Sunday, 4 August 2013

Update from Ober Bayern

Just back to a cooler and gusty UK after a fabulous 11 days in Prien-am-Chimsee, in Bavaria, Germany. 
Instantly the idea of great food and large beer glasses comes to mind, and of course we enjoyed some of the finer things in German cuisine.  One of my rules historically has been to always try the untried on a menu when presented. 
Kaffee und Kuechen - World Klass
I guess this comes out of a sense of adventure, which is certainly one of the things we look for in a vacation.  Therefore, when I was offered gooseberry cake at one Biergarten (beer garden) we visited I just knew I had to try it.  I knew it would not complement the wheat beer that I'd ordered (to keep my fluids up, naturally, we'd been out in the sun all day and it was well over 30 degrees). 
The German afternoon tea and cakes experience is truly world class, like the football team in tournaments.  This particular ensemble starts with a pastry base, a sponge filler, green and red gooseberries in some sort of jelly setting topped off by two different layers of meringue, first flat and soft, the second piped and crunchier. 

It wasn't all about food.  Clearly beer was on the tasting menu, although I did not manage to negotiate any "educational visits" to a brewery, despite my serious academic interest in this area you will note from previous extensive posting on the topic. 

Historic and heraldic connotations ?
We did have to sample some of the various German beers, now that I have a wider experience of UK beer, ale and lagers, I put my palate to the test. 
One of the first times I remember drinking beer was on a school German exchange, which coincidentally  took place in Traunstein one of the larger towns on the other side of Chiemsee, when a few of the older exchange students went to Bar Xanadu, in Ruhpolding.  Wanting to look cool with the older group members who were all drinking Weiss beer, I dug out a fifth of my pocket money for the week in exchange for a large, tall glass of sour tasting fizzy stuff with an intensely unpleasant aroma.  Needless to say I managed to nurse this beer for quite a while, eventually finishing it off to find myself being asked to buy another one...errr ! no thanks, I'll take a small glass of brown fizz that will ruin my teeth instead please. 
Please note:  I do not endorse ceding to peer pressure nor under age drinking. 
In my on going quest to understand how to create an optimal beer brand I noted that many popular German brands use gold colouring and historic type fonts and brewed "since 18xx", perhaps to reinforce notions of craft, consistency and popularity.  Colouring and heraldic symbolism might suggest royal connections and a luxury connotation, whilst also indicating a sense of visual short cuts to a feeling of localism.  Bavaria is a particularly proud region of Germany that uses royal blue and white checkers as its flag that permeates a wide range of consumption experiences, and not only restricted to souvenir shops. 
We also learnt that the (humorously teased about) lederhosen (leather trousers - intricately decorated shorts with decorative braces) and the fashion around Tracht (traditional clothing) is Bavarians celebrating their culture, not for the tourists, but with each other and for each other. 
I'm sure there is an interesting paper to be written on this.  My wife was quite taken by the number of men wearing lederhosen styled swimming trunks in the lake.   I'm expecting a pair to be hidden under the Christmas tree for me this year.
Incidentally, dark brown, close to the colour of these swimmies, is the new car colour to have, certainly in Oberbayern.  Clearly bored to death with the ubiquitous silver colouring that has been the low risk, no body hates it, maximise my re-sale value for some time now.  To help establish my uber-kuhl credentials, our five year old family car is also this colour. 
View across the sun flooded valley from Rinsting to the Kampenwand
You might now be getting the picture of a lovely holiday, mountains, hot weather, nice friends, cool lake water to chill out in, great food and drink.  Being a critically trained MBA, I always look for faults and areas for improvement, and having worked in very international Frankfurt-am-Main and visited friends often since, we have some experience at picking up cultural and social differences. Aside from some of the areas larger tourist attractions (e.g. the Salt mine at Bertchesgarden, the boat to Herreninsel site of King Ludwig II's imitation of Versailles) we barely met any Brits.  In fact, in town going around the local businesses, we felt a bit like celebrities as our non-native conversation caught the attention.  Although we speak passable German, it was quite exciting to be somewhere where there were relatively few outsiders.  Everything worked.  Beer was relatively cheap (under £3 for half a litre). 
Food was reasonable and significantly cheaper than other parts of Germany.  We used to joke that shopping used to revolve around the workers need for a home life, namely only open when everyone is at work.  Not any more, the supermarkets were open until 20:00 !    Germans can be quite aggressive driving (perhaps a function of powerful German built cars and autobahn's without speed limits) , but the leisurely place around Prien-am-Chiemsee and lots of people riding bikes made even pootling around on errands and to and from the lake and swimming pool was ok.  Annoying re-cycling that Germany led the charge on back in the eighties hasn't moved on, and I could not get used to putting most of the rubbish into a single bin.  Where I live now in Surrey Heath we have to sort our rubbish into three main different groupings & then note specialist items like glass and clothing. 
So, bereft of faults, I find myself very relaxed, tanned and happy from a very successful family holiday made possible by our friends Sabs and Yogi.  The academic tourism literature highlights various push and pull motivations that sit behind the desire to travel.  The pull to this unusual location was very much to visit our friends.  But push factors of adventure, rest and relaxation and generating found, shared memories of quality family time were also delivered on.  We'll be back because we loved it, please don't put Bavaria on your "must see list", or 'bucket list' in more recent cultural jargon, you might tell your friends via social media (like this) and spoil it all for us next time ! (Smile). 
View of Fraueninsel, Chiemsee, Bavaria
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