Man CAN Live on Bread Alone. In Bavaria.

Bavarian AlpsThere are many things about Bavarian culture that I have embraced. A close connection to the land, hearty food in winter, and an affinity to art and history are but a few. Another thing that fits nicely into my world view is the absolute worshiping of the sun in Bavaria. I was born in San Diego, after all, and did most of my growing up in Florida. Yes, the sun is alright by me.

Now, compared to those two places my general impression of Germany’s weather is it’s gray. It does have countless shades of gray, however. So when the sun makes her infrequent appearance (for some odd reason the sun is feminine in the German language) in Munich, the older Bavarians sit bundled on every available park bench, heads tilted towards the light with slight smiles on their faces. Conversation is limited. They remind me of  jay-hawks sitting on the telephone lines along I-35, on the seemingly endless open prairies of Kansas.

Bavaria is the traditional mixed with the technically advanced; I have no qualms with either. Though ‘laptops and lederhosen’ was first mentioned years earlier, this idea of old and new became the campaign slogan of the former president of Bavaria, Dr. Edmund Stoiber, when he was running for the chancellor of Germany many years ago. “Laptops and Lederhosen”. Yes, that sums up Bavaria succinctly, and makes a great name for a blog.

With the exception of France, Bavaria may quite possibly have some of the most beautiful, diverse landscape in Europe, and therefore the world. From rolling grasslands dotted with many lakes left from the last great Ice Age, these give way to hills and primordial forests that are topped with rocky crags of the Alps. Bavaria has it all.

Bavarians love flowers, nature, and anything outdoors.

Bavarians love flowers, nature, and anything outdoors. It is a bit untidy, no?

Bavarians keep their farms postcard picture pretty. Only the Swiss can call the Bavarians untidy, and they never fail to do so when the opportunity arises.

The infrastructure in Bavaria is excellent, with regular trains supplemented by buses that reach the most difficult corners of this state.

The water in Munich is rated the best city water in Europe (a distinction it shares with Vienna).

These things and more I miss whenever I go away from here for any period of time. But they pale in comparison when it comes to the thing that I yearn for the most upon my return home to Munich-freshly baked Bavarian bread. That’s right, freshly baked whole grain hurts your teeth to chew-brown bread. Bread that you better hold on tightly to as you saw through it with your knife, and watch your fingers!

Bread abounds!

Bread abounds! Most bakeries have between 20 and 30 varieties.

I faintly remember some kind of bread on the table when growing up, a kind of white sponge cake. Couldn’t spread butter on it without it coming apart in shreds  This was not my mom’s fault, in America there are few selections of bread at the local suburban grocery store. There’s just not enough demand for it, though things are slowly changing. You can find good breads in America, but they are usually in the bigger cities of the Northeast or Midwest. In Orlando, it’s easier to get great tortillas or flan than fresh baked crusty bread.

Pork fat, butter, ham, cheese, jam, honey, sunflower oil, gravy, or any other semi-liquidity spread is more than sufficient to ingest this Bavarian bread, anything basically, to keep the crumbs from falling. In fact, I’ve even seen some people eat it plain.

Bavarian bread with pork fat!

Bavarian bread with pork fat!

The best time of the year for me to enjoy this bread is  in October and November, on Sunday mornings. The local bakery is open at 6:30, and since not nearly as many people are out and about on Sundays, I like to take the long way around the neighborhood while the streets are still quiet. If there’s a slight drizzle, even better. The dream scenario is when there is just enough dampness in the air to feel it on your clothes but not your skin, and only empty, dark, quiet streets with few rumblings except the ones in your stomach.

On a final note, and this is very important, the Bavarians also think of beer as bread, only in liquid form. Fresh bread, pork fat, raw onion or radishes and cold beer. Yes, I like Bavaria. Yes, indeed.

Russian Humor

PutinRussians are known for their colorful language among many other things.  My father who spoke Russian, often told me smilingly of how many vulgar cuss words there were in the Russian language. There are even more combinations of these words than the mind can imagine! Art imitates life!

Russians also have specific sense of humor. Have a man dress up as a woman, that’s it, and you will see and hear unending  chuckles from the audience.

This next story captures many other aspects of Russian culture succinctly, all in one joke. Perhaps no other country except Russia could turn such a morbid story into one that becomes so incredibly funny. It is because it has all the hallmarks of a great Russian story. Death, corruption, stealing, orphans, vodka, winter, humor,…

On a dark, bleary and bone-numbing winter’s day, a would-be mass murderer/serial killer-after a bottle of vodka-decides that he wants to make a real name for himself, to be even greater than the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs, Anatoly Onoprienko, or even Andrei Chikatilo. So he gathers a bunch of Russian ruble notes and sprays them with a deadly poison. It will kill its victims within hours of contact on their skin. He takes the money to the local orphanage with a note explaining that he would like for all of the children (more than 100) to receive some of the money as an anonymous Christmas gift. He places it on the interior of a large container’s door and as he closes the door he hears the bag of money slide down and rattle and echo in the empty metal cube. 

The next evening he prepares a great meal, and settles in to watch the evening news program to see how many children and workers at the orphanage have been killed by his diabolical plan. But, much to our psycho’s surprise the news anchor explains that the ‘director of a local orphanage is dead under strange circumstances which has been completely overshadowed by the fact that the police chief is also dead, in addition to about 20 local government deputies and the interior minister’s wife.  Another thirty single women (and two men) in the region are also dead. The police had already extracted a confession from the killer. He claims to have ties with NATO…’

 

Bavarian/German Culture Tip #1

Punctuality, order, and discipline are the three pillars of German society

Punctuality, order, and discipline are the three pillars of German society

Rechts stehen, links gehen. (Stand on the right, go on the left.)

Germans are famous for their punctuality and efficiency. If either of these two things are disrupted, they can become cantankerous. Many German commuters who use the transportation network know they only have a short time to make connections between trams, subways, and trains. Every moment counts.

In Bavaria, it can be even more precise. When using the escalators in Munich be sure you (and your luggage) are as far to the right as possible, to allow those busy Bavarians a chance to walk by you on the left. If you don’t, you may feel the wrath of a laser-like stare on the back of your head (hot enough to singe your hair), followed by some undecipherable unpleasantries (which will nevertheless make their point) as they eventually pass you.