Monday, February 28, 2011

Butter Brez'n

I'm sitting at a high table near the eastern wall of Cafe Max-Weber-Platz, waiting for the clock to turn 9, so I can use the U-bahn. My month pass allows me to travel only after 9Uhr, at a substantial saving. While I am certainly thankful for the smaller impact on my wallet, this setup means that when I stay over at Allegra's, I have to bide my time before I can get to work. A slow coffee is the best way, especially since Cafe Max-Weber-Platz has (slow, but steady) WiFi access.

The City is already buzzing on this side of the river, which makes me realize how much of humanity I miss by rolling lazily out of bed at 9 in the morning. The woman at the Cafe is dealing with a steady stream of coffee-thirsty clients, requests made in German, the drawer of the cash machine registering each sale, wax paper crumpling while orders are packed. This could really happen anywhere, but what makes it Bavaria is not the food or the appearance of the people entering the shop, but the occasional calls of "Butter Brez'n" from the woman in the front to her compatriot at back. This inexpensive Brotzeitschmankerl is simple enough - a large salt pretzel with butter. It is quite popular here in the City and, apparently, the stock up front here in the Cafe is quickly expended. Hence the frequent calls to the back of the shop. While pretzels with butter can be found anywhere in Germany, really, it is the way the words are pronounced here that make them uniquely Bavarian. The Pretzel is called a Brez'n here, with a hard extended 'r'. The word Butter is pronounced more like 'Buthe'. The combination of strongly accented words just calls out Bavarian and grabs my ear every time it is uttered. Like just now, just as I was writing the last sentence :)

Ah, M√ľnchen! Your words can make my day!

Monday, February 7, 2011


As the Sun rose this morning, it dawned on a rather nice day here in Munich. After a week of cold and ice, the preceding weekend was a lovely turn to spring-like weather and blue skies. Today promises to be the same. Allegra and I woke early to a tram trundling past her first-floor apartment at Max-Weber-Platz. We stepped across the street for a cup of cappuccino and a muffin (some Orangensaft thrown in for good measure) and then headed to the Altstadt for Allegra's first day at the Berlitz Sprachschule.

After leaving her in the capable hands of the slow-speaking and very polite receptionist, I stepped out into Marienplatz. Sunlight was just catching the top of the steeples of Frauenkirche over the tops of the buildings that line the Western side of Marienplatz and I stood below the broad facade of the Neues Rathaus, watching people go by. In constrast to the evening crowds, the Altstadt in the morning is pretty empty and perfunctory, with a number of service vehicles parked in front of the entrances of the various shops just opening for the day. No one was milling about - everyone seemed to have a purpose, even the few people who were clearly not Germans (the American man in the Bulls cap, the Polish couples that were admiring the pillar and statue at the center of the square). I realized that I had never seen the center of town quite like this and I understood why everything felt so different. I could almost sense the flurry of human activity below my feet, in the vast network of U- and S-bahn tunnels that underlay Marienplatz and the Rathaus. People running to who knows where so that they could feel good about doing something with their day. Most barely realizing the relative peace just tens of meters over their heads. Knowing that I would have to brave this morning traffic soon, I took a few minutes to absorb the quiet calm of the open square under the rare blue WInter sky.  I watched the airplanes making lazy contrails over the Alter Rathaus and heard the morning chatter of a group of men sitting at a table in a nearby cafe. When the quiet of a chill morning had warmed my bones, I picked up my bag, turned to the dark entrance to the Underground and entered its maw.