We played with house money for five days. Relaxed, loose; or at least as loose as you can while travelling overseas. Pressure’s off when the “Wines of Germany” outfit pays for your airfare, car and hotel for a 4 day/3 night trip to Germany. And that’s how we tackled our short trip to Germany, Jennifer’s first visit, my second.
I invested very little time studying the initiary that was created for us, doing minimal research a week before the trip. Boarding the plane on Wednesday evening I knew the basics, visiting three wineries in the Pfalz region, staying one night; travelling to Rothenburg, staying one night; travelling to Munic, staying two nights; flying back to the States on Monday. It’s a nice way to travel.
So starting with an open mind and few concerns about the trip. Here is what I now know.
Growing up, and to this day, I love to study maps. Road maps of the Texas highways, topographic maps of the Colorado mountains, World War II battle maps, European rail maps, the dusty globe that still sits in the guest bedroom closet, etc. I believe Jennifer shares my interest, and she’s a capable navigator who knows here way around a map. Jennifer is also a planner. To wit, her travel folder contained printed Google map directions to all of our stops, starting with the journey from the Frankfurt airport to our hotel in Gimmeldingen – about a one hour drive time.
Things are going well. Top 40 hits playing on the radio as we’re moving along the manageable crowded highways in our rented Mercedes SUV. I’m enjoying myself. Jen gently providing directions; I attempting to cipher German road signs. All good until the Google map instructs us to turn off the main highway and make our way through smaller roads to our hotel. A couple of roundabouts later, we are now not on the same page as Google. We know we are close, there’s rolling hills with grape vines on each side of the car. Road side signs have pictures of grapes and names of wineries. But we’re having difficulty picking back up the trail.
Best thing to do is stop, regroup, and punt the paper directions and defer to real Google maps on the cell phone. After a few minutes of punching the correct buttons and finding the correct settings, Jennifer has Google Maps engaged and we have new directions. However, after a few minutes, she is receiving a text message indicating we have are now $50 over our roaming data limit. Another few minutes, another text indicating $100 over roaming data limit. Something isn’t right here. We now turn off the cell phones.
Sidekicks are wonderful. Han had one, Indy had one. Within two minutes, Jennifer realizes that the vehicle sitting on the side of the road containing two jet lagged, increasingly frustrated travelers is a German manufactured luxury automobile with a computer screen, that, when properly fiddled with, can change from the Top 40 music station list to a english speaking navigation screen.
This is a moment. In the small town of Neustadt, Germany, I turned the corner on in-dash computer navigation and Jennifer doesn’t refer to the printed Google maps for the rest of the trip. From now on, we trust the sweet voice from the dashboard to get us on our way.
On the subject of driving. Germans can drive fast. Really fast. And really fast happens in the far left lane. I suspect our top speed, in lane three, not four, was about 120 km/hour, or about 75 mph. We were routinely passed by German manufactured automobiles travelling close to twice our speed. It’s a little unnerving, particulalry for certain jumpy co-pilots in the passenger seat. To illustrate, as the speed barrier breaking vehicles passed on the left, our SUV would be pushed to the right from the air mass of the passing vehicle, causing me to veer back to the center of the lane after each pass. Should have known something was up when there’s a sticker on the dash with the Ghost Buster symbol over the numbers 220 km/h.
I believe there are about a dozen major wine regions in Germany. Ours was the Pfalz region just south of Frankfurt, where we visited three wineries. Two of the wineries were in small, quaint towns; more like villages. Villages established centuries ago where narrow cobblestone streets were built for horses, buggies and wagons. The bells in the church in the center of town told you what time it was. And I want to believe there was always some festival to attend, something to celebrate, a tradition to uphold. A tradition like the wine princess.
Apparently, each of the villages hold an annual pageant to choose the coming year’s wine princess. Unclear of the purpose of the wine princess, other than to showcase why my village’s wine princess, and hence my wine, is better than yours. Regardless, each village proudly displays a photograph of their wine pricess on a sign just outside the village limits. Let’s be straight. I think this tradition is great, even if we didn’t happen to meet the wine princess of Niederkirchen, who later became the wine princess of Germany (more on this experience in a later post.) Let’s bring this across the pond. This is a tradition we could literally sink our teeth into, and I do mean sink our teeth into, all you chicken dinner princesses out there.
There’s more to Munich than the glockenspiel and the hofbrauhaus, although both are a must see when in town. Be careful with the clock, it apparently doesn’t do it’s thing every hour. Nothing like 850 people staring up in anticipation at the tower thinking it just might start moving even though it’s 5:05 and nothing has happened. Glockenfail is what I called it. Map from the train station information center indicates only resounds @ 11 am and noon (5 pm in the summer).
Anyway, just a few blocks north from the glockenspiel resides the Hofbrauhaus. And, about a block and a half further north resides Pussers.
A little history. The name Pussers is taken from the Pussers dark rum that was served daily to British seaman for over 300 years. This practice was discounted by the British Navy in 1970, but revived in 1979 and the original formula is now being distilled.
The Pussers bar in Munich, named and themed after the Pussers rum, is much more than your typical Margaritaville or Bubba Gumps. Pussers is the place for sipping scotch, a French 75 or the signature “Painkiller”, available in three versions: 2, 3 or 4. The 2, 3, or 4 refers to the number of ounces of Pussers combined with 4 oz pineapple, 1 oz coconut, 1 oz orange juice. For $10 more, you can sip out of a Pussers commerative cup and take the cup home.
If you’re a bourbon man, try some Blanton’s from their personal cask from Kentucky. Looking for something like a sloe gin fizz, a whiskey sour or anything else that needs shaken, Sebastian behind the bar is your man.
Pussers was good enough for both Saturday and Sunday nights.
Ending with a nightcap at Pussers was a nice way to end the Germany vist and also approriate for this ending.