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In Europe

Belgian Beer in Bruges Figured Out Craft Beer Centuries Ago

Brewery De Halve Maan - Brugse Zot Dinner

Disclaimer: Visit Bruges partly supported this visit. As always, all opinions are my own.

Craft beer. Anyone within the millennial age range or adjacent to it roughly knows the story. An image comes to mind of the typical customer – a white guy tatted up with a beard, black-rimmed glasses, and a story about trying to homebrew that ended in mediocrity and a patient significant other brooding with an “I told you so” look.

The fad has hit such a stride, people are traveling for it, and thankfully, the ranks of the typical customer and provider are diversifying a bit. At the same time, there are those who despise it. Even traveler-favorite, Anthony Bourdain, lamented craft brew aficionados telling Thrillist, “You know, I haven’t made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they’re making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA.”

Whether you despite the kind of people craft breweries are bringing to the neighborhood or you celebrate the industry’s ability to reuse otherwise lifeless buildings to inject a bit of life into a neighborhood block covered in weeds, there’s no denying that craft beer plans to stick around for a while.

The exception to this seems to be Belgium where craft beer never stopped being a thing. I’ve seen craft beer throughout the Americas and Europe, and though you can certainly find beers proudly slapping the “craft beer” label to their product, the fact is that Belgian beer is already such a masterful product that they don’t seem to need a fledgling, micro-based industry to cater to those who prefer a bit of complexity in their brew. Belgian beers are quite simply already as craft as they get. No, they don’t usually have an infused jalapeño or some other gimmick you’d try once just for the story, but they have the best of the best when it comes to what people actually want to drink. That’s especially obvious in a city like Bruges.

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In Europe

Craft Beer Berlin: Where to Drink in the German Capital

Berlin Street Art

Disclaimer: Visit Berlin supported this trip with lodging and the WelcomeCard covering public transportation within the city for 78 hours. As always, all opinions are my own.

Berlin is a city that manages to blend hipster culture with romanticism. We know Berlin as the modern epicenter of free-range artistic expression where an artist can still get by without fully sacrificing their creative ambition by working a soulless day job just to get by (for now). Much of Berlin flies in the face of traditional Germany where Ordnung Muß sein (there must be order). When the wall fell, artists were encouraged (and still are) to leave their mark whether it’s an impressive mural with deep political meaning or a childish Bart Simpson-style tag. That sentiment can still be seen throughout the sprawling German capital.

With that in mind, Berlin is not surprisingly the best place to be for drinking German craft beer. In the spirit of traditional Germany, there’s the Rheinheitsgebot better known in the English-speaking world as the beer purity law. This law, in the books since 1516, regulates how certain styles of beer are made. You’ll see bottles of German beer, imported or otherwise, proudly stamp a label that says, “gebraut nach dem Deutschen Rheinheitsgebot” promising consumers that they’re drinking a beer that was brewed following the rules.

There’s no denying that this has resulted in some reliably fantastic German beers whether it’s an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen from Bamberg, a Paulaner Hefeweizen from Munich, or my hometown Altbier favorite from Füchsen in Düsseldorf. But there’s also no denying that a law like the Rheinheitsgebot has stifled German creativity when it comes to brewing, putting the brewing powerhouse behind its European neighbors when it comes to brewing craft beer. That said, over the past decade, Germany has done an admirable job of catching up with a sudden influx of craft brewers as if it were a decade ago in the U.S. While most cities still lack the proliferation of beer bars where you can drink a variety beers, craft or otherwise, from around the country, Berlin feels like its own city-state where expectations of German homogeny are thrown out the window. To prove my case, I’ll share a bit about my recent visit to Berlin for the explicit purpose of drinking craft beer.

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In Europe/ Podcast

Welsh Travel Writer Pip Jones Sips Cocktails on the Rooftops of Palestine

Portia Jones

Pip Jones, Welsh Travel Writer

Pip Jones has been traveling and writing for the past 10 years in hopes of recreating a Carrie Bradshaw-esque fantasy of sipping wine and tapping away on her laptop. She joins Without A Path in Düsseldorf by way of Wales to talk about Welsh culture, drinking cocktails on a rooftop in Palestine, and how a childhood admiration of Pip Longstocking started it all.

“A big part of travel is speaking to lots of differnet people and lots of different perspectives and not forming ideas and opinions just from what you’ve read in stories. It’s actually going to these places and speaking to the local Palestinians and all the pople that are affected by the situation there and making up your own mind about the situation and what’s going on.” — Pip Jones on traveling in Palestine

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Music courtesy of Los Waldners

In Europe/ Outdoors

Mittenwald, Germany: A Little Something For Everyone

A summer rain in Mittenwald, a small town on the edge of Bavaria, the Alps somewhere behind the impenetrable fog.

No hiking today.

So what to do to kill the time? A stop at the Geigenbaumuseum detailing Mittenwald’s centuries-long tradition of violin building. Lifelong Mittenwalder Petra Summer explains.

“There was a man named Matthias Klotz who at the age of 12, as far as I know, went to Italy to study violin building,” says Petra. “He then came back and made violin building popular, spreading it across Mittenwald.”

Indeed, to own a Mittenwald violin is akin to rocking out on a Fender Stratocaster, built especially for your calloused fingers. (Even the art features characters playing the violin.)

Speaking of art, Mittenwald carries on the Bavarian tradition of painted homes featuring a mix of scenes from everyday life and Biblical characters. In fact, you really can’t escape crucified Jesus in these parts.

But enough intellectual culture. What about the culture I can eat?

Blaumantel Lieblingsschnitzel Römerschanz Mittenwald

“In my opinion, Bavarian culture is definitely about good Bavarian food. Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Knödel (dumplings), Sauerkraut,” she says. Typical for Bavaria. Just good, hearty Bavarian cuisine which, of course, doesn’t quite keep you slim. But it tastes very good, and in moderation, everything is okay.”

I take that as permission to demolish a Blaumantel Lieblingsschnitzel at the Römerschanz. Schnitzel with baked cheese and blueberries. It’s the kind of gleefully gluttonous meal that forces you to take deep breaths through the meat sweats. Stopping isn’t an option. It’s too damn good.

But dear God, I need to walk this caloric monstrosity off.

 

Up to the Kranzberg in Mittenwald

Kranzberg Mittenwald

The rain drifts away by the next morning. The trails are clear and the sun is fighting its way through the clouds. Finally, my itchy fee can get moving up to the Kranzberg.

One can take the chairlift up, but me, I like to earn my views. So I happily take on the three-and-a-half-kilometer climb, the path sometimes as steep as nearly 30 percent grade. But it’s worth the screaming muscles for that moment I get to the top, the cold wind smacking me in the face, and I sit back to enjoy my reward.

“Ah, fuck, the clouds are back,” I think to myself as I look out over the viewpoint.

Oh, well. Instead, I show off my version of Instagram beach feet and assume nobody will be the wiser.

Though the clouds continue to hug the peaks, down by the lakes, it’s another story. This right here is why people come to Bavaria.

“As kids, we’d take bikes and cycle out to Lauter Lake and Ferchen Lake to go swimming,” Petra recalls. “Anyone who swims in such a mountain lake will never want to swim in another lake.”

I appreciate the sentiment, but it ain’t that warm outside, so I opt to stay lakeside and watch as a man does a bit of aquatic weeding in the nearby lilypads.

 

Admiring Border-Free Europe

Panoramabrücke Geisterklamm Austria

Still fueled by the previous day’s restlessness, I hike further, right to the Austrian border. And there it is, a glorified block in the dirt marking the border. Nothing makes a faux European such as myself appreciate border-free 21st century Europe like the ease of hiking into another country.

But the sentimental feelings wash away when I come to the Gleisterklamm — a series of steel walkways and bridges covering 970 meters over the Leutasch Gorge. And in case you weren’t feeling uncertain enough about the whole endeavor, the trail mascot is an eerie, cartoon ghost complete with a long round nose, three circles that I can only imagine are ghost warts, a creepy grin, mustache, and a seemingly disconnected hand coming out of its beard, pointing to the entrance. The gutter in the mind imagines someone drawing a cartoon caricature using the aftermath of a porn shoot as inspiration.

(Hey, if I have to suffer through the nightmares, so do you.)

As it turns out, the short trek is perfectly safe. I guess a 1.4 million euro investment will make sure of that. Plus, as is the case throughout Mittenwald, the views are not ugly.

“[Mittenwald] is a place that has something to offer for everyone. You can simply go for a stroll around town. You can just sit and enjoy the quiet,” says Petra. “Whether you’re young or old, it’s whatever you want it to be. Mittenwald really offers a little bit of everything for travelers.”

 

Disclaimer: This trip was supported by Alpenwelt Karwendel. As always, all opinions are my own.

Looking for more Germany? Check out the Germany off the beaten path travel guideGerman language tips, and how to ride the German train system.

In Podcast/ Travel

Courtney Tenz is Owning “AmiImmi” in Germany

Courtney Tenz Interview

Courtney Tenz, Freelance Writer and Translator


Courtney Tenz is a freelance writer and translator based in nearby Cologne, Germany. We met up a few weeks ago in a park outside of the K21 art museum in Düsseldorf and talked about everything from being an American immigrant in Germany to how you can tell an American from a European by the way they dress.

“One of the things I’ve been doing in the last couple of years since people have bene talking about refugees ‘invading the country’ has been really paying attention to how other people are being treated around me, using my privilege as an English-speaking immigrant to call out the xenophobia and the bad experiences that other people are having.”

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Music courtesy of Los Waldners

Photo courtesy of Adam Berry

 

In Trailblazers/ Travel

Trailblazers Q&A: German Food and Wine Writer Christie Dietz of A Sausage Has Two

Christie Dietz A Sausage Has Two

Photo by Tetyana Lux

Off the beaten path travel is increasingly difficult to find as time marches on. Mass tourism is impacting everything from our favorite cities to the seas that surround them. All the while locals and the environment are often an afterthought. This series, Trailblazers, checks in with writers, photographers, filmmakers, activists and environmentalists who are passionate about off the beaten path travel.

Christie Dietz, A Sausage Has Two

Christie Dietz was born in London, but after moving about a bit, working in various creative (and uncreative) jobs and doing a fair bit of traveling around the world, she moved to Wiesbaden, a beautiful spa town in the heart of Germany’s Riesling wine region, with her  German husband in 2010. She’s settled there for now, and in Germany for good, as she just acquired German citizenship. Her work as a freelance writer focuses on German food and travel, both featured on her website, A Sausage Has Two, and other publications that to date have included The Guardian, Fodor’s, Time Out, EATEN, and National Geographic Traveller Food.

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In Podcast

Life as a Forever Immigrant and Classical Guitar in Germany with Arturo Castro Nogueras

Arturo Castro Nogueras Playing Classical Guitar

Immigrant and Classical Guitarist, Arturo Castro Nogueras

Arturo Castro Nogueras has been an immigrant for most of his life. Born in Mexico, his family moved to Puerto Rico where he continued his exploration of music and his familial roots in Cuba. As he progressed with classical guitar, he moved to Düsseldorf, Germany to study in the heart of classical music, blending his favorite influences from Latin America with his new surroundings in Europe.

“I cannot identify 100 percent with Mexico right now or Puerto Rico or Germany even. But that liberates me in a way.”

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Music courtesy of Los Waldners

Photo courtesy of Arturo Castro Nogueras

In Europe

Travel Europe By Train: Routes From Major Cities Across The Continent

Inside Hamburg German Train Station

Europe is a continent of rails with some of the best opportunities for train travel in the world. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to ride routes in Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and plenty more. Despite the ease and affordability (with planning) of train travel in Europe, I’m still surprised to meet people from overseas who treat the continent like they’re flying into Phoenix, renting a car as soon as they land. In reality, train travel is often much faster, shedding as much as a few hours off your travel time when compared to automobiles, especially when looking at long distance routes covered by high-speed rail.

Below is everything you need to know about traveling Europe by train including information about the various high-speed train lines and how long it takes to travel between some of the most popular routes on the continent. Obviously, there are some omissions, but we’d be here all day if I typed out every route, especially once we get into central Europe. But by the time you’re done with the first couple sections, you’ll know how to search and plan your own train trip through Europe.

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