Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's Oh-Beer Thirty Somewhere.... .the Impact of Asheville on My Beer Life

When I lived in Grand Rapids MI, the locals were always bragging about being "Beer City." I was indifferent to beer at the time; I did not like beer back then. I assumed “Beer City” was some lame marketing campaign. Then I moved to Asheville , and the city is a beer cornucopia, with a lot of buzz about being beer city. By that time, my tastes had changed and I liked beer, so I was curious. I discovered numerous amazing breweries in Asheville. My love for beer grew so much that I even learned to brew it myself. And even though I had to use a sock in my first batch, it turned out great.  In my research, I learned that "beer city" happens to be a moniker earned as a result of a contest. Asheville truly deserves the title, as it has more microbreweries per capita than any other U.S. city. They have over 100 local beers and microbreweries and the market continues to grow.
In 1978 U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed a law allowing home brewing of beer and microbreweries. This explains why, growing up in the 70s, the only beer in our house tasted like raccoon urine. My dad would have made his own if he could have. It also explains why American beer keeps getting better, as Americans learn to make beer more like European style, which is dramatically better than ours. Crappy American beers like Pabst, Miller, and Budweiser do not compare to German beer or some of the great beers made in microbreweries in the USA. It's like comparing the cheapest frozen pizza that tastes like Ragu on cardboard to Poppa Johns.  (Ok, I have never tasted raccoon urine, I am making assumptions there.)

Thanks to the new law, Charlie Papazian's career exploded like a bottle of fermented homebrew. In 1979 he founded the Association of Brewers and wrote the quintessential home brewing book.  For several years, he ran a poll on USA today for nominating the best beer city.  The poll was based entirely on popular vote.  Asheville won more times than any other city, including a four year in a row run, at the same time USA Today decided to stop running the contest. Grand Rapids also had a few wins. Several other cities won through the decades that this poll ran, including Portland, Fort Collins, Colorado, Tampa, and a long list of others.

Moving to Asheville reawakened and heightened my appreciation for beer. It was not too long before I decided to try making my own.  It’s really not very complicated. You start by boiling hops in water, basically making a hop tea. Then you add malt. Cool it down and add yeast, and let it set for a few weeks. That's the basics. The first time I bought the raw ingredients to try this, I lost the little cheesecloth bag you put the hops in. The only thing I could find in my flat to use was a white sock. It was clean, honest. I tied up the hops in the sock (yes, it was a sock hop), and let it steep. The beer tasted great. It did not taste like feet at all. (Ok, I have never tasted feet at all. Nor have I eaten Ragu on cardboard, for the record.) The sock was too hot to wear afterward. Besides, my onychomycosis helped step up the yeast process a notch. 
Making beer is actually fun and easy. If you buy a kit, it ends up being about the same cost as buying a moderately priced beer. If you shop for deals on hops and malt, you can actually make it for about twenty-five cents per bottle, but it takes some serious effort to grab those deals and requires buying ingredients in bulk.

Here is what the hops look like. They come in little pellets. I know they look like rabbit turds but they are not. Rabbit turds make lousy beer. The hops are processed into pellets and sold to homebrewers in this fashion. I took a bite of one and they are intensely bitter. There are many different species of hops with different intensities of bitterness and flavors. The type and amount of hops you choose effect the flavor of the beer.

Here is malt; it is very sweet and tastes like malt. There are also different flavors of malt that affect the flavor of the beer. The length of time you cook the malt also affects the color of the beer.

Here, I was showing my sister and fiancé how to make beer. (My fiancé and sister are two different people. I thought I should clarify since I live in Kentucky.)

After boiling, you cool it down quickly with ice. This is called "crashing".

Here, the beer has been brewing for a few days. It is nice and bubbly.

When it's done, you put it into bottles and let it ferment a few more days, before putting it in the fridge to stop fermenting. I have used different kinds of bottles, including the type that you cap with a metal cap. I prefer these old-fashioned bottles with the attached lid. These types of bottles are a common way to buy beer in grocery stores in Germany

And the final product.

Making beer is fun, and so is drinking it, and so is going to the microbreweries in Asheville. I have run way over on content now so I am going to save my favorite Asheville microbreweries for the next post.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thurn and Taxis, the Prince of Mail Delivery

Thurn and Taxis is, oddly enough, a family name. The Thurn and Taxis family created a postal delivery system in the 16th century. It was so successful and efficient that it spread from Regensburg through all of Germany, and soon on to a very large percentage of Europe; into Spain, France, and several other countries. In fact, the family ended up being granted royalty status at the level of Prince, no less, and became very wealthy. Thurn and Taxis has a living prince in Regensburg today, although he has no authority to any throne, in fact the family has had a princeship but has never been in line for a throne.  They must have been better than the US Mail, who could be granted the Earl of Losing Stuff. I'm not in line for any thrones either. I would like to be known henceforth as the "Duke of Travel" please. Thurn and Taxis was a short walk from our hotel and the Cathedral. The Hotel Kaiserhof am Dom and the Cathedral were also great highlights of the trip to Regensburg.

The Thurn and Taxis family has been philanthropistic to Regensburg. They built a beautiful park for the city during the 16th century that is still very active today. It is a long, beautiful park with a lot of water fountains, flower, trees and nice wide walkways. It was busy and peaceful every time we went to it. Members of the family are still living in the Thurn and Taxis castle and are still very wealthy.

Their odd last name being comprised of three separate words is from strange adaptations of a formerly French name into German. If the tour of Thurn and Taxis is not enough for you, you can also buy the board game on Amazon. I know you and the kids have been dying for a board game about medieval mailmen, so here it is, just in time for Christmas.  Next time you see your letter carrier, try to imagine him or her in chain link (instead of their underwear like you usually do.)  But seriously, I am actually going to buy it. One of my favorite board games of all times (and I am a huge gamer) is the Settlers of Catan, which was invented by a German.


I for one will never begrudge a family wealth when they give back to the community in such meaningful ways. I volunteer for the opportunity to be a philanthropist billionaire, and will gladly apply and interview. I think if every billionaire in this world would be a philanthropist, the world would be a much better place, and people would have better lives. The Thurn and Taxis castle also has an interesting story. It was actually an old monastery; St. Emmeram's. St. Emmeram's monastery, a Benedict monastery founded in 739 at the grave of Saint Emmeram.  The monastery was an early major Christian and theological library by the 13th century. In 1812, the monastery was dissolved and the family bought St. Emmeram's Monastery. It was henceforward referred to as the Thurn and Taxis Castle although it is not at all a castle in a classical sense; it is more of a palace. It is an old monastery with extensive buildings and grounds converted into a palace. Medieval Christianity is rich in this city.  We saw several gorgeous ancient churches dating back many centuries and even a few that were established over a millennia ago. In fact, we stayed across the street from the centerpiece of the town, St. Peter's. It can be seen from any point on the riverfront, and most if not all of the old downtown.

Thurn and Taxis Castle
Thurn and Taxis Castle

St.Peter's Cathedral is the big church that you see in all the downtown photos of Regensburg. It is the biggest focal point of the city. The church started around 700 AD and was built on the north wall of the Roman fort that started Regensburg. Like so many medieval churches, this one went through many upgrades and additions, fires and repairs. Baroque renovations occurred in the 17th century. From 1828 to 1841 the cathedral went through Neo-Gothic renovations by order of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. The towers and their spires were built from 1859 to 1869. The building was completed in 1872 and took close to 600 years for completion.  (I also have a few home repair projects that are likely to take me that long at the rate I am going.) Standing next to the church is overwhelming. This massive Gothic structure does not convey it's overbearing omnipresence sufficiently in pictures. The courtyard and road that encircles the church are lively and active 24 hours per day. It is one of the major focuses of the old medieval city.

The Hotel Kaiserhofam Dom is right across from St. Peter's. "Am Dom" means "at the Cathedral."  It is a short walk from the hotel many beautiful Platzen (plural for courtyards), including the most famous, the Platz by the Rathaus (town hall). Personally, I was especially appreciative of Petra, a nice woman at the desk with whom we had a very nice conversation about healthcare in America vs. Germany. The service at the hotel was outstanding. The staff were all consistently friendly and competent. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Asheville -- The Weirdness

Asheville is one of my favorite places in the world. I had the great pleasure of living there for 14 months. I lived downtown, and every day I would walk around the city after work. Asheville is always fun. There are buskers everywhere. Musicians, jugglers, mimes, magicians all frequent the corners. There are countless great restaurants serving unique offerings and farm to table fresh and local menus.

The weirdness of Asheville is one of my favorite aspects of the city. For example, people will randomly wear costumes for no particular reason. These fellows appeared on one of my walks. Maybe "appeared" is the wrong word choice. I saw them suddenly. They did not magically appear, although nothing would surprise me in Asheville. Three nice young men in costumes for no apparent reason. There were no comic-cons or any other events that would make people come out in costume. People do not need a reason to be weird in Asheville. The weirdness is widely accepted and not judged.  Apparently, Gumby, Samus and the Assassin's creed guy are about to walk into a bar. There is a punchline waiting to happen here, but it's going to be waiting for a long time. It's such an odd assortment. Reminds me of a nightmare I had once, where I was stuck in an elevator for eight hours with Bob Dillan, Ozzy Ozbourne and Donald Duck. We were arguing politics and Nuclear Physics.

I ran into this one young woman who was on a crusade to discourage drunk driving. I asked if she was with SADD or MADD or some group. No, she was just out there alone, promoting sober driving.

Clearly, the beer wagon was less interested in sober driving. Up to eight people pedal this wagon around town while drinking BYOB. Don't worry, a professional and sober driver is at the head of the wagon to keep things safe.

Gumby and his posse are next to the chalkboard wall of "Things to do Before I Die" which gets filled up and cleaned off every day. Here is a better view of it.  People from all over the world write their hopes and dreams on the board. It is said that if you write your dreams on the wall, sprinkle it with Kombucha, and spin around three times chanting "Dave is awesome" that your wish will come true. Okay, I am kidding, no one ever said that, I was just hoping to make a video of you doing that. 

I have about a dozen favorite places in Asheville. One of them is White Duck Taco, with its exotic taco menu. I have tried them all (not all at the same time). They are all delicious except the Pork Belly and Watermelon. Sorry, I just don't get Pork Belly. It's a hunk of pig fat. I think the Surgeon General said not to eat hunks of pig fat. Pretty sure if you saw a tub of pig fat in the store, it would have a label on it "bad for you and tastes disgusting." Every single other taco they have is fantastic. They have great deserts, beer on tap, and wine. They are also in a great location, in the heart of downtown, with outdoor picnic tables in addition to plentiful inside seating. Staff is friendly and courteous.

Another favorite place is the Skybar. Skybar is a 5th 6th and 7th story bar, on the outside of the building. Three floors of outdoor decks, overlooking the city and the mountains. It is actually just an old fire escape turned into a bar. I guess if there is a fire now, you have to throw your beer on it. It is a great place for a drink! They have delicious exotic drinks along with local microbrews. Asheville is "Beer City," after all,  having won several contests for their microbreweries. The Skybar offers several local beers. They also offer unusual recipes such as the "Rum Raisin" with Kraken spiced rum, Krupnikas honey liquor, five spice simple, coconut milk and cream, walnut bitters and bruleed raisins, or the "Winter Sun" made with Brokers gin, wild orange simple, house-infused cardamom energy tincture, gin-barrel aged orange bitters, with a splash of soda. The only way to get there is by the elevator staffer. This is not a self service elevator. Rather it is an old fashioned elevator run by a staff member who accepts tips and gives candy. He or she also offers explanations and guidance on what to expect at the top.

Another great thing about Ashville is the buskers. You will find people playing electric violins, didgeridoos and xylophones. I have seen drums, guitars and accordions. I have watched passerbys stop to dance, and I have been that passerby. I have seen magicians, mimes, jugglers, and people making balloon animals. (I had a balloon pet once, but it had a horrible temper and blew up at me). All performers of notable excellence. There are so many busker there during peak season, that by the time you are out of earshot of one, you encounter the next.

This is the first of several  posts on Asheville. We have much more to explore, and in more detail. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Alte Kapelle, Medieval Majesty and Awe

During our honeymoon planning, we discovered the Alte Kapelle, and it immediately became one of our top destinations. "Alte Kapelle" is German for "Old Chapel." It should be called the "Old Awe-Inspiring Mind Blowing Beautiful Chapel," but that would be too long in German. 

Door from Narthex to Sanctuary

While the church was established in the 7th century, it's décor and architecture is much more modern, including elements of Gothic, Baroque and Roccoco. This is due to several phases of decline and revitalization, rather than 7th century time traveling architects, as you might think. Gothic influence is seen in the large vaulted ceilings. It is also seen in the emo teens wearing black fingernail polish, lipstick and clothing.  The Baroque and Rococo periods are seen in the décor. As I always say, if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it, none the less, there were Rococo-era enhancements as well. I was disappointed to learn that rococo was not a hot chocolatey beverage. Rococo is a late-Baroque period of architecture and art, and was exquisitely detailed and ornate.


We almost missed our opportunity to see the church. Alte Kapelle was high on our list, but unplanned variables kept diverting us away. We wandered the city, ran across other things on our list, and took time to savor the things we found as we came across them. I think that is the best way to travel: with a list of objectives but no agenda.  Take advantage of spontaneity, be in discovery mode, live in the moment.  Some of the best things in life are discovered happenstance.

We looked for it, but got distracted and detoured, saw other great sights, and decided to go back to the hotel. As we were heading back we stumbled across the Alte Kapelle. It was subtle. We were walking past it and almost did not notice it. The exterior is quite drab, non-descript, and it looks like nothing special at all. There were crowds, no big signs, and the courtyard was quiet. But we had this sudden urge to stop and read the sign on this drab building, when we realized what it was.

Alte Kapelle Exterior

We went in, took a few pictures, walked around in awe, then sat in a pew to pray. There were not many people inside. There was a humble elderly gentleman in the back pew praying, and two families praying in pews in the middle of the church. The families left. We were sitting, too mesmerized to move. Finally, I stood up to go take pictures at the front. That's when the man in the back approached me. My German is not very good, but I understood he was telling me the church was closing. I thanked him, and he recognized my American accent immediately. So then he explained in English. The church was not supposed to be open at this time. He unlocked it so he could go inside and pray for awhile, but it was not supposed to be open, and he had to leave, and had to lock it up. He was very kind and considerate and clearly felt bad in asking us to leave. But I did not feel bad at all; he was responsible for locking up this beautiful church. Rather, I felt blessed that we happened to be there at the right time to see this Regensburg highlight. I was grateful that this parishioner allowed us to be in this great church, and I thanked him. "Vielen Dank, Vielen Dank." Shaking his had. "Die Kirche ist sehr schön."  (Thank you very much the church is very beautiful.)

The man in the back pew is the kind parishioner that let us in

One of the amazing things about seeing these old churches is to stop and think about the fact that day after day, year after year, decade after decade, century after century and on to millennia, people have stood in that building and worshiped. Millions have stood and prayed and paid reverence to the creator.  Millions of souls through the centuries have gone to this place searching for God, trying to find meaning in their lives. The depth and history and layers of faith and prayers make it a holy place. All this spiritual energy imbues something deep and powerful and transcendent. You can feel a palpable reverence when you step into these ancient European churches, especially if you enter with a reverent frame of mind. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Bridge Built on Sausages

On our honeymoon, we had the best sausages either of us had ever had in our lives. No exaggeration. It was like having sausages for the first time. Tasting sausages at the Historisch Wurstkuchl in Regensburg was like seeing the sunrise for the first time. And the sunset, in the same day. It was like landing on a new, beautiful planet. There was no grease. They had an exquisite combination of spices and high quality pork. My wife never even liked sausages much until this day, and she liked these. This reminded me of the first time I genuinely liked beer; it was at the Munich Oktoberfest 3 years prior. They were simple and delicious and deliciously simple. 

These sausages are tied to the bridge. Not literally tied to the bridge, but tied to the bridge historically. Tying sausages to a bridge would be a strange way to cook them, I don't know why you were thinking that.

By the way, Germans have multiple expressions involving the word sausage ("Wurst" in German). That should give you an idea of how important sausages are to them. For Example "Die beleidigte wurst spielen" is "to play the offended liver sausage."  It means to go off in sulk. The expression is documented back to the Middle Ages, when the liver was thought to be the seat of emotions. If you have ever seen anyone acting like an insulted liver sausage, you know what I am talking about. Once your liver sausage gets insulted, it becomes pretty unreasonable.

The official Historische Wurstkuchl story is that they have been around for 500 years, but from all I have read, sausage cooking on that site has actually been going on much longer than that. Regardless, I don’t know how 500 year old sausages can taste that good.  They tasted brand new to me. Unless it was the mustard; Elsa Schrick's mustard recipe remains unchanged since the early 1800s. The restaurant is still owned by the Schrick, and has been for over 200 years. I tried to get an interview with her, but they would not arrange it for me. I guess I was just being an "Extra Wurst."  An "extra sausage" is a primadonna… someone who is always demanding special treatment, always expects the extra sausage. The Historisch Wurstkuchl experience sent me on a sausage quest when I got home, which is still unrequited. I am likely to find the Holy Grail before I find a German-quality sausage in the USA. I'd even relent to let Monty Python help me with this, regardless of the flight velocity of a sparrow.  I shall have to elaborate on that quest.

The Wurstkuchl is the oldest sausage kitchen in the world. And quite likely the oldest operating restaurant in the world. And it started with the bridge. The Steinerne Brücke in Regensburg, Germany, is a 12th-century bridge across the Danube linking the Old Town Regensburg with Stadtamhof (a small village on an island in the Danube). It was built over the course of 11 years, from 1135 to 1146. For more than 800 years, until the 1930s, it was the city's only bridge across the river.

In 1135 a building was erected as the construction office for the Regensburg stone bridge. When the bridge was finished in 1146 AD, the building became a restaurant named "Garkueche auf dem Kranchen" (cookshop near the crane).  It quickly became a favorite eatery for dock workers, sailors, and travelers. As the city continue to grow, and the St. Peter Cathedral was built several times (due to fires) over the next few centuries, construction workers would find their way to the sausage kitchen. They serve about 6,000 sausages per day. Indoor seating is only 28 seats, outdoor about 100.

View from the bridge

I still have not figured out why the Wurstkuchl officially states they have been there for 500 years, when there has been a sausage restaurant there since 1135. I can understand rounding off a few decades when you are talking in magnitudes of centuries, but this is not consistent. When I was there, they were super busy, and I am not enough of an Extra Sausage that I was willing to interrupt management in my mediocre German to ask. I have spent many hours trying to figure out this inconsistency, to no avail.  I know what you are thinking now.  You are thinking  "Du armes wursctne." Which means "You poor little sausage." Which is said in cases of insincere and condescending pity.

Stadtamhof is an incredibly cute town, with shops, churches, restaurants and homes. Like the old town of Regensburg, it is a perfectly preserved and still fully functional medieval city. It was also the site of an old medieval hospital, St. Katherina's Charity Hospital. A church was built in the middle of the hospital, was common back then. There is a brewery on site now, "Spital" brewery. Spital is German for Hospital. However, I like the German word "Krankenhaus" better, which also means hospital. "Krank" means "sick." So obviously, a Krankenhaus is a sick house. A Krankschwester… a "sick sister" is a nurse. German is a fun language. I think it is fun and amusing, anyway; but you might be saying "Es ist mir alles wurst" which means "its all sausage to me," in other words "I couldn't care less."

Church in the center of the courtyard of St. Katherine's Hospital

When I got home, I started my quest for German quality sausages. Actually, I loved Germany and hated to come home. But all things must come to an end. Or as they say in Germany, Everything has and end but a sausage has two. Yes that somehow means everything comes to an end. In German its "Alles hat ein ende nur eine wurst hat zwei."

I took my picture of the  Historisch Wurstkuchl's sausages with me to local butchers. I emailed sausage companies. I googled every permutation I could think of. One of the local butchers immediately told me the name of the sausage to go look for. I spent days hunting it down, and it turned out to basically be beef jerky. Not even close. The internet led me to German Delis…. None of them close. Google Maps decided I lived in London for two days as a result of it. I don't know why, but it did. Have you ever tried to drive to Kentucky from the other side of the Atlantic? It does not work.

The sausage obsession and endless fruitless searches raged on and I was running out of time. It was getting to the point where it was all or nothing. Buy a case of variety meats from the Wisconsin German butcher, or give up. Or as they say in German, "Es geht um die wurst," which literally translates "its about the sausage: and means "Its all or nothing."

I discovered that there are four types of Wurst; Fresh, Raw, Cooked and Brat. Sounds easy. Then I discover that each of these has hundreds of subtypes. There are over 800 different kinds of sausages, according to Germans. I guess it's like Eskimos having 50 words for snow. The naming of sausage depends on if it is cooked before or after processing, ingredients, and many other characteristics. And to top it off, almost every German city has a subtype named after it, each with its own subtypes. Think about that next time you order a frankfurter. The idea may be just so overwhelming that you order a hamburger instead.

So we bought sausages from the Bavaria Sausage Company and they were very good. Actually, they were the best American Sausages we had tried yet. Closest so far to what we experienced in Germany. Their product was fantastic and prices were great, and they ship quickly. However… they were still not exactly what we had at the Wurstkuchl, so the search for the Holy Grail of sausages continues. In the meantime, in my research for this article, I watched a YouTube video that called these sausages "Nurnburger" style. I have an order waiting from the Bavaria Sausage Company, I will let you know if they are close to the same.

Regensburg is one of my favorite places in the world. The Wurstkuchl sausage kitchen, the bridge, and Stadtamhof, all definite highlights. I cannot wait to go back again.




I made a German dinner for the family tonight, including Nurnburger style sausages from the Bavaria Sausage Company. Congratulations to this Wisconsin meat company! These taste just like the sausages in Germany. I spent over 40 hours looking for an American company that could match what I experienced in Germany, and so far, this is the only one.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Regensburg; Modern Fun in a Medieval Town

I've visited 5 different countries in Europe and a couple dozen cities. So far, Regensburg is my favorite. Regensburg is confident, beautiful and peaceful. It is organic in the sense that is real and not contrived. It is simultaneously ancient and vibrantly new. It has the world's oldest sausage shop, a 400-year-old candy store, and an 800 year old bridge that was once considered one of the wonders of the world.  But more impressive to me than the historical depth, is that we could be out at all hours at the night and feel totally safe. Midnight, walking hand in hand, surrounded by lovers laughing in German, business people, small groups of people enjoying the night. Two in the morning, catching Pokémon.  In fact, even the Pokémon are friendlier in Germany. I met many of them and had great conversations. I have a great Pikachu as a Facebook friend now, but that’s another story.

