Thebeerchaser Goes International – Through Bavaria to Venice and Beyond….

A draft Moretti at the Devils Forest Pub in Venice

A draft Moretti at the Devils Forest Pub in Venice

Back to the Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour after the first two posts took us from Amsterdam through the Rhine Valley in Germany (according to Wikipedia, a 2010 report showed Germany ranked second in the world for per-capita beer consumption) and Austria.  A highlight was traveling through Bavaria – the southeastern-most state of Germany, which is known for its 40 types of beer and purportedly over 4,000 brands of Bavarian beer.

So many options and so little time....!

So many options and so little time….!

Bitburger – an excellent German Bier

The Autobahn is an outstanding method of traveling and the scenery, mostly rural, is stunning.

Highlights included two historic castles – both abodes of Mad King Ludwig II.  This is not the name of a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, but a real Bavarian king, whose taste for these massive structures helped lead to his ultimate demise in 1898, even though they were not built using public funds, but from the king’s personal fortune and borrowing.

A King's home is his castle...

Neushwanstein – A King’s home is his castle – er, castleS, that is……

Construction of Neushwanstein – the largest castle – started in 1868 as a “retreat” and tribute to composer Richard Wagner.

Perhaps Ludwig’s childhood castle home –  built in 1833 by his father called Hohenschwangau, in the Bavarian village of the same name, wasn’t sufficient because the “retreat” – only a few hundred yards away was started when Ludwig was 35 and living in the fortress below.

The original castle - Nechwas

The original castle – Hohenschwangau – A “stone throw” from Neushwasnstein – the King’s retreat castle.

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Our nine days in Italy commenced  in Venice – the Floating City, which is built on pilings and actually comprises over 100 islands separated by the legendary canals and connected by bridges.

American humorist, New York Times columnist and actor, Robert Benchley, upon arriving in Venice was reported to have sent a cable to his editor stating, “Streets full of water. Please advise.”

Venice was marvelous and besides the wonderful history, the food and the pubs – not just cafe’s, but real bars – were notable.                          

By the Palace of Tears in Venice

Near the Bridge of Sighs in Venice

Streets full of water - Please advise.....!

Streets full of water – Please advise…..!

Although we did not eat there, based on its ambiance, the staff and the beer, my favorite bar was The Devils Forest Pub – right near the famous Rialto Bridge.

Trip Advisor reviews were good including this one from a visitor from the United Kingdom in April:

This pub was fantastic with Italian staff that also spoke English, the food was delicious and great value for money and the décor is fab like an old English pub well worth a visit.” 

Devil's Forest bartender with our crew.

Devil’s Forest bartender with our crew.

This one from July, 2013 echoes our experience:

“Great pub just a few steps away from Rialto off a side street. Very friendly staff and a great crowd there. Good beers on tap, we did not eat there, but the place was packed with a good fun crowd (was there during Spain/Brazil match). Would definitely go back if I return.”

A true pub atmosphere.

A true pub atmosphere at The Devil’s Forest

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After a long day of sightseeing    (and shopping) we wanted to sample some of the Venetian food so we took a boat to the other side of the City.  We were successful in this goal as can be seen from the photo below:

Everyone had wine except Thebeerchaser who had a Moretti Bier.
Pizza and Moretti beer for dinner

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And while in Venice, I got to see a few more bars which looked good from very cursory visits and on-line reviews – they are on my list to explore when we return.  These included:

Bar A1 10 Savi:   (see picture below)

Bar A1 10 Savi - Another tavern near the Rialto Bridge

Bar A1 10 Savi – Another tavern near the Rialto Bridge

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Bacaro Jazz made me chuckle because the décor and stated tradition surrounding it reminded me of one of my early Portland dive taverns – The Dixie Tavern in Old Town.  Take a look at the July, 2011 review from Yelp of the Venice bar and the pictures I took of both establishments:

The International Symbol of Support....

Bacaro Jazz Bar  – The international symbol of support on the ceiling……

“Bacaro Jazz has a fun atmosphere and is perfectly placed by the Rialto Bridge to bring in all the tourists and backpackers.   Right when you walk in the first thing that grabs your attention besides the long bar counter is all the Bras – yes Bras hanging on the ceiling.” 

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“The tradition is all the women walking in who donate their bra to the collection tend to get a free drink and a rise from the
crowd.  The Bar has every drink you can think so if your intent is to walk in sober and  leave the same way forget about it.”             

   

Portland's Dixie Tavern - A New Meaning to "In the Cups"

Portland’s Dixie Tavern – A New Meaning to “In the Cups”

Each year at the Dixie, they make a donation to the Susan Kommen Foundation for each of the ceiling decorations.

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Perhaps it is an abrupt transition, but I cannot leave this post without showing another example of a church we passed in Austria – the steeples were always great landmarks in every city and this one was no exception.

A landmark in every city in Germany, Austria and Italy!

A landmark in every city in Germany, Austria and Italy!

And finally, one of the most outstanding cathedrals and structures on the entire trip – the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of St. Mark – in Venice.  We trudged up the 373 steps to the top of this architectural and engineering masterpiece for a wonderful view of Venice and the surrounding countryside.

The interior of St. Mark's

The interior of St. Mark’s

The basilica is the final resting place of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.  Construction started in the 9th century and it is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.  The mosaics (about 40,000 square feet) and bronze sculptures are remarkable. It has five domes laid out in the form of a Roman cross.

One can only imagine the labor of the peasants including stories of holding back food and water rations of the workers as the upper dome, which rises 141 feet, was being completed so they would not lose the significant time it took to leave their posts for biological functions.  The Basilica was consecrated in 1094 although it was not completed until 1674.

