Anafest day is here at last. We head for the train station, leaving plenty of time. Time enough to do something I've been meaning to for ages: have a beer in the pub next to Ebermannstadt station.
Well, not in the the pub itself. In it's garden, which has some impressively towering trees.
"Any idea what type of tree they are, Andrew?"
I guess it will remain a mystery. I can tell you this: they were neither willow, nor oak, nor horse chestnut nor, nor elm, nor plane. I can recognise those ones. Some other type of tree.
Every time we've walked past, three or four blokes have been sat at the one table. Must be the Stammtisch. Not sure if they've always been the same chavs, but I'm pretty sure the one with the beard has been there every time.
I ask for a beer. When it arrives I realise that I should have been more specific. This is a St. Georgen house and the regulars are all drinking from Steins. I get this:
Looks like Helles. It's OK, but I've have preferred a Kellerbier. I can't argue about the garden. Lovely trees, bags of shade, a minute from the platform.
Being lazy types, we get the Annafest shuttle bus from Forchheim station. It's one of the first of the day. There are only half a dozen or so people on it. Perfect. The reason I've chosen Monday early afternoon to visit the Fest is simple: I hate people. Or at least crowds of them.
We've arranged to meet Michael and Tom in Greif Keller at 13:00. As we get off the bus I hear:
It's Michael and Tom, who have come up the hill the old-fashioned way. I doubt I'd have the breath to shout, had I walked up the hill. I live in Holland for a reason.
We head to Greif anyway because, er, not had any Greif beer yet this trip. And their Annfestbier is usually pretty good. This is it:
Not that you can see it, of course, through the Stein. Very nice, it was. We all order food. But mine doesn't turn up. Andrew, who has the appetite of a bird, has only half finished his Schnitzel.
"Can I finish that off?"
"Help yourself, dad."
"I was going to, anyway."
We only stay for the one. Have to pace yourself when on litres. Not that we move far. I'm not making the mistake of climbing all the way to the top of the Kellerwald again. Not without sherpas and oxygen.
Next we head for Hebendanz Keller. Because it's close and I've not had any Hebendanz beer this trip yet. And their Annafest beer is another good one. I'm a man of simple motivation. And pretty lazy. This is the beer:
Don't expect any beer descriptions. Remember, I've abandonned notes this trip. Not that they were much cop, for the most part. You can only come up with so many permutations of "full of beery goodness".
Being early afternoon, there's no music yet. I've been looking forward to hearing "Country Roads" sung in a German accent. It remeinds me of the summer and happy times.
Andrew's none too impressed with the climb to Hebendanz Keller's bogs. Nor their level of cleanliness.
"Just think what they'd look like if they were easier to get to, dad."
About half way through the fourth litre things start getting hazy. By which time we're in Winterbauer Keller drinking St. Georgen. Tom has wimped out with a half litre of Weissbier. Glad he's not my son*. I'm pretty sure we've also been in the Rappen Keller for some Löwenbräu. It feels like it's been quite a trek, but I doubt we've covered more than 50 metres (excluding the climb to Hebendanz Keller's bogs).
The best comes last. As we're on our way out, we notice the last Keller entrance has a single table but no bar or waitresses. Chatting to the people sat there, we discover it's a private Keller.
"Would you like to take a look around?" Is the pope head of a Rome-based religious organisation?
One step inside and the temperature drops 20 degrees. It's lovely. The cold, I mean. The Keller, too, fascinates. It stretches back quite a way and branches several times. Must have been fun digging that little lot out by hand. By the entrance there's a barrel. Serving beer the way god ("Daaad, not that god rubbish again) . . . . The kind owner of the Keller lets us try some. It's the perfect temperature and wonderfully drinkable.
I walk back down the hill with Andrew. Not quite quickly enough, as we miss our train and have to wait almost 2 hours for the next. The drunks at the station, debrid from Annafest amuse and horrify Andrew in equal measure.
"He'd best hope an ICE doesn't come past." He says, pointing to a youth dangling his legs over the edge of the platform.
"Thank you for putting that image in my head, Andrew."
"Or one of those big goods trains."
"I've got the idea. Legs smashed to strawberry jam."
That's Annafest over for another year. I never do get to hear "Country Roads".
* Andrew drank Apfelschorle after round number one.
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