Porta Praetoria
The bridge, sausage shop, history, and the candy…all warrant separate posts, so I will use this post to tell more about history, as well as the modern ambience in the city. The city began as a roman outpost.  In 179 A.D., Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius ordered a fort to be built on the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers.  (Thus the name of Regensburg). The Fort was the beginning of Regensburg. One of the towers and gates of that fort still stands today, and is incorporated into an active building. It is called the Porta Praetoria. Anything this old and historically significant certainly deserves a unique name. I mean, when I was a teenager, I named my first car because it was 15 years old, and here we have structures going back two millennia. That's way older than all of the cars I've owned combined.  Other still-used buildings were built at the base of the fort.

The city began a period of great prosperity in the 12th century that lasted well into the 18th century. During this time, it became the main seat of the Holy Roman Empire. The "Holy Roman Empire" was neither Roman nor Holy. It arose three centuries after the demise of the actual and real Roman Empire, and was not really an empire, but an affiliation of kingdoms. It was a sort of a medieval U.N. with very little power. It's as accurate as "Buffalo Wings."  I've seen live buffalo, and they don't have wings. Regardless of the questionable power of the "Holy Roman Empire," it none the less it brought commerce and influence to Regensburg for centuries. 

Three Views of the Golden Tower
During the 13th century, the wealthy began erecting towers. They lived in these towers. The height of the tower was monument to family wealth. One such tower built in 1259 still stands. My wife and I stood next to it and touched it. It is called the "Golden Tower" and is still very much in use. To this American, such antiquity leaves me in awe. And by the way, I could not find any gold in it. While I am half German in my heritage, I am also half Irish, and look more like a leprechaun than most Germans. I was hoping to find a pot of gold next to myself in the tower basement, but no luck. 

The Goliath house was built in 1260 at the base of the old Roman Fort. It was a theology school.
The students were called "Goliards" because their guardian angel was named Golias. Due to the close pronunciation and more well known story of Goliath, the name of the house evolved. The painting of David and Goliath was completed by Melchior Bocksberger in 1573. The painting is 200 years older than my country, and has weathered much better.

A "Ratskeller" is a pub next to a Rathaus. A Rathaus is a town hall, or municipal building.  A "Platz" is a main square. The Rathausplatz is one of the many surreally beautiful old areas of town. (I love the fact that the place politicians work in is a rat house). Down the street is a statue of Don Juan de Austria. He was born here in 1547, the bastard son of Charles V, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In spite of being a bastard Don Juan was wealthy, influential and well educated. (Bastards, politicians and rats are often the same). There are some rumors that he was a womanizer. The first fictional story about a womanizer named Don Juan was written in Spain in 1630.  While Don Juan of Austria was born in Regensburg, he was actually raised in Spain and lived much of his life there. Is this a coincidence or stories of horny German expatriates?


Don Juan of Austria

Amidst all of this ancient and intriguing history, as you walk the streets of Regensburg, you cannot help but to be keenly aware of the vibrancy of the city. It is young, energetic and alive. There is nightlife all over the city, into the wee hours of the morning. We were out until 2 a.m. several times. We felt totally safe at all times. There were always people out; groups of business professionals, young adults, lovers walking hand in hand. People walking, eating, chatting, drinking a beer as they walked through town. Yes, drinking beer. It is totally legal and completely acceptable to walk through German cities with a beer. In fact, its commonplace We did not see anyone who was drunk or obnoxious.

The people of Regensburg are super friendly. I have found this to be true of every German city I have visited. I have spent time in five German cities now, and I am impressed by the warm hearted friendliness of Germans all over Bavaria. Please note I said I have "Spent time," not "doing time."  Not even for trespassing in the Golden Tower. My experience with Germans is that they are universally warm-hearted, friendly, polite and professional.

The contrast of the modern city with wifi, ATMs, Google Maps on my iPhone against the centuries and centuries of rich history made the whole experience all the more surreal.