In the summer of 2007, my wife and I did something that’s stuck with us ever since. Something which we hope to do again someday… soon! We visited Munich, our last stop along a whirlwind tour of southern Germany, and decided to take in a historic beer hall. In fact, I was indebted to a friend and quasi-family member (hi Sarah!) for suggesting it. After sending out a mass email to friends and family, telling them we would be in Munich for a few days, she came back and suggested we see the place.
Naturally, some background is needed to properly set the scene: established in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Hofbrauhaus remains one of the oldest beer halls in Germany. Originally, it was established to serve the needs of the Royal House, which was located right around the corner from it and quickly expanded to serve the needs of the community. The beer quickly became famous, and even saved the city from annihilation during the 30 Years War.
I’m not kidding! When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria in 1632, he agreed to leave the city in peace, but only if the citizens surrendered some hostages, and 600,000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus beer. In addition, Mozart is said to have composed the opera Idomeneo thanks to this beerhall. While struggling with his muse, he found that a few visits to this hall fortified him to the task.
In addition, the beerhall was also the site of the famous “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923, when a young Austrian named Adolf Hitler led an abortive uprising against the German government. Though the little bastard and the odious Nazi party used this hall as one of many places to declare policy and hold functions, Hitler had never been known to frequent it for anything other than making speeches. Beer, meat and other such things were not his thing (take that tea-totaling vegetarians!)
Since that time, it has been visited by countless tourists, dignitaries and political figures, including John F Kennedy. It remains a major tourist draw to this day, owned by the state as a public brewery, restaurant and historic site rather than a private enterprise. It also runs the second largest tent during the annual Oktoberfest celebration and is one of the chief purveyors of beer for the occasion.
At the time of our visit, my wife and I were unaware of much of this history. In fact, we wandered through Munich checking out the various beer halls, and I wondered in each case if this was the site of the famous putsch. It was only afterwards that I learned that not only were we in the place where it happened, we were probably seated in the very section where a young Hitler made his speeches! Needless to say, I was both blown away and disgusted!
Which brings me, however circuitously, to the point of this post: this Christmas, I received one of the best gifts ever! A friend of my parents happened to be in possession of several Hofbrauhaus stone mugs that he managed to pick up while he was in Germany. Just recently, he had decided to contribute them to an auction, raising money for the Comox Valley Kitty Cat P.A.L.S. (Prevent A Litter Society). Naturally, my folks recognized the name and scooped them up. And given their inherent value, it was quite the deal!
Each one was made before the Berlin Wall fell and the country was reunited, as the stamps on the bottom will attest to. Each one says, in little black letters, Made In West Germany. Given the historical significance of this place and the memories it brings back for me and my wife, we were both very pleased to get them! Kudos again to the parental units for procuring them!
Here are some photos:
If you ever find yourself in Munich, I strongly recommend stopping by. In addition, check out some of the other historic beer halls, all of which are associated with Oktoberfest and many of which are walking distance from the Hofbrauhaus. I guess the people of Munich like eating and drinking, and don’t like commuting. I know how they feel…
And of course, here’s the link to Hofbrauhaus’ website: