PHOTOS THIS COLUMN: (from top)Andechs tower, Mary Beth Matheys and Mark Proell, the Andechs upper terrace, our Andechs table, version 2, after the arrival of Sheryl Barto and Karla Rohrbaugh.

PHOTO CENTER COLUMN: Our table at Andechs, from lower right corner: Jeff Guice, George Nicks, Mary Beth Matheys, Dave Studdard, Jack Curtin, Kiff Forbush, Dorothy Creamer, Jillain Blodgett, Dave Snyder, Bob Lempinen & Dave Field.

        IN GERMANY


"The best Doppelbock in the world."
Those were O'Reilly's very words as he harassed me daily about making sure I got to Andechs while in Germany. The pints of Andechs Doppelbock we had in Munich the day before had convinced me and others who'd not enjoy one previously that he was onto something. He'd also said, however, that the only way to truly appreciate the Doppelbock was sitting on the terrace at the monastery, looking out over the countryside, so our planned excursion was still highly anticipated.

There was considerable milling around the lobby of the hotel in the morning (we were lost without someone putting us on a bus and taking us somewhere, it seems; how quickly we become prisoners of habit) but 14 of us finally got organized. We were taken to the nearest train station in two trips in the hotel van, driven by a woman who was clearly in practice for the Indy 500. The trip seemed easy enough on paper: ride the train into Munich, then switch to another train and take it to pretty much the end of the and there we'd be. Didn't quite work out that way, for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that when we got off the first train to make our connection, the stairway to which we were directed was closed, with no indication where we should go next. Mark Proell had taken the point on getting us there and we could at least amuse ourselves watching his frustration until we finally figured things out and found the second train, leaving Sheryl and Karla behind to wander around Munich, promising they would join us later.

Turns out that when you get there, you're not quite there. The monastery is located "on the Holy Mountain above the eastern shore of Lake Ammersee in the middle of Upper Bavaria’s Five-Lakes Region," says the official Andechs website, which meant it was somewhere in the hills above the train station where we disembarked. We'd managed to arrive just in time to miss one of the hourly busses. According to O'Reilly, there is a way to hike up to Andechs but since we couldn't even figure out where the place actually was, nor see anything resembling a hiking trail, that wasn't much help. We finally managed to hailed cabs to get there. It turned out to be a ride of 15 to 20 minutes; some hike that would have been...

The cabs let us off at the bottom of what was still a lot of mountain to climb, long steep paved walkways led to even steeper stairways to more walkways...anyway, it took time and energy to reach the very top and the effort left us split into smaller groups depending on stamina and speed. Dave Studdard, Jeff Guice (if you've been paying close attention, you'll have realized by now that our group was clavicle-deep in "Daves" and "Jeffs"), Kiff and I were among the first to reach the top and we explored the old church for a bit, cheerfully ignoring any urges to take the cramped, twisting stairway which led all the way to the top of the tower. Hey, done that sort of thing once in St. Peter's in Rome and don't never intend to do it again.

It still wasn't clear where we should go to drink. I wandered over into a wooded area opposite the church and found an old wooden stairwell leading down into...well, someplace. I decided to check it out and Dave followed me down, while Jeff and Kiff went off in other directions. We kept finding more rickety old stairs to descend as we stumbled through the woods wondering what the hell we'd gotten into, when lo and behold, there appeared before us a large structure with a great open terrace filled with tables and a smattering of people eating and drinking, even the occasional waiter prowling about. None of the others were there and it did seem too far down the hill to be the place O'Reilly had described, but, hey, there was beer.

We grabbed two beers and a big table overlooking the countryside and sat to await the rest of the troops, figuring we were the cool guys in the crowd who'd found our destination. We weren't. While we were trying to find somebody who could speak English so Dave could order some food, Jeff Guice came walking in from the other direction to tell us as kindly as he could that everyone else was up top on the real terrace and having a swell old time. Don't ya just hate it when that happens?

Finally all together again (even our two Munich explorers showed up), we now faced a terrible tragedy: there was no Doppelbock! Dave and I had already been told this at our first stop but figured for sure that would not be the case up in the main drinking area. Wrong again, preserving our perfect record for the day. There was certainly nothing wrong with the beers that were available (I can attest to the quality of both the Dunkel and the Spezial Hell), nor were the surroundings anything less that beautiful. Still, not having the one beer we'd come for was definitely a downer. I figured it had something to do with the fact that it was Sunday and the monks might not want to make such a strong beer available on such a heavy tourist day. The place, after all, is a destination for religious pilgrimages as well as more self-serving ones such as ours.

At around 6 pm, while I was sitting there contemplating the disdain with which our failure would be greeted once I got home and 'fessed up to the posse, the world suddenly became a better place. Someone, I think either Mark or Jeff, has gone in to get us another round of beers (it's a serve yourself operation on the upper terrace) and came back with the happy news that Doppelbock was now available. Better yet, he came back with Doppelbocks all around. For the remaining hour or so we stayed, it was the beer of choice. Indeed, Studdard may have consumed more of it in a sitting than any single human being ever has before and still managed to walk away. Not that anyone was keeping count...

The trip home was faster and easier. While the option existed for a third night at Herbstfest once we arrived at the hotel, none in our party was so inclined. We drank at the bar and, for the most part, got into the sack at a reasonable hour. It had been a most satisfying day and tomorrow we would be up early for the flight to Dusseldorf and the second stage of our journey.

Next: It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mines...

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