Tag: Germany 2018

Munich = Beer!

A monument to the Reinheitsgebot at Viktualmarkt in Munich, the German law of 1516 that ostensibly improved the quality of beer but was really a political move to kill off competing breweries and enrich the King and ultimately doomed German breweries to centuries of slow (or no) progress.

We went to the Brandhorst Museum and saw bad art by Cy Twombly. Today’s art world needs a higher standard, a lot of graffiti is more interesting and meaningful than this:

Fortunately, I accidentally left my 360° camera at a restaurant in the Schwabing neighborhood yesterday so while Gay and Havana went to another museum, Hudson, Eva and I took a train to go retrieve it.

Our hotel is right next door to the famous Hofbrauhaus where we met for dinner:

A choice of 3 beers, a Helles, a Dunkel and a Weisse, are served by the liter:

The food was also very good:

English Garden

After the BMW museum we made our way back to Marienplatz over 7 hours via walking, subway and bus.

Watching soccer in Schwabing:

Walking through the English Garden:

And ran into a beer garden at the Chinese Tower:

There’s a kids play area so naturally we stayed and had a beer and pretzels:

It’s like an outdoor version of Optimism — tables upon tables where you go get your beers and can bring your own food and there’s a place for kids to play — except there’s only 2 beers to choose from and it’s much much bigger!

Hudson and I went to dinner by ourselves where we could watch the Russia vs Croatia game while the girls went to a soccer-free restaurant. Hudson almost fell asleep at the restaurant. They’ve been good travelers but I think are getting tired of all the walking.

BMW Museum

We visited the BMW museum today.

BMW Headquarters is a cool building:

Where you pick up your new BMW if you bought one and you’re inclined to visit Germany and pick up your new car (but all I got is a t-shirt):


All the nameplates since the 1970s — amazing how they stick to one design, all they did was change to italics:

1956 507:

The 1955 BMW Isetta is adorable:

The 2002, probably my favorite BMW:

The first M car, the M1:

The Z8 is pretty; reminds me of Speed Racer’s car:

Vision concept car:

Pilsner Urquell tour

Pilsner Urquell’s beer in the U.S. wreaks of diacetyl (butter aroma and flavor) so I don’t drink it. But here in Europe it tastes much better. I don’t understand why, they claim the beer is the same and it’s pasteurized so the diacetyl is not coming from an infection in the bottles. My guess is that it’s so much more fresh here that the malt and hops mask the diacetyl while the older, less fresh and poorly-handled beer that is shipped to the U.S. loses the malt and hops aroma so it doesn’t mask the butter aroma as much.

Since Pilsen (Plzen) is the birthplace of Pilsner beer I wanted to come here while traveling nearby. And because Pilsner Urquell invented the Pilsner beer style and because I’d seen pictures of it in Michael Jackson’s Beer Hunter TV shows, I wanted to visit the brewery. It’s definitely worth the $10 or so for the ticket!

Interesting brewing facts I learned:

  • Pilsner Urquell is triple-decocted (they call it “triple-mashing”)
  • It takes 12 days to ferment at 4-7°C (which is it?)
  • They lager it for 30 days at 5°C
  • They malt the Moravian Barley themselves on site
  • They now have a water treatment plant to treat the water they pull from 100-meter wells nearby – the famously soft and pure Pilsen water isn’t what it used to be, I guess
  • They always used copper kettles and even today only the lauter tuns are stainless steel
  • They lagered the beer in wood barrels lined with tar until the 1994 when they switched to stainless steel lagering tanks (and decommissioned the cellar)
  • The lagering tanks are vertical, not horizontal
  • They implied that there is a secondary fermentation in the lagering tanks but I’m not sure
  • They use membrane filtration, not a centrifuge
  • They pasteurize the beer
  • The tour guide said brown bottles are used for export and green bottles are for local distribution – however, the U.S. gets green bottles and I don’t recall ever seeing it in brown bottles

The brewery gate:

Havana (and Ouzo) next to an old wort-chiller:

The original brewery building in 1842:

The packaging facility, bottles, cans and plastic bottles (for their other beers):

The brewhouse from the early 1900s to 2004:

The brewhouse from 2004 on:

The Czechs wanted to make a pale lager, pale like the wheat ales that were popular in Germany at the time, as lagers then were darker. They hired Josef Groll as the first brewmaster and he is the one that invented Pilsner beer: lightly malted barley from Pilsen, Czech Saaz hops, soft Pilsen water and yeast he took from some German brewery. It was only 5 years earlier that a German physiologist, Theodor Schwann, discovered that yeast is a living organism and is what causes fermentation. The hydrometer was invented the following year by a Czech chemist, Karl Balling. The same year Pilsner Urquell started, Emil Hanssen was born, who discovered decades later that there were many strains of yeast, including that ale and lager yeasts behaves differently.

