As with the previous two nights, my final night here at Yoho in Salzburg was a blast. No need to go out: more than enough fun to be had, simply by "going out downstairs" — and considering the cold, that's the best type of going out you can do around here. Big group, lots of beer-drinking (and mainly "wheat beer", which they have on tap at the Yoho bar, and which I far prefer over other beers), plenty of card-playing, and plenty of laughs. I'm really going to miss this place: and it's hard to believe that my next destination is probably going to be even better! Austria, you're giving me a good run.
When you backpack around the world for a year, you become introduced to quite a few card games. Also to quite a few drinking games. Sometimes — as in the case of Circle of Death, which I learned this evening — you get introduced to both at once. Circle of Death is a simple enough game: a deck of cards is fanned out in a circle on the surface of a table; and each player in turn pulls a card out of the circle. Each number (or royal) in the deck has a certain action — failure to achieve the requirements of the various actions results in the loser(s) drinking. Very fun game, and a great way to turn a group of sensible, amiable friends into a bunch of loud-mouthed, hammered knobheads. But, hopefully, still friends.
Salzburg may be politically part of Austria; but geographically, it's actually much closer to Bavaria. And when it comes to beer, it's clear that the closeness is measured by more than mere kilometres. The Augustiner Bräu is where Craig, Sarah, Kade, Lisa, Thierry, Wilson and myself went tonight — for something to drink, and for something to eat — and it's the kind of place that could only possibly exist somewhere whose heart is of Bavarian fibre. I kid you not when I say: the Augustiner Bräu is a beer hall that has been operated for centuries by Augustine monks; that serves the Augustine beer that the monks themselves brew and copiously drink; and that is physically connected to the monks' fully-functional church. Of course — this being the crazy beer-religion-wotzdadiff place that it is — all that is perfectly normal and acceptable. Anyway, all I can say is that these monks sure do a good job, because they brew some of the best beer known to mankind; job satisfaction is no doubt a part of life for them.
During our tour of Munich today, Ozzie shared with us some interesting if alarming facts about beer and Bavaria. Bavaria is officially the beer capital of the world: not just by reputation, but also by the irrefutable weight of statistics. Have a look at some of these hair-raising facts, and you'll see what I mean.
Mr. Miller is an 84-year-old, Polish-born Munich local, who shamelessly (but not regrettably) interrupted our tour of Munich today in the Marienplatz. He staggered up to Ozzie, totally wasted on Glühwein (waving his Glühwein mug around); and wouldn't leave us alone until he'd told us his life story (at times, in surprisingly passable English), and sung us a few songs in G-d knows what language. You gotta see it to believe it: so check out the video below.
Did you know that the word "Aussie" has 4 different meanings, here in Germany? First, it refers to Austrians — Germans have been calling their southern brethren "Aussies" for yonks. Second, it refers to Australians — naturally, who the hell doesn't know our affectionate national nickname? Third, it refers to East Germans, whom their Western brethren sometimes like to joke about. And finally, it refers to Ozzie! At least, that's according to Ozzie himself (yep, that's his name): the (allegedly) quarter-native Bavarian, 100% black, 110% crazy tourguide who took half of Wombat's on a tour of Munich this morning.
For some relaxation after our long walk around Berlin all day, this evening John and I popped in to a few of the local pubs in Berlin's Mitte district. Our mission was simple: to drink beer, and to drink good, tasty German beer. Fortunately, that proved to be quite an attainable endeavour — even by my generally beer-hating standards, Germany is one place where nobody can be disappointed by the quality of the brews.
Last night was a big night — but it wasn't until this morning that I realised just how big. As far as I can remember, all that happened was that Stef and I returned home at around 3am, that I crashed straight into bed (I remember tucking in), and that the adventures ended then and there. My memory is that I slept solidly for the rest of the night, and that I woke up at around 11am, groggy yet otherwise fine. But apparently, there was an additional epilogue to the annals of the night, and one of which I have no memory whatsoever. It seems that for the second time on this trip (and in my life), alcohol has left a gaping gap in my memory. I experienced a Belgian beer blackout.
Turnhout may be a small and insignificant town; but if you're there with the locals, and if you're willing to hit a few pubs, you'll find that it sure as hell ain't sleepy on a Saturday night. To my great surprise, tonight was one of the biggest nights I've had this year. I drank more beer, more types of beer, and a higher quality of beer than I've ever drunk before in my life; and hopefully (in the interests of my own health and sanity) more than I'll ever drink again. After our greasy local dinner, we returned to Turnhout; and while Annick and Karlijn retired back home for the evening, Stef and I began a long and sustained night of beverage-sampling, that spanned several pubs and numerous brews. After tonight, I haven't yet conquered all 500+ of Belgium's beers; but I believe I've made a solid dent in the landscape, and a promising start.
After last night's relaxing, beer-filled introduction to Belgium, this morning Stef continued the intro, with a tour of his humble town of Turnhout. Actually, Stef grew up in an even smaller town several km's away (almost touching the Dutch border) — but he's basically living in Turnhout now. It's a typical little Flemish town: filled with the things you'd expect from a town anywhere in Europe, such as shops, bars, and plenty of history. As well as seeing the more important landmarks, I also got to sample a bit of the local cuisine, and to hear a little about the town's developments over the years. Plus, of course, we had a bit more beer.