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Visiting Andechs

I am just going to write a quick blurb about our visit to the Andechs Monastery, near the little town of Andechs, Germany. I wanted to put a little something about it for three reasons: it was awesome, it came recommended (hats off to our friends who told us about it), and also because it was our final day and hence experience in Germany.

So, a little background about Andechs, in particular the abbey there, since we didn't really visit the town. It is Benedictine abbey that has been brewing high quality beer since 1455. This was my primary reason for going there, though the church itself is pretty well-known regionally. Apparently, legend has it that there is a thorn from the crown of Jesus in the church, though it is seemingly a bad idea to tell a bunch of folks drinking high-gravity Abbey beer that somewhere hidden in this old Baroque church is an old relic. Those types of things get really interesting after a couple of liters of beer. (No, mom, I didn't drink two liters--I drank 2.5!)

So, we set out from Munich mid-morning, after arriving from our visit to our friends' home in Rosenheim. We didn't even go to our hotel, instead storing our bags in lockers at the train station. We took a regional train to the town of Herrsching, which apart from being a scenic German town had little going for it other than being the last stop on the train ride for people heading to Andechs. On the train there, we met another American named Andy. He was a nice guy, about a decade younger than us (ahhh!), and finishing up a backpacking trip through Europe, his first venture out into the world. It's nice to meet people who have finally gotten around to starting to travel; I think everyone should travel so I love meeting people who are.

Anyhow, getting from Andechs from Herrsching requires either waiting for a twice-daily bus or hiking 4km up a fairly substantial hill. We really didn't get started until after 1pm, so the three of us were in a race against time, to get up, drink a lot of great beer, and try to be heading back down before sundown. The hike up was pretty amazing, starting out in the plaza of Herrsching, sneaking through residential areas of the town itself, and finally shooting straight up a hill before turning into a full-on woodsy trail into the Black Forest. We would have been hopelessly lost if not for the hand-painted signs, a quaint touch. After climbing up along along a leaf-strewn trail through the winter forest (there was no snow thankfully), we suddenly found ourselves in a long meadow that looked out over a deep valley, with a distant town and its church-tower, and in the distance large mountains. Andechs Monastery itself sat beyond a patch of trees, and we figured that we were close. Well, the path didn't go towards the monastery, instead dropping first into a small town, across a river, and then back up to the monastery, finally culminating in an intense stairway up to the top of the hill and the monastery complex. Needless to say, it took well over an hour, and we were pretty sweaty and ready for beer by that point.

We skipped the church for the time being, leaving that for after our beer drinking, and headed straight into the beer hall. It was pretty loaded with people, I can imagine that summertime becomes unbearable in the beer hall, what with the the small area for sitting, the huge summer crowds, and the stench of all those people who just hiked up that hill. The beer itself came straight from huge wooden casks, still brewed by the monks themselves, as well as served by them. We grabbed our first beers, and I also got some pretzels to soak up all the beer. Let me assure the skeptical, it was very good beer. I had three types, the hefeweisen, the dunkel (dark beer), and a winter clear wheat. I probably preferred the dunkel, it was amazingly smooth, though they were all great. As I said, I finished off 2.5L, though we sat there talking to Andy for several hours, and we also had a big old hunk of pork that was quite nice. It was easy to imagine being in the monastery in the 1500s and consuming the same things. 

Apparently once we finished quaffing beer and shoveling down meat, we visited the church itself, and Andy and I went looking for the thorn relic. I have vague recollections of that part, though, and don't entirely believe that we went in, though Jess has assured me that we did. I do remember the walk back down. We were entirely unsuccessful in leaving before the sun set, and found that we had to walk all the way down to Herrsching in the pitch darkness of the Black Forest, which now seemed very well named. Fortune was with us, in two ways: I had somehow put a small flashlight in my bag, so we had light to walk down with, and also, we found that we had really gone the long way on our way up. In fact, we probably had doubled the distance from the official route, though I am not sure how we found the official route in the darkness. They say God smiles down on fools and drunks, so we were doing just fine.

For entertainment value, Andy turned out to be a bit afraid of the dark. He denied it and tried to sound brave, but the quiver in his voice betrayed the fact that he found wandering through the dark woods to be somewhat intimidating, flashlight or no flashlight. We lightly teased him the whole way down, and before we knew it, we were back in Herrsching, then the train, and finally back in Munich. There, Jess and I wasted no time going back to our hotel, checking in, and hitting the sack, probably by about 8 pm. One should not take Abbey beer lightly.

The next morning we were up by 4 am, and headed to Venice, but that is for the next entry.

Until next time, be safe.


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