Tuesday, October 9


This evening, the option of going on a Schnitzeljagd was made available to all the students in my study-abroad program. If you have more than a passing knowledge of German, you might, understandably, translate it as "meat cutlet hunt." A search for the best Schnitzel in all of Munich, perhaps? No, actually it means "scavenger hunt," which works out just fine for this vegetarian. Not surprisingly, not all of the students participated, and half of those who started dropped out shortly thereafter, disappointed by the lack of Schnitzel eating. Personally, I enjoyed it. Yeah, the scavenger hunt should have held a few hours earlier when certain museums and churches were still open, but I went down a few streets I didn't know about, a few I forgot about (including the street with the most expensive stores in all of Munich. I really need to get back and see if anyone will politely ask me to leave a store, as it is bleeding obvious from my clothes and hair that I lack the funds for any of it.) and learned a little more of Munich's history.

The ending, however, was a disappointment, the final item of the hunt was to record a saying on an inner wall of Höfbräuhaus. Höfbräuhaus is in the most touristy street in the city. Directly opposite Höfbräuhaus , where Oktoberfest continues on through November and all those other months, is a Hard Rock Café. Further down the street one can find the obligatory soccer store and a few souvenir stores of the despicable sort that sell Oktoberfest shirts playing off of more recognizable designs and ridiculously ornate and unusable beer steins. Mercifully, this street is buried a few blocks back from the far more interesting parts of the city.

What caught my attention the most about Höfbräuhaus house was, of all things, the band. All men, none younger than 50, carefully groomed facial hair was the norm, and each of them was completely decked out in lederhosen. A thought that occurred to me then. You would never see a woman in that band. It would break the image of Bavaria that the establishment is trying so hard to maintain.

Why is it then that this is such an attraction? The people who go there have to know that the Munich of Höfbräuhaus is an illusion. It takes work to find the place, and I find it incredibly difficult to believe, though certainly not impossible, that one would go only there and miss out on Odeonsplatz or Marienplatz, both less than half mile away and major traffic hubs. If nothing else, the dominance of English there has to tip one off that something is a little wrong about this place. Why are people so eager to jump into this illusion? Is it adult dress-up, an opportunity to play in a fantasy land that does not exist by normal rules?

Höfbräuhaus is not selling food and drink. It is selling an experience with "real" Munich culture, no different than Disneyland's invitation into a land of imagination and magic.

Screw that. You want the real Munich culture? You walk the streets for a month and meet people and go to the bars where the Bayrisch is so thick a native Berliner could not understand the people. Experiences come about no matter what and get the most interesting when they exceed our sadly limited expectations and imagination. Businesses, do not railroad people into some sort of packaged experience, and people, do not buy into them. Give the kids their blocks to play with and discover the possibilities. Do not show the little guys how they go together and then make them do it like that every time.

And before I stray too far into hyperbole and come off like some T-Ball Baudrillard, I remain thankful that these places lack the ability to control every aspect of your experience. Things slip through, and people respond differently than expected.

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