Bayern (Bavaria)

Ah, yes, land of enchanted castles, Lederhosen and oom-pah bands. And the CSU, if you're looking for further amusement :) Bavarians are sort of like Texans; while they have the highest opinion of themselves, everybody else thinks they're a bunch of yokels.

Bayern is in fact Germany's largest state, although most folks now just associate with the soccer team. Top flight soccer is pretty much limited to the Oktoberfest host, although on occasion Nürnberg exhibits some traces of respectability.

The state capital, MÜNCHEN (Munich) is the center of the universe, at least as far as the Müncheners are concerned. Unfortunately, the center is already taken (San Francisco, thank you very much), but this great city does have a couple of things going for it: great beer and great soccer.

First, the beer. Check out the names like Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Spaten, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Hofbräu . If none of these ring a bell, you're in need of an intensive course in Beerology, and not the watered down versions prevalent at American universities. Fortunately, München is a fine location to embark upon the needed academic research.

Second only to the beer is the soccer tradition: Mighty FC Bayern München is Germany's greatest club, 1860 München is quite respectable in their own right., SpVgg Unterhaching manages to survive despite a shoestring budget, and Wacker München has a great name, if nothing else.

The northern part of Bayern is actually known as Franken (Franconia). There is a quasi-"independance" movement centered around NÜRNBERG to get Franken seperated from the rest of Bayern. The idea is to get out from underneath Müchen's hegemony, and instead substitute Nürnberg hegemony. The slogan is a clever play on words of the Freistaat Bayern (Free State of Bavaria), Frei statt Bayern (Free instead of Bavaria). In any case, the city of Nürnberg is a must for the savvy visitor, for several reasons. The most obvious is of course is that it is the home of 1.FC Nürnberg. It is also an important cultural center, as this is the hometown of kicker sportmagazin, Germany's most important sports weekly. The publication still insists on wasting pages on worthless things like autoracing (if you want to see REAL autoracing, try taking a cab in Rio de Janeiro), but is otherwise excellent. The travelling historian will find interest in historical and notorious Nürnberg. Aside from having a wonderful medieval city, Nürnberg is of course more notorious for it's more recent history. For example, somewhere near the Duzendteich is the location of all those famous Nazi-Party rallies. Actually, for Americans, the city is less useful. Thanks to the good brotherly behaviour of the soldiers from the nearby US Army base, most pubs and bars in the downtown are off limits...

Near Nürnberg is the town of FÜRTH, which is probably best known for the mail order store Quelle. The local club is quite respectable these days, SpVgg Greuther Fuerth

Heading north on the Autobahn route 9, you can safely skip BAYREUTH, the home of the worthless Wagner festivals. The operas might come in handy if you have trouble sleeping, though. In reality, the Wagner festivals are merely tourist traps full of his pretentious music. The only reason to visit would be if you're interested in seeing SpVgg Bayreuth, which will probably be struggling in the Bayernliga. They were basically always crap. However, further north, near the former GDR border, you come to HOF, which is the home of FC Bayern Hof. The Hofers don't have much to cheer about these days, but some 20 years ago, they were on the verge of making it into the Bundesliga. Too bad they got their asses kicked by Wuppertaler SV. Nevertheless, you might want to pay your respects to the club and city that sinks into oblivion as the border has disappeared.

About 60km west of München on the E52, we come to the city of AUGSBURG, one of the oldest in Germany, as it was founded by the Romans. The city is dominated by the legacy of the Fugger Family, a medieval banking dynasty that survives to this day. In fact, there are all sorts of fugging things in this fugging city, with all sorts of fuggers running around. Actually, the Altstadt is pretty nice. Of interest to American college students who have had German inflicted upon them, is the Bertolt Brecht house. Brecht, whose works are force fed in every German language class, hated this fugging city, and the city returned the favor, since he was a fugging red. Of course he's now a famous writer, plus he's dead, so all is forgiven. (Anyway, how clever could Brecht have been, since he liked living in the socialist paradise of East Germany?) The local soccer club is pretty lame, FC Augsburg.

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany :