We drove five hours south to Munich and found ourselves in a different Germany – the land of Oktoberfest and lederhosen and one-liter beer glasses that Franher called “big boys.”
In the city’s largest outdoor beer garden, the Hirschgarten, we met our jet-lagged “roady” tour group of family and friends from America: Mark’s spouse Jennifer, his mom Katie, Darren’s sister Lauren and his mother Barbara, and Sharon and Carl Gentry. We had a few plates of fish and big boys with them, and then we all walked back to the hotel together.
Franher, Darren and I went for a nightcap down the street to a Yugoslavian bar. It was just us, the bartender and his wife, and a two-piece Yugoslavian band with a singer in a tight short-sleeve shirt open at the chest. In our honor the band played an American medley over a slow disco beat: “Strangers in the Night,” “Everybody Loves Somebody Some Time” and “Love Me Tender.” Franher and Darren had their hands over their faces, trying not to laugh. “Be cool, y’all,” I said. “These guys could kill us.” So we smiled and waved and they smiled and waved and soon went back to their techno-Yugoslavian music. As we stepped onto the sidewalk we heard the music stop in mid-phrase.
The next morning Mark and Darren left with the tour group for the Bavarian Alps to visit Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Franher and I opted to stay in Munich and tour the beer halls, where the waitresses all dressed like Snow White.
We started in the famous Hofbrauhaus, where one big boy led to another.
It was in this beer hall in 1920, maybe this very spot, that Hitler took over the German Workers Party and formed the NSDAP (in typical Nazi fashion, with a fist fight). Now the room was filled with beer drinking tourists from all over the world. We shared a table with a Viennese couple who were eating white veal sausages while a brass band played John Denver songs. I had my picture taken with the pretzel girl, and Franher discussed C-position fingerings with the tuba player.
It was evening by the time we made it out of the Hofbrauhaus and started making our way through the cobblestone pedestrian center of Munich. We found the street musicians surprisingly good. They chose places to play under arcades and archways that naturally amplified their sound. We stopped for a while and listened to a string quartet playing Bach. Franher sat in on upright bass with a jazz band.
A guitarist from Togo told us, “This is a regular job. We play here every day from six to seven. Then these guys play from seven to eight.”
“And you make a living at this?”
“A good living.”
We’d already learned that asparagus was in season in Germany, so we stopped at an outdoor café for a bowl of delicious white asparagus soup. At another beer hall near our hotel we somehow wound up eating pig knuckles, but we didn’t get far with those. As it turned out, they didn’t agree with us so well. In the morning Franher visited an apothecary shop and got some medicine for both of us.