One of the best examples of Byzantine architecture

One of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.

On to Rome and the Cinque’ Terra on the Mediterranean coast.

Thebeerchaser Goes International – Part Deux

A Frosty Mug of Leffe Bier which is a product of ....

A frosty mug of Leffe Blond Bier which is brewed at the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven, Belgium

The last post summarized our recent 21-day Rick Steves’ tour of Europe.  From Amsterdam, we headed south through the Rhine Valley in Germany and then Austria.  (The Rhine joins the Willamette in being one of only about 30 rivers in the world to flow north.)  While the coffee in Europe was found wanting (one either has a mini espresso or a small and watered-down Americano rather than a mug of java), the beer – or bier – was great.  I’m sure you’ll agree that experimentation in the different countries was mandated.

To quote the late musician, Frank Zappa: “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

Before leaving the Netherlands, we stopped at the Arnhem Open Air Museum – a “village” with farmyards, historic cottages, businesses, shops and a wonderful little brewery – a permanent exhibit since 1996.  The title of the exhibit is appropriately “Bier is dranck voor alleman” (Beer is a drink for everyone).  Arnhem is noted as the site of the World War II Battle of Arnhem, commemorated in the 1977 movie, “A Bridge Too Far.”

The Bier Brewery in Arnhem, Netherlands
The Bier Brewery in Arnhem, Netherlands

There is a restored 1750 brewery from the Dutch village of Ulvenhout and a new building next to it (shown in the picture).  Although I’m Protestant, given the preponderance of Catholic churches in Europe, I need to confess that I spent the most time here rather than lingering at the historic bakery, apothecary, sawmill, etc..

The friendly brewer briefing Janet on their process.
The friendly brewer briefing Janet on their process.

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And the two brewers were friendly and gave Janet and me an informative briefing — and samples — of their product.

The process was different in the ___, but the end product still tasted good.

The process was different in the 1700’s but the end product still tasted good.

After two nights in historic (I guess “historic” and “village” or “city” in Europe are superfluous..) Bacharach, where we enjoyed a two-hour boat trip on the Rhine, we headed for one of my favorite cities – the walled city of Rothenburg.

The beauty of Bacharach

The beauty of Bacharach

Rothenberg attracts tourists from all over the world based on its notable roots in the medieval era.  The incredible wall with guard towers, which can still be traversed around most of the city, was constructed in the 1300’s.  It again brings to mind, one wag’s view of the difference between democracy and feudalism – “In democracy, your vote counts while in feudalism, your count votes.”

"The Walled City" is no exaggeration.

“The Walled City” is no exaggeration.

Rothenburg also has World War II notoriety after initial destructive Allied aerial bombing, when US Secretary of War, John McClory, personally aware of the beauty and historic significance of the city, ordered American troops to refrain from artillery bombardment.  Most of the city fortifications and artifacts were saved and it was occupied by the Allies in March, 1945.

View of the wall of Rothenburg from the wall of Rothenburg

View of the wall of Rothenburg from the wall of Rothenburg

Since we had some free time to explore Rothenburg, Janet and I split up and she joined our two new female friends on the tour to hit the shops in town.  (I had contracted laryngitis, so I was  worthless as a companion for conversation – but it did eliminate any language barrier with the locals.)

Now, many males view accompanying their spouses shopping as tantamount to torture – so consistent with the analogy, I spent a fascinating two hours in Rothenburg’s Museum of Crime and Punishment. 

Four floors of exhibits – most notably instruments of torture and items used in the execution of sentences (literally!) – costly books, graphic arts, documents of emperors, princes, the nobility and towns were interesting and in some respects, bizarre.

Does it get any better than this??

Does it get any better than this??

A beer and dinner were a welcome respite after the museum experience and we had an excellent dinner of bratwurst and sauerkraut before embarking on a colorful Night Watchman Tour of the city.   Hans Georg Baumgartner, the Watchman, whose comic timing in his colloquy, would make Jerry Seinfeld envious, took us on a wonderful walking tour of the city.

Only the grave digger and the executioner had lower status...

Only the grave digger and the executioner had lower status…

He pointed out that the watchman job – starting in the Middle Ages and continuing in Rothenburg until the 1920’s – was dangerous.  Guarding the city at night was like a policeman, but the pay was low and the job was a dishonorable one. “Only the gravedigger and the executioner were lower.”

Hell’s Tavern (Zur Höll) – We finished off the Watchman Tour with one of Baumgarter’s best lines.  This pub is in Rothenburg’s oldest house and the foundation of Hell was laid in 970….   He stated, in effect, “If a citizen in Rothenburg admonishes you to ‘Go to Hell,’ it is a good recommendation.”

Hiur Hell - one of Rothenburg's oldest buildings
Zur Höll – in one of Rothenburg’s oldest buildings

And of course, we descended a few steps from where he concluded into the “Gates of Hell,” if you will, which unfortunately due to its restricted size and the tourist season, was full.  It has an extensive wine list and some exotic brandies (apple, grape, pear, cherry and small yellow plums) although a limited number of draft beers.  P1000853

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So ended our time in Germany.  It was one of the tour’s highlights for me.  But after the tour in the Torture Museum, it may force a double-take in future Portland bars with pool tables, when I hear the term,Rack-em Up!”

An extensive wine list and some exotic brandies

An extensive wine list and some exotic brandies

Rothenburg was our fifth day of the tour and I realized that except for a few minor snippets on BBC, we were clueless on current events.  Of course, that also meant that since we left Oregon we had not had to hear the ubiquitous and chirrupy expression, “Hi, I’m Jan from Toyota,” for a week!

Stay tuned – on to Italy!