The 7-Minute Beers, Karlsruhe And Finding The Correct Restroom
The memories flowed as quickly as the beer.
Well, a heck of a lot faster than the Pilsner was poured. But more on that later.
I was at a media luncheon in Los Angeles hosted by Tourism Germany for us Southern California travel journalists. The new German public relations representative, a friendly frau by the name of Wibke Carter, started things by asking how many of us had ever traveled to Germany.
About half of those in the room raised their hands, including myself. My mind then briefly began to wander – the way it sometimes did in school or does while listening to a preacher’s sermon in church – because I started to recall my first trip to Germany. And it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud at some of the memories!
I was with my buddy Bob, a modest Midwesterner. The previous year, we had met a group of Germans while partying at Two Brothers Bar in Santorini, Greece. We all hung out every night and after the trip, kept in touch. The Germans could not make it back the next year but one of the girls offered us their family house in Santorni – a gorgeous spot on the side of a cliff just up from the fun town of Fira – under one condition: We had to go to visit them in Germany to pick up the keys.
We eagerly accepted.
It was just our second trip to Europe. Bob and I had stopped in Amsterdam on the way to Greece the previous year and I had only see Germany through a train window. Everything “over there” was new and exciting to us.
Sonja and her group lived in Karlsruhe in the Black Forest region. That’s southern Germany and it’s not a heavily traveled tourist area. All the signs and menus are in German and most of the residents don’t speak English.
Naturally, we were interested in the beer. So the first thing Bob and I did was go to a restaurant/bar, kind of a beer hall, but hardly anything like we had heard about for Oktoberfest, and quickly ordered a brew. Sonja recommended a local Pilsner. It sounded great and we sat salivating for our first German beer in Germany!
But for the longest time, there was no beer. The place was not only not busy, it was nearly deserted. It was early afternoon and we were the only customers. Even the waiter had disappeared. We thought he had gone to Munich to get the beer. FINALLY, he brought out beers. We downed them immediately because several minutes had passed since we ordered. Then we ordered two more beers. Each.
We took this slowness to be a sign of lousy service but Sonja explained that Germans take great pride in their beer, and it takes seven minutes to properly pour a Pilsner. After that, we never ordered another Pilsner, preferring not to wait seven minutes to get a beer. We were more into pounding than in the pride of the pour.
Another friend, Heinen, was a bartender in town. We had lots of non-Pilsner beers with Heinen! We had nicknamed him Heineken, which made everyone laugh. There were no laughs, however, when we nicknamed his girlfriend Amstel (get it, Amstel and Heineken; those are beer partners in Holland).
What a strange sense of humor those Germans have, we thought. How could they crack up at one nickname but not the other? Eventually it was explained to us that Heinen’s girlfriend had such a beautiful name (to them, anyway, we could never pronounce it let alone remember it) that they felt giving her a nickname was somewhat of an insult.
The most humorous part of the trip – something I still laugh about to this day – was when Bob asked Sonja the location of the restroom in a bar. She pointed in a direction, and Sonja and I resumed our conversation. Within seconds, Bob reappeared, hopping up and down with a real sense of urgency.
“Please help me,” he begged Sonja in near desperation. “Am I a dame or a heron!?”
Also during the trip, we rode on the autobahn, went to the Heidelberg Castle and crossed the border to Strasbourg,where I had a glass of wine at a small cafe in France. Wine at a small cafe in France! It was like living in a dream!
Now is a good time to mention that also in our group was my girlfriend.
Well, she was my recent girlfriend. We had separated right before the trip. Fresh out of college, she was spending the summer backpacking through Europe. I had kindly allowed her to join us in Germany while she awaited the arrival of her best friend. We both felt it were best if we were single while she went on her epic three-month adventure.
Lynne – #4 on my list of 10 Reasons I’m Still Single –was an adorable wide-eyed 21-year-old who thought she had figured out the whole world. Whenever I would do something, it would always be wrong. In her mind.
So when just the two of us went to the train station to go to Strasbourg and couldn’t read any signs – remember, everything was in German – I came up with a solution. I went into the nearest building where I figured we could find some English-speaking people, the post office.
Lynne rolled her eyes, saying this wouldn’t accomplish anything, but offering no alternative solution, accompanied me anyway. I patiently waited in one of the half-dozen lines and when I approached the counter, said, “guten tag. Spreken ze English?”
“Nein, nein,” came a friendly reply. He waved toward the next window with an assurance that the person there spoke good English.
But that person didn’t, and neither did the person at the next window. Or the next.
Now Lynne, not known for her patience, was pacing the floor wanting in the worst way to tell every costumer what an idiot I was but unable to do so because nobody spoke English. Personally, I was actually enjoying the interaction with the locals. Eventually I got the information and we were on our way to Strasbourg.
A couple hours later, I was having that glass of wine in France while Lynne impatiently tapped her foot. This played a critical part in my decision not to allow her to accompany me to Greece the next day, by the way, a story that’s best saved for another day.
I have been back to Germany only once, and that was a doozy: Oktoberfest in Munich!
I am anxious to return, to check out some of the German wineries – yes, Germany has wineries – as well as have more German beer.
From the luncheon, I learned there are brewery tours in places like Ausgburg, which has had very specific brewing standards in place since 1156. And you can even sleep in a brewery in Heidelberg, the Kulturbrauerei Heidleberg, which has a hotel attached to the old and current brewhouse.
For more, check out www.germanytrave.com.
When I go back to Germany, I’ll even give the Pilsner another try. I’ll just be sure and order another beer in the meantime.