Munich is a place I remember fondly from interrailing in 1990. We spent two evenings in the Hofbrauhaus, the first of which ended prematurely after a rendition of Father Abraham got slightly out of hand, but they kindly let us rejoin the fray the next night. That bierkeller came to symbolise a turning point in my life, when I truly realised for the first time the extent of opportunities in the world.
After that long and glorious summer our sixth form group, though many still good friends today, scattered to the four corners of the UK in pursuit of higher education, and then all around the globe in search of happiness. I look at a photo now of a slim, tanned young man wearing a silly hat and sillier grin, surrounded by strangers he would never see again beyond the bounds of that one wooden table on that one night in time. I realise that, despite appearances to the contrary, it is still me. I still yearn for the unheralded promise of chance and allure of the unknown.
So as Simon and I left the golf (and the clutches of Igor and his armpit-stroking, drug-peddling henchmen – see part 1) on the Thursday afternoon, there was only one place we were heading to that evening. I had to reconvene in that moment of my life that exploded in a thousand different directions, and see if the old magic still wafted around the ancient arches and long tables of the Hofbrauhaus.
After checking in at the delightful Marc Munchen hotel we took a taxi to the Hofbrauhaus which, worryingly, the cabbie didn’t seem to know and had to be shown on our newly acquired tourist map. As we stepped under the famous sign and into the cacophony, expectation was high. We settled next to a Japanese couple who seemed slightly mystified by the constrained anarchy of the place, but took our lead and ordered two Steins and some food. I had the local delicacy of pork knuckle, served with a potato dumpling which was a bit like a tennis ball sized gnocchi, whilst Simon, ever the cosmopolitan, went for the roast chicken.
The hall seemed a lot bigger than I remembered, with more children and less intimacy. Nearby there was a table of Americans in raucous spirits, acting out their own variation of Father Abraham and associated drinking games. Our beer slipped down as the oompah band played, but I was left with a slightly hollow feeling, and it certainly wasn’t from the pork knuckle. There was an essence of “never go back”, and (as some of you may know) trying to recreate the feeling of being 18 again is difficult when you are 45. Simon, without the associated baggage of teenage memories, described the Hofbrauhaus as a theme park.
I suggested a brief tour and we wandered the old town getting our bearings. We settled on the terrace of a bar near the Frauenkirche called Augustiner Am Dom and were soon joined on the table by four locals. By this stage of the evening I was in full flow, giving Simon the benefit of my extensive wisdom on some personal matter, when it became apparent that the four youngsters spoke perfect English (we should really have assumed that) and were somewhat intrigued by our conversation. The chink of glasses after another round of beers arrived heralded a group conversation, and the young girl who worked in insurance listed the cities she had visited in England.
Simon, the grand inquisitor, demanded that she explain why she went to Liverpool but she coquettishly replied that it was too embarrassing to say, which prompted a guessing game: “The Beatles?” “Football?” “Grand National?” “Boyfriend?” “Girlfriend?” “Treasure Hunt?” “Egg and spoon race?” All negative. Eventually she’d had enough of the increasingly silly suggestions and revealed she was a fan of Atomic Kitten. Tough one to guess, that. Despite severe pressure, we were unable to ascertain what exactly she did in Liverpool to further her loyal support of the scouse trio, other than stand around in Liverpool.
As the city quietened down, surprisingly early, we wandered back past the impressive neo-Gothic architecture of the Neues Rathaus and gradually realised that our early start was catching up with us. Day 1 had not been the triumphant return I had hoped for, but there were still two days to go, and I felt that we were beginning to scratch the surface of modern Munich, even if things had clearly moved on for all of us over the last three decades.
To be continued…..