Tag Archives: Beerfest

Beer Culture in Europe: The Germans and Dutch Always Try To Destroy My Liver

I don’t drink alcohol…but I do. But I don’t. But I do. Then I won’t. But then I will.

My friends back at home in Michigan know for a fact that I’m not at all a big drinker. However, I’m pretty sure my family thinks I’m a borderline raging boozer. I’m not sure how that happened? I can attest that both sides are somewhat correct. I wouldn’t say “raging” though; that’s a bit excessive. Back home, I don’t drink often, only on special social occasions. Yet, when I’m traveling, all bets are off. One significant and extremely entertaining reason as to why I consume tons more during my travels than at home is because of my crazy European friends. Specifically the ones in Germany and ESPECIALLY my Dutch buddies in the Netherlands.

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My previous visit to the Netherlands back in 2013.

Americans think they can drink. And they can. But, until you’ve been to Germany and The Netherlands, where beer culture is so infused into everyday life, then you will see that the Europeans are in an elite class of their own. Knowing this, I prepared myself mentally. I knew exactly what I was getting into. As my prior experience in Groningen, Netherlands was one of the most toxic experiences of my life. But in a very fun way! I also attended Oktoberfest a couple years ago for three days. To this day, I don’t know how I survived that one. My friends who I planned on visiting in first in Germany were just as nuts as my Dutch comrades, but on a somewhat lesser scale.

I left Nepal, a bit rejuvenated and ready to continue my quest to the seven continents and resume back in Europe for a few weeks to visit some friends of mine scattered across the eastern and northern board of Germany, and then to my amigos back in Groningen. This was going to be a quick trip before I moved on to Africa, so I couldn’t contact many others that I knew, otherwise I could have easily stayed in the area for months! I flew from Kathmandu to Oman, and from Oman to Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is where I met up with my friend and fellow camino pilgrim, Nic.

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He showed me around town and then introduced me to a drink, popular in the area: Apfelwein Cola. It’s apple flavored white wine mixed with cola. Sounds danky, but it tasted quite alright. We had a few of those. He gave me a few canned versions for the road ahead.

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I stayed with him for a couple days before I went up to Bielefeld (the city that doesn’t exist) to meet up with Eric. As soon as I arrived to his house, he welcomed me back with a beer. He invited me along on a local road rally using electric cars to take around the region, particularly Düsseldorf, for the weekend. I was game, although I was of no help because everything was spoken in German. But on our downtime, he took it upon himself to show me around the town, particularly the night scene, which involved giant mugs (steins) of beer, one after the other. We’re gonna lose the road rally…

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Eric is in the center goofing off, along with other participants from the road rally.

After a few days with Eric and his friends, I took a Flixbus down to Cologne (Köln) to visit another friend who would actually give my liver a brief break. Tarek breaks the typical German mold because he doesn’t drink at all. Not a sip! Praise the Lord because I needed to recoup knowing that the biggest hurdles lie just ahead!

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Myself, Tarek, and his younger brother in Cologne.

On the contrary, he is a giant fan of hookahs (shishas), in which I’ve tried only a handful of times throughout the years, but not to the extent which I was about to endure. Tarek’s buddies are hookah enthusiasts and took me to a few hot spots that had the best in Cologne. You ever heard of an iced hookah? Me neither until someone handed me one to try. It’s a handheld, miniature hookah that’s iced and serve chilled. By the end of the night, I felt the urge to vomit! I’ve never hookah’d like that ever in my life!

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Tarek and I rented a car and drove to the north of Germany, just beyond Hamburg to meet up with Luca and Mahid, two other backpackers that we met while in Melbourne. We drank a shit ton back on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. They lived in Lübeck, just to the northeast of Hamburg where Tarek and I paid a visit for a few days. They did a great job showing us around…with drinks!

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Mahid’s mother is a teacher in the city and invited me to come speak to her class early one morning, with Mahid driving me there. However, we were both late because I tried my best keeping up with his friends at the local pub the night before, even to the point of falling asleep…beer in hand. Regardless, I had a great time speaking to her students. They asked so many questions about my travel life!

Germany was short and sweet, just like I wanted. Next up, I took a quick bus across the border over into The Netherlands where I was greeted by my friend Fridse of Groningen.

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Funny story about Fridse. He and I barely met in Thailand (2013) for only a couple of hours among our traveling companions at the time. It was Thailand, so of course, we were all beered up. We must have friended each other on Facebook because the next year when I was backpacking Europe, he invited me up to Groningen to visit for a few days. I barely remembered the guy at the time, but I thought “Why not?”. I made the trip and had one of my drunkest, yet most fun few days in Europe. Knowing that, I was ecstatic and my liver was ready for the return.

Fridse still resided in the college town of Groningen along with a few of his friends that I met on my previous visit. Most of his close-knit group moved away, but he still had a whole crew of other buddies around that I’ve never met. Like the old days, I was greeted with beer on beer and was offered even more once we visited another friend of his. They even gave me freshly prepared food, without me even asking. This is why I love coming here.

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Fridse, myself, and Sjoerd reunited.

That night, we had tickets to go to a concert that Fridse warned me of beforehand. He told me it was the hardcore rock type, which in turn, I told him I wasn’t really a fan, but I could become a fan of any genre with the right amount of beer. It happened before in Mexico, after all. He promised plenty of it.

The rest of the night became a bit blurry. Those guys in Groningen were generous with the rounds of beer they would go to the bar during the show to retrieve for us. I paid my dues and did the same. To be honest, as I’m writing this, I’m a bit fuzzy jogging my memory. No, I wasn’t blacked out, but the order of events that occurred afterward is not coming right to me. I don’t have any photos of the night either. I’m sure I was hungry and got food somewhere because that ALWAYS happens. I’m also sure we went to another bar or two or three and even a “coffee shop” for shits and giggles. I’m also sure that I fell asleep in public somewhere because that tends to happen as well. The only thing that usually breaks my stride is when there is someone else who is more obnoxiously drunk than I am. There weren’t any cases that night. The Dutchmen can handle their booze like no other.

Lately in my life, I haven’t been getting hangovers too often anymore. Water truly does work wonders! Those who say they lose their drinking edge as they get older, I’d say I’m living proof of the opposite. I can handle it MUCH better than my younger days. With that, we felt well enough to try our hand at one of the best go-karting tracks I’ve ever been to!

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Afterwards, unsurprisingly with these folks, we continued our drinking efforts at other local bars around town, and even on the train on the way to Amsterdam to visit Fridse’s girlfriend.

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Amsterdam would complete my rather short return in Europe. Yet, it was just what I needed; to see old friends again before I made my way to new playgrounds in Africa. I also had no desire to drink for a long while.

After going over this, I really do sound like a complete boozer. But it’s only when I travel, I swear. 🙂

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Train Trek to Beerfest

Björn and I drove back down a couple of hours south of Hamburg to his hometown of Dorste. Dorste is a small town in the countryside parts of the area. My first perception of Dorste was that it was a clean and cozy community where everyone knew each other. I met his dad and mother, both whom were really nice and welcomed me to their home for a few days. I also met Björn’s younger sister Svenja, who spent a year abroad in New Zealand  just recently. The whole family was really nice!

We planned on going on a hike to one of the smaller mountains near Dorste called Brocken. It’s a popular hiking/biking trail amongst the locals. We brought Björn’s dog Neele with us too!

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It was really foggy and misty out. The visibility was low and it was hard to get any good views of the landscape during the hike. I did notice that there were posts along the pathway with drawings of witches on them. I asked Björn about that and he said that at the top of the mountain was a witches castle. The posts indicated we were going the right direction. The fog played perfectly into the atmosphere of the whole story of the mountain witch .

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Along the way, the mist intensified and it began to rain a bit more. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, it beats the heat any day! Poor Neele was soaking wet, but she didn’t seem to mind one bit.

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If you didn’t feel like hiking to the top, the only other alternative route was to take the steam train to the top. It was an old school train that blew steam out of its top and went ‘choo-choo’ all over the mountain.

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The hike was a couple of hours and fairly easy. Once we made it to the top, we could barely see anything ten feet in front of us. The fog covered the entire area!

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There’s also this giant boulder at the top of the mountain with a plaque describing the details and history of the region. The thing to do here is take a photo with it. The mist was horrible for any photos, but at least the cute dog made it better!

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We did see the witches tower but it was hard to make it out. Instead, we ate at a restaurant up top and made our way back down the trail. The rain and fog began to let up, and we were able to see some of the viewpoints around, including this cool little lake.

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Beerfest

Near Dorste, and even in other parts of Germany, Beer Festivals are held in smaller cities. Imagine Oktoberfest but on a much, much smaller scale. Björn and a few of his friends planned on going and he wanted me to come experience it too! This would be great practice for the real deal later this month! Björn’s dad drove us and his sister to a nearby town where there were large stalls featuring a different kind of German beer.  Germans are known for drinking beer so it was the German thing I oughta do. It was great!

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The plan was simple. We would all get one beer from a different stall every time. Each beer would be different and each of us got a chance to choose. Everyone had to keep up with each other though. It was a team effort.

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I can’t remember the names of any of the beers we tried but one of them stood out in particular for being one of the worst beers I have ever had in my life. It was the beer brewed from Björns hometown! Sorry man, my taste buds just didn’t agree with it! Even the 11% beer I made everyone try tasted better. Prost!

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We stayed at the Beer Fest for a long time. I was so tired that I was asleep for the entire taxi ride back home. I passed out immediately.

The next few days, Björn and I chilled out in Dorste. One of his hobbies is collecting mushrooms from a nearby forest and cooking them for his family. We went on a trek one day to collect some mushrooms that he ended up cooking for dinner for us the very same night. Along the trek we came along to this quarry that was being mined for…something. I have to ask Björn what it was.

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We closed out our last night fighting each other. Not for real, but by use of the classic video game Street Fighter II! I haven’t played that game in ages and I´d say we were evenly matched. Björn and his family have been great hosts for my stay here. They whipped up homemade dinners every single day. I never had so much bread in my life! It was all really good though and I appreciated everything. Unfortunately, it was time to leave Björn and head to Bielefeld, another small town near the countryside. This however would be a short-lived goodbye as we planned on meeting up again during Oktoberfest later on in the coming weeks. to reunite the Pai Guys, minus Viola unfortunately.

Thanks for everything Björn! Off to Bielefeld to reunite with an old friend I met in South Africa. 🙂