Monday, August 1, 2011

What Not to Miss in Munich? Beer and Pork Knuckle. Lots of Them.

Monday, August 1, 2011
Beer at Der Pschorr

Lets start with the beer. I'm sure everyone already knows this but I can't help echoing it. Munich equals excellent beer. A trip to Munich without having their Bavarian beer, loads of it, is a trip wasted. The truth is I've never been that into beer to start with. I used to look at friends who beam with contentment after taking a swig or two of beer and couldn't even begin comprehend their pleasure. I guess you can call me a late bloomer. Things only changed when a certain friend heavily influenced me with his unbelievable enthusiasm and passion for beer when I was in Hong Kong for an internship. I mean, this is one guy who really loves his beer! I'm still no alcoholic, but now, if I take a swig or two of ice cold beer, I can actually feel the edges of my mouth curve into a contented smile that seems to mirror those I've seen on my friends. I guess I finally get it.

Beer at Augustiner Keller

And when it comes to beer, nothing can trump the ones in Munich. Not any in the States, not any in Asia, and not even any in the rest of Europe. The Bavarian beers in Munich are just unbelievably smooth, fresh and pure tasting. I felt like I'd lived all these years without knowing what beer really ought to taste like. No wonder I didn't like beer, they didn't taste like this! There are two types of Bavarian beer - Helles and Weißbier. The latter is more sour and cloudy. I am partial to the former. Also try the Radler - a refreshing half-half concoction of Helles and lemonade. You see, the Germans are crazy about their beers, so crazy that there used to be a "Reinheitsgebot" law, or the German Beer Purity Law, which restricted the ingredients used in a brew to only barley, water and hops. Okay I was half kidding. The law is real but it wasn't only enacted because of "fandom" but also to prevent price competition with bakers for wheat and rye. Prior to being lifted it was a hot-bed of criticism (most interesting of which turned the touted consumer protectionism agenda around and claimed that it was actually trade protectionism in disguise). If you're clueless about which beer hall to visit and where to dine, take a look here and here for good rundowns of leading beer halls and dining options.

Pork Knuckle at Der Pschorr

And then there's the pork knuckle business. Of course it's imperative to try pork knuckle (or Schweinshaxe), a typical Bavarian specialty, in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Wondering if this tasted as gorgeous as it looks? You bet. Is this one of those pork knuckles with more bone than meat? That thin sliver of bone on the bottom right hand corner was that thin, and the chunkier bone actually had the width of a nugget. Everything else was meat. The skin? Crispiest thing I've ever had. Can anything get better than pork skin so crispy it just crumbles on your tongue with the gentlest bite? My friend and I looked at each other when we had our first bite and there were absolutely no words suitable for the occasion. We just beamed. Later on, we berated ourselves slightly as girls would after a sinful meal. But look, ten years down the road, I'll remember how the crispy pork skin disintegrated on my tongue, releasing all sorts of porky goodness possible, not those extra calories... I had my pork knuckle fix at Der Pschorr, which is purportedly the beer hall that serves better prepared food with quality ingredients. They're also part of the Slow Food Movement, a cause I fully support!

Englischer Garten in Winter
Englischer Garten in Winter
The Englischer Garten in Winter

Also, has anyone told you that you needn't fly to Switzerland to trudge around in picture perfect winter wonderland? The Englischer Garten (English Garden) in Munich is gorgeous in winter, with long stretches of snow-covered grounds perfect for impromptu snowball fights!

View from Neushwanstein Castle in Winter
View from Neushwanstein Castle in Winter
Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen

Further South, about one and a half hours away by car and two hours away by train, Füssen is the picturesque town you shouldn't miss if you want to visit the Neuschwanstein castle, the castle most famous for inspiring Disney. Having been to the Neuschwanstein castle twice, I can confirm that it definitely looks a lot more magical covered in heaps of cotton candy snow. Beautiful, isn't it?

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