I’ve mentioned before that having friends and relatives in distant lands is a big reason why we can take this trip without going completely broke. Not only are friends great for free accommodations and providing an insider’s view of the places we go to, they are also a great way to get a break from constant family life. The kids have had sleepovers with cousins and friends to escape our supervision, and you’ll find that as an adult you will most likely need some time off as well.
Friday was my first night out without the kids or Vivian since we started this trip, and it was nice to have a non-family adult conversation. My friend Johannes and I met in the Marienplatz, the central plaza of Munich, and had a leisurely stroll around the Christlkindlmarkt and the pedestrian areas in the center of town. If you’ve never experienced a Christkindlmarkt, it’s like an outdoor Christmas party with small vendors selling typical handmade crafts for gifts and an abundance of food and drink stalls selling the requisite Glühwein (hot wine) and typical German fair to keep one warm and well fed. It doesn’t matter how cold the weather is, the Christkindlmarkts bring everyone out to enjoy the Gemütlichkeit that is Christmas in Germany, and if you’re in a city like Münich, there are Christkindlmarkts in every neighborhood (sometimes two). Sipping Glühwein, perusing the holiday shops, good company – I can’t think of many better ways to experience Munich’s Marienplatz.
After our stroll, Johannes and I ended up at Pfälzer Weinstube am Residenz, a very traditional “wine bar” in housed in the former palace of the Bavarian royalty.
A Weinstube is basically a bar/restaurant that customarily serves more wine than beer, and most have a menu of traditional German fare. If you find yourself in Munich, I would recommend this one because of its traditional atmosphere and because the prices are quite reasonable. In the Pfälzer Weinstube all the wine comes from the Rhine valley, where the association that founded and still owns the establishment has its roots. The menu relates the history of the Bavarian State and the important role that the Pfalz region and its monarchs played in forming what is today the State of Bavaria.
The wine was very good, but made better by good conversation and the comfortable surroundings. The other great thing about a night at a Weinstube is that in Germany you can sit at the table as long as you like. Even if you’re having only a glass or two of wine, there is no pressure to free the table for new patrons as there often is in America. Not only was the night out with Johannes a welcome respite from always having the kids around, it was a great way to experience German culture at its best.