I love German stations. And their shops. Not selling items useless for the traveller like ties or CDs. No, handy stuff: food, beer and impulse schnaps. It seems foolish not to encourage such an essential public service. I stock up on the latter two. Food I can get anywhere.
I'm heading back to Ebermannstadt* by train. Thence by bus to Pottenstein, my destination. The impulse schnapps is finished before I leave the train. The beer lasts a little longer. A Schlenkerla Märzen. Where else but Germany would you find such a good beer in a railway station kiosk?
The ride is spectacular. Grunting, groaning and occasionally freewheeling, the bus weaves along a road clinging to a wooded hill. Not so much a hill as a cliff, really. Being Bavaria and not the Andes, there are adequate safety barriers. I think. Hopefully the driver won't test them.
Through the trees' legs, I glimpse a silver streak snaking through the valley bottom. Nothing, save a few campsites and farms, interrupts the waving wheat and woods. This is a lovely part of the world. I remember why I want to retire here. After all the growing greeny gunk, Gössweinstein looks like Shanghai when I pass through. In reality, it's barely a town, despite the huge baroque church plonked in its middle.
Pottenstein is as I recall it: tiny, picturesque, glowered over by yet another castle. Looking scarily like the TV Colditz of my youth. The bus stop is virtually next door to my lodgings, Zum Unteren Schmied. Not so much a hotel as a family home. From my room I have a great view of the former Wagner Bräu brewery. A good sign.
Mager is less than 100 metres away. I drop by for lunch. It's stopped being hot. A lead-grey sky hovers over the rooftops, threatening to unleash a hail of rain at any instant. A few hesitant drops shuffle down nervously as I take a seat out the back. I don't need an umbrella to fend off the furious fire of the sun. I need it to keep my food dry. And my beer un-watered.
Sticking with tradition, I order a Dunkles. The waiter brings it and I give it a sniff. Mmmm. Bit metallic. Maybe that's just the aroma. I take a draught. No, it's there in the gob, too. Along with some pleasant liquorice and chicory notes. Not bad. Especially if you don't go hunting for the metallic taste. I huddle closer to the umbrella as the spits of rain turn to full-on flobs. I'm still wearing shorts. Not because of the heat. They're to show off my stunningly attractive legs**.
Last time in Pottenstein the other brewery, Hufeisen, was having its rest day. I'm in luck: it's open today. I hurry to the beer garden at the rear, making sure I get a seat under cover. The sky looks no friendlier than before. Guess what I order? A coffee. 'Course not. I go, as always, for a Dunkles. In comes in a stylish branded glass.
It's as murky as the swollen streams I've crossed the last few days. Bread, yeast and sherbert from the overdose of CO2 are what hit me first. Then more spicy hops. I'm going to have to find a new word to describe the taste of German hops. That must be the 20th time I've used spicy. Grassy. That's a good one. Doesn't mean exactly the same, but it's a word often used to describe hops. It'll do for now.
I notice that they also have a Bierschnaps. A home made one. I can't possibly pass that up. I order order one to keep my beer company. It looks, but doesn't taste, like whisky. Bit bland, to be honest. Does do a pretty good job of warming me up.
The fermenting room borders on the garden. Through the window I can see a thick brown scum spread over the fermenting wort. Good to see that they've stuck with open fermenters.
Being afraid of getting caught in the rain, I linger for a second beer. That's the great thing about not being in a rush: you don't have to rush. I've a whole day ahead of me in Pottenstein. I can afford to take it easy. There's not that much to do. Except to . . . . . but that's for next time.
* All roads - and railways - in the Fränkische Schweiz lead to Ebermannstadt.
* Stunning really is the right word. Everyone who's seen them so far looks stunned. Like they've been given a whack on the back of the head with a club.
Tel: 09243 - 333
Fax: 09243 - 7586
Hauptstr. 36 - 38,
Tel.: 09243 - 260
Fax: 09243 - 7429
Pension Zum Unteren Schmied
Nürnberger Straße 8
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