I always suspected paradise had beer. Apparently it also has pretzels, bratwurst and a whole lot of drunk Germans. After 2 weeks of crummy hotels, barely road legal transportation and seriously gloomy weather, we had reached Berlin. First stop? The local beir garden.
Dappled summer sun poked through the leafy trees to warm the long wooden benches below. Across the white gravel yard, we joined the long line of people eagerly waiting to choose their beer and meat.
Being a vegetarian, my decision was always pretty easy, but the smell of a cheese and mushroom Spatzle (a German specialty, something between pasta and short noodles) had intoxicated me on the walk over so this time I didn’t mind. And not having a genuine German Pretzel was out of the question. My friend was less decisive, ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ his way to the front of the line, and still without a final answer.
“Meatloaf,” announced a local in his heavy German accent that squeezed out from somewhere under his thick moustache. “Try the meatloaf.”
With food and drink in hand, we turned to find a seat. Most benches were being used, but the length of these tables invited company. Many people had already joined strangers to enjoy their meal together.
Having gone through a stage of wearing nothing but flannel pants several years back, I was pleased to note that punk was still alive and well here. Kids in mohawks and tartan mingled with older Germans sporting the neat blonde hair and moustaches that stereotype had told me to expect. Locals and tourists, everyone sat together drinking beer, swapping stories and sharing a laugh.
We sat at the other end of a table already occupied by a group of locals about our age. They turned with welcoming smiles and said something in German that I didn’t understand. We replied with broken German phrases and English they didn’t seem to understand. Yet somehow we were all just satisfied to be included.
Then again, the locals could wait. So could conversation of any kind. My empty hadn’t-eaten-all-day stomach demanded food. The Spatzle was an explosion of cheese that melted in my mouth, which I washed down with a German Radler. I had heard this mix of beer and lemonade referred to as a Shandy, in fact it was my mother’s drink of choice back home, but somehow the new name made it more enticing. Next to me, my friend sat devouring his meatloaf served in a roll and topped with enormous amounts of mustard.
The feeding frenzy over, and several Radlers down, I sat content, soaking it all in and occasionally exchanging a word with other patrons. This was my first big adventure overseas and so far on my short journey, the jetlag and constant travel had drained my energy. But here, in this Berlin Bier Garden that was filled with life, my spirits returned unscathed, bubbling up like the froth of my Radler.