Bavaria took me by surprise. During my Berlinerism – and even before it – I was instilled* with a natural distrust and disdain for all things Bavarian, but I have to say my trip to Ofterschwang in Allgäu changed all that.
Not that I don’t maintain a healthy distrust of Bavarians – the Münchkins will see to that – but the rural Bavarians, the proper ones, charmed their way into my cynical heart.
It started when I was presented with a big cheese when picking up my accreditation for the skiing – yes, it’s cheesy, but what do you expect from cheese? – and continued with the general hospitality and friendliness I encountered wherever I went.
Herr Kinkel of the Pension treated me like a long lost son, or even a short lost son – a son of any height really. What I mean is that he was very kind. He’d still be talking to me now if I hadn’t made my excuses to leave when the pangs of hunger were setting in last night.
The first night wasn’t too promising. I found myself in a huge tent eating an ox-burger washed down with beer only to have my ears assaulted by a medley of the most godawful shit imaginable to an ear. Now I know what killed the ox. The band was on a break when I walked in or I would have walked straight back out again.
The singer came back from his break, noticed most of the audience was at the back, away from the stage, so he came to them, walking over the tables until he was gyrating directly in front of them – and behind me. That’s when I first moved table. Then a woman got up on another table and started gyrating too. At this stage they were playing “Schatzi, Send Me A Photo” and bubbles were rising behind the stage, sending the crowd wild with delirium. I moved table again. Delirium trembles. I had to move a third time because some couple were coming alarmingly close to knocking over my beer with their frivolous dancing.
The beer was lovely, the music was awful, I didn’t know what to do. I got another. When they started “Sweet Caroline” and the crowd started clapping along inanely it was the final fucking straw. No more. I horsed the beer into me and left as fast as my feet would take me. The locals were still clapping along, swaying drunkenly and baying for more. I’m sure more bubbles rose behind the stage…
I avoided the tent for the rest of the weekend and it improved drastically. Ofterschwang is a funny place. “Ofter schwanger” means ‘often pregnant’ and the local mountain’s called the Ofterschwanger Horn. That’s where the skiing was on. There was also an Ofterschwanger Haus with a view over the Dorf. Well, you can’t fault their sense of humor.
Bavarian beers in general are excellent. This isn’t news, I know, but I love discovering it again and again. And they have proper-sized beers too, not like the thimbles they offer in Small Beer Country. The local brew in Ofterschwang is Zötler. They had it everywhere – delicious. I would have drunk more but work was calling. They even had it in work! Free bottles of Zötler Gold for thirsty journalists. I resisted temptation until I was finished.
The work itself was very enjoyable too. Your wan Tina Maze was usurped by the bold Anna Fenninger on the first day, but made amends the next by usurping Mikaela Shiffrin and taking over the slalom lead before the last race of the season. World champion Shiffrin is 17 until Wednesday, and either of them can still win the title with a victory on Saturday. So it was exciting all in all.
The mountains around Ofterschwang are staggeringly beautiful. The view from the Pension was stupendous. You can’t beat a good mountain, as meself and Gav used to say on out traipses up the Wicklow mountains in our “youth.” But I guess the Alps are harder to beat.
Lack of mountains notwithstanding, Wexford's similarity struck me on the final night, when I was beginning to feel sentimental. There were rural reasons, a donkey braying, the same farm smells, over-friendly people, the bad taste in music…
I actually felt at home. I never thought Bavaria would be a home from home. Well, it ain’t. But I’ll be home in less than two weeks. Looking forward to it now more than ever.
The first and last pictures were taken without leaving my room.
*Not installed as originally written. As far as I’m aware, I haven't been installed anywhere, or at all, yet.