Josef Groll:

At least one reason Pilsen was chosen was because it was on top of easy-to-excavate sandstone and they knew they’d be digging underground to make caves to store (“lager”) the beer.

The kids in the cellar next to barrels:

One of many (70?) ice houses — until 1987 they brought ice from a nearby lake and filled these rooms to bring the cellar from a natural 8°C to 5°C:

Prague to Pilsen

Leaving our place in Prague, we took two Uber rides to the train station.

The Czech Republic is so inexpensive. Beer for $2 or less and dinners for all 5 of us for less than $60 is one thing, but the train for all 5 of us to Pilsen in 2nd class seating cost $15 in total — the kids’ tickets cost just $2 each! In comparison, the five of us split up and took two 7-minute Uber car rides to the train station for $8 each.

We got to Pilsen later than expected – 2.5 hours vs 1.5 hours – due to a non-fatal train-car collision ahead of us. Thankfully, our hotel is just a 4-minute walk from the station.

We checked into the hotel, dropped off our luggage and made it in time for our 1pm brewery tour at Pilsner Urquell, which is just across the street.

Day in Prague

We got up without coffee available so we got out and walked 20 minutes to the closest well-regarded coffee shop: EMA Espresso Bar. We had espresso, the kids had a great blueberry lemonade and pasties. Later I found a Starbucks for good ol’ drip coffee.

We came across Manifesto Market, a block of shipping crates turned into restaurants and arranged like a food court. Interesting concept.

Restaurace Kolonial for lunch where Hudson went for the biggest burger, curiously advertised as 454g which is exactly 1 pound, they saw Americans coming!:

Across the Charles Bridge:

After a rest at the hotel room we went out for dinner. First, we went to the “craft brewery” Pivovarský U Supa, which was not super (nor was the service).

We left for dinner to go to a place in the touristy town center that purports to be the original Pilsner Urquell pub. The food was actually good and Pilsner Urquell was appreciated after the earlier beers.

Another 16,000 steps today. Ouch, my feet are tired. The kids were amazing, it must’ve been 20,000+ steps for them and they didn’t complain at all.

Berlin to Prague

We left Tropical Islands and took a train back to Berlin’s cool central station (Haubtbanhof) and then took a more direct 4-hour train to Prague.

We had our own box to ourselves and the kids could nap.

We arrived in Prague at 5:30pm and found out that the taxis only take cash. So we wheeled our luggage across town over cobbled streets for 20 minutes in the sun to get to our place. The kids were annoyed their parents didn’t think to bring ATM cards to get cash.

Fortunately there is a pizza place around the corner so we could sit down and have dinner– full calorie Sprite for the kids, what a treat! – and pizza right away. Wow, 500ml beers cost 29 krona, or $1.29!

Tropical Islands

A 45-minute train ride south of Berlin brought us to Tropical Islands (Wikipedia).

My seat mate on the flight from Seattle to Frankfurt – who had the same headphones that I do – said he used to sell stock and one is the companies he represented was Cargolifter who built the hangar to make zeppelins. The zeppelin market couldn’t sustain it apparently so the company went out of business. The hangar was bought and this surreal place was built inside.

There’s an (all stainless steel!) pool, a beach and another pool, water slides, a rain forest with flamingos, miniature golf, two “hot air” balloons that you can ride in, spas, restaurants/bars and a theater where I could watch the soccer games with a beer.

We stayed a quick shuttle bus ride away in these little houses with a view of the Tropical Islands dome.

Update July 31, 2018: Tropical Islands was named in Travel Channel’s list of coolest water parks in the world.

Kollwitzplatz, Berlin

We left Stone and took a bus, then walked for a bit in some neighborhood and then two trains up to Kollwitzplaz in northern Berlin.

We ran into a farmer’s market, kids got ice cream while I watched a World Cup game at an Italian restaurant. Then we walked to Salt ‘n Bone for dinner where we found out that they, and most places in Berlin, don’t take credit cards! We have very little cash so we had to leave and find a place that does, eventually landing in another Italian restaurant.

The Kollwitzplatz neighborhood is very cool, I could spend more time there.