beer, we headed back to our hotel. The evening had provided a good welcome back to Munich, and had also provided the opportunity of experiencing the city in a different light, at a different time of year. Leaving aside the two beer halls we visited the following two evenings, there was one more chance to experience a traditional Bavarian pub; but this time it was a country one, and it took place during the morning of our last day in the city.

Gasthof Hinterbrühl is a little way out of the city, and overlooks the River Isar. It is quite easy to get there and involves taking the U3 U Bahn line to Thalkirchen (the stop for Munich zoo) and then a bus (No 135) to Hinterbrühl itself. During summer it is nice to get off at Camping Platz (the stop before), and then walk through the woods, along the canalised section of the river to Hinterbrühl. 

Schnitzel and chips - small portion
On this visit though, we took the bus all the way. The pub is an attractive, yellow-painted building, constructed in the style of an Alpine retreat, and was formerly a stopping point for loggers transporting timber by water, from the forests high up in the hills. I noticed the date 1807 on the ornately decorated beer glasses, so whether this is the date the present pub was established, or the date the actual building was constructed, is uncertain. Whatever the answer, a visit here is well worthwhile, as I am about to describe.

Matt and I had been to Hinterbrühl on a couple of previous occasions, but we had always sat out in the beer garden, enjoying the sunshine and the beer in equal measure. During the winter months the beer garden is naturally closed, so our recent visit afforded the opportunity for a look inside. We arrived shortly after midday, and apart from a small wedding party, occupying the end room, the place seemed rather quiet. The interior had obviously had something of a makeover, as the bright contemporary look was rather different from the extensive dark wood-panelling I had seen in photos of the pub. For the history buffs amongst us it is worth recording that this guest house was used, from time to time, as a convenient and tucked-away, out-of-town meeting place by senior Nazi officials during the early days of World War II. The likes of Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and even Hitler himself would gather here on occasion, away from prying eyes and listening ears. I wonder if they bothered  signing the guest book!

Standing guard
We made a beeline for the corner table and the waiter brought the menus over. The beer was from Hacker-Pschorr, and the food offering too was solidly Bavarian. We all opted for Schnitzel with chips, although I went for the smaller-size one. Both sized portions came with mountains of chips though, and even the two boys struggled to finish them. Although we were tempted to stay for another beer, Matt and Will were still feeling the effects of their over-indulgence at the Hofbräuhaus the night before. 

We paid our bill and left, but not before taking a nostalgic peek at the beer garden. Things were under wraps, awaiting the arrival of spring, which surely cannot be too far away now. Standing guard over it all was the old stuffed bear, looking out over the tables below from the balcony above the Schänke; the serving hatch where, in a few months’ time, the beer will once again be flowing freely.


Dave said...

I too love traveling in the off season. England or Germany. People are more relaxed and you can see places much better. Enjoying the Munich posts a lot.

Paul Bailey said...

Hi Dave, nice to hear you’re enjoying the posts about Munich. I might be able to squeeze one last post out from our visit.

I know what you are saying about going off season, but thinking about it I would have preferred to have visited a few weeks later (round about now). That way we would have been there for the start of the Starkbier Saison, (although that could have been dangerous!). Unfortunately my son was unable to get time off in March; hence our February visit.

Anonymous said...

Love the detail in the post Paul, right down to the smaller Schnitzel ! (right decision there). I'm going to look at Ryanair flights now...

Dave said...

Beer availability can affect timing! In the end though any time is a good time to travel.

Dave said...

I've heard people say the Germans don't have much of a sense of humor. I love the bear looking out over the garden. My experience has been they are earnest, but very funny. The well placed bear is one more example of this humor to me.

Paul Bailey said...

That bear was there when we first visited Hinterbrühl, eight years ago. His coat is looking a little tatty now, but I agree Dave, his presence does add a little humour to the place.

Another example of German humour is the phrase “mit muzik”, which refers to the mixture of vinaigrette and raw onion, often served as an accompaniment to various cold meat dishes.

The “Muzik” is an allusion to the flatulent effect of the onions! (For non-German speakers, “mit” means with.)

Dave said...

I never understood how that was meant. Good stuff. I learned something today.