This weekend we welcomed our first American visitor, a colleague and friend of mine from graduate school. Luckily summer has not faded away altogether and she is here in time to catch the end of Bier Keller season. We are using these sunny Autumn days to enjoy sitting outside before it gets too cold.
The Bier Kellers in Forchheim are located in the the Kellerwald. This is the woodland area that climbs up the hill called the Kellerberg. Just for reference, our house is near the bottom of the hill, kind of nestled into the side of it, right next to a church that rings its bells everyday at 7am…every day…every…day…I will leave my feelings about those bells for another post. Back to the Keller description.
Inside the Kellerwald are the Kellers of old. There are about 23 of them. Some are wellknown for their hot food, some only offer a Brotzeid, a bratwurst or a Keