Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 5 / Mühldorf

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Mühldorf Barbecue and Football

The Market Square of Mühldorf
One of the things that became more than obvious soon after our arrival was the country's love of soccer... or "football" if you're living in the Eastern Hemisphere.  It was a time for celebration because the German team was still in contention for the Euro Cup, a tournament that only takes place every two years.  For most people, it is an opportunity to throw a party, whether you are a soccer fan or not. Tonight was the highly anticipated match between Germany and Greece, which had strong political overtones from the current ongoing European debt crisis.  Germany has the strongest economy on the continent and Greece by far has the weakest and was in danger of defaulting on their national debt.  The financial future of Greece was much in the hands of the German government, who had the power to shore up the overwhelming debts of their struggling neighbor to the south.  To date, the Greek people were resisting the severe austerity measures imposed by the central banking system, led by the German government.  Who would win out and get their way on both fronts?  It was game time and everyone was planning a get together to watch the match.  Some villages put the games on a large movie theater sized screen in the center of town, where the whole community could watch the game together.  I had been invited to join Andy and Angela to watch the game at the home of a friend of the family who was hosting a barbecue.  Sounds like a great time... Sign me up!

Colorful Shops of Mühldorf
The backyard barbecue has become a very popular pastime in Germany and is very similar to its American counterpart across the pond in the United States.  However, one major difference is the custom of bringing your own meats to grill, which requires a stop at the local butcher shop.  When everyone brings their own items to the party, it takes much of the financial burden off the shoulders of the host, who often provides the beverages.  The host often has no idea how many people will actually show up and this practice prevents them from getting stuck with a lot of left over food.  The other plus, is everyone gets to eat what they are really hungry for that evening.   So a trip to the butcher was on the schedule this afternoon and Andy knew just the place... a small family owned shop, who made all their own meat delicacies with pride, located in the nearby village of Mühldorf.  Wendy came along for the ride in search of ice cream at one of her favorite cafes.  We entered the village through a single lane arched entryway below a tower that resembled a townhouse.  Cars and even buses took turns carefully navigating their way through the narrow passageway into the large open market square.  Mühldorf gave me the true feeling of being in Old World Europe, an atmosphere that has mainly remained unchanged over time, despite the slow drum of modernity. 

Historic Public Library of Mueldorf
The most apparent reality when touring Europe is that some things you encounter on any given street could be extremely old.  Spaces were conceived, constructed, and brought to life before the New World was even known to exist.  Walking through the side streets of Mühldorf on our way toward the butcher shop, Andy was pointing out specific buildings and their relation to history.  One amazing place we visited during our stroll through history was the town's public library.  This was no ordinary library, since it was located within a building that had first been constructed during the Late Middle Ages.  The interior woodwork was all original, including the supporting roof trusses, which had been preserved during the building's transformation into an asset the entire community could enjoy.  It was very impressive and surreal to touch something created by guild craftsman from over 500 years ago.  The structure was first built during the first half of the 15th century and was used by the Bishops of Salzburg in Austria as a granary and storage facility for over 300 years.  In 1981 the storehouse space was converted into the town's public library known as the Stadtbücherei im Kornkasten.  The former warehouse now stores 42,000 books spread out over four floors and has over 200,000 publications checked out annually.  We explored all four floors, taking time to appreciate the merging of the historical past and modern present, contained within the same walls.  

Hohenester Metzger / Butcher Shop
We continued down the street and entered the butcher shop that was teeming with activity.  The shop reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother used to take me along during her weekly visit to Markley's Meats, a butcher shop in Brunnerville, Pennsylvania.  The Markley brothers seemed a hundred years old way back in the day but were very friendly and always greeted you with a slice of cheese or sweet bologna.  The only other employee was named Butch... You can't even make this stuff up!  Hohenester Metzger shop had cases overflowing with luncheon meats, sausages, cheeses, cured hams, and marinated steaks.  I love meat and I think they could tell I was a purebred carnivore!  I recently discovered that my great-great grandfather, Simon Binser on my father's side of the family, worked as a butcher on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia during the turn of the last century.  Meat is in my blood and I was drawn inside the metzger like a moth to a flame!  The lady at the counter was a little curious as to why this guy inside her shop was taking photographs and Andy explained I was visiting from America.  She instantly wanted to show off the meats of their labor, encouraging me to sample some of their creations.  I was suddenly a star but poor Wendy was completely ignored by the staff.  We later concluded that Wendy was so thin and fit, they probably assumed she must be a vegetarian and paid her no mind.  Butchers have a keen sense about such things... 

   My Grandfather Simon Binser at Far Left
Rittenhouse Brothers / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As I surveyed the meat case, Andy acted as interpreter and we selected several choices for the evening barbeque.  We exited the shop with some marinated steaks, bratwurst, various luncheon meats for other meals, some sausage meat sticks for snacking, and a surprise invitation for me to return for a full day of taste testing of all their creations!  Wow, I somehow made quite an impression!  I think poor Wendy was feeling left out!  Although tempted, I never had the time to take them up on their generous offer but was able to return for another brief visit before leaving Germany...  I printed out the picture above and gave it to my new butcher friend Mrs. Hohenester, and had Wendy translate my grandfather's story.  She was very appreciative and possibly hung it up somewhere inside the shop.  She wished us well and gave me some more freebies in a snack bag to go... She said it was to prevent me from starving to death before lunchtime.  Poor Wendy got stiffed again!  Later that day, while eating our lunch, we met up with my new friend Mrs. Hohenester again who was on her way home from work.  She sat down with us and we exchanged pleasant conversation (in German) for a few minutes.  Although I couldn't understand a word, it was one more example of how warm and friendly the Bavarian people are to visitors.  The great people I met along the way throughout my travels and the friendships that developed were the greatest souvenir I could ever have hoped to take home!      

 Barbecue / Bavarian Style
Later that evening, we headed off to the home of friends of Andy and Angela for the barbecue and much anticipated soccer match between Germany and Greece in the Euro Cup Tournament.  We were greeted with friendship as I made my way around the backyard circle of introductions.  Long wooden tables and accompanying benches that appeared to be the traditional biergaten (beer garden) variety were filled with soccer fans devouring their grilled favorites and drinking the local brew in old style glass bottles with porcelain stopper tops.  We went over to the charcoal fired barbecue grill and handed off our meats to the grillmeister (grill master) who would prepare the meats to our liking.  I took a seat at the table and talked with several of the guests who spoke English well.  I learned that many in attendance were mostly teachers who worked with Angela at Gymnasium Waldkraiburg, a school located close to Mühldorf.  Many of the teachers I met at the barbecue taught the subject of English.  It is customary for teachers in Germany to be certified in several subjects and teach multiple preps every day.  Instead of having two teachers that both teach the English language all day long, they might have ten English teachers that all teach a period or two of the language, as well as possibly two other additional subjects.  The Bavarian school system rarely uses substitute teachers, even for long term absences due to prolonged illness or maternity leave.  Other teachers must fill in for staff members who are absent, one of the reasons they check the daily schedule so closely each morning on the faculty room monitor.  Having a staff so diverse in what subjects they can teach, helps this fill-in policy work effectively.  Enough of small talk about school policy... Let's Eat!  A huge plate of meat and accompanying noodle salad was set before me... It was delicious!

Germany's Philipp Lahm Celebrates a Goal
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012) 
I will admit that I am not much of a soccer fan, in fact... I'm not a fan at all.  Two years earlier, a group of my students, including a boy named Caleb, were all excited over the World Cup Tournament.  They were trying to get me into it by encouraging me to watch a match.  They even unsuccessfully tried to figure out how to broadcast a live match onto my classroom's Smartboard during a study hall.  So, I decided to give in and watch USA play some European team the next evening at my home.  The match was very long and the ball went back and forth the whole game without finding the net.  In the end, the final score was 0-0 and settled into penalty kicks on the lone goalkeeper to determine the winner.  That was four hours of my life that I was never going to get back!  I can't even remember who won, not enough scoring to keep my interest.  That was the beginning and end of my participation as a soccer spectator and fan of the most popular sport in the world... until now!   Ironically, one of those soccer crazy students was now along on the trip with me...  I'm sure Caleb was in his element, enjoying the energetic festive atmosphere of the Euro Cup in a nation that lives, breathes, and bleeds soccer.  Suddenly, an announcement was made that it was game time and most people quickly scrambled from the table and lawn chairs to head to an upstairs apartment to watch the game.  Go Deutschland!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a Fan!
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012)
We headed upstairs to the living room where seating was at a premium on the couch, chairs, and floor.  The game was being projected onto the far wall, giving the room a theater-like environment.  Beverages and snacks were easily at hand and with everyone's essential needs satisfied, all eyes were free to follow the ball as it ping-ponged around the field.  Every time the German players successfully maneuvered the ball within scoring distance, all sat up straight in their seats.  A shot on goal resulted in outbursts of despair or cheers depending on the trajectory of the ball.  The crowded room was like an equalizer of the German language plugged into the game play on the screen.  Angela was still sitting outside talking with friends but could follow the progress of the game by the rise and fall of the collective voices from above.  The small crowd in the room was far more entertaining for me than the game itself...  It was amazing!  However, I discovered a new found respect for the game of soccer and couldn't help but get pulled into the positive fan energy within the room.  It was awesome and I found myself jumping out of my seat along with my German brothers to celebrate the first German goal of the game.  It was also interesting to observe the constant pans of the camera to the government leaders of both Greece and Germany in attendance while they followed the action on the field.  The normally reserved Angela Merkel, who is arguably the most powerful leader in Europe as the Chancellor of Germany, couldn't help but join the German fans in celebrating each goal.  The leadership of Greece was far less enthusiastic. 

One Brave Fan at Berlin's Public Viewing
(Photo Source / Getty Images 2012)
The game was exciting and Germany dominated with most of the play focused on Greece's end of the field, where they were forced to frequently defend their goal.  The final score was 4-2 and Germany would now face Italy in a few days to decide what two teams would face off in the European Cup Championship Final.  I was already looking forward cheering on Deutschland with my Bavarian brothers at the next game... It was fun, one of the most enjoyable sporting events I have ever attended.  Unfortunately for Greece, they were now defeated economically and athletically.  However, within a few days, elections were held where the people of Greece voted for candidates that signaled they would accept the austerity measures imposed by the European Union, an important first step to hopeful recovery.  The World Cup will take place in two years... Maybe now, I'll give soccer another chance!

My New Friend Mrs. Hohenester the Butcher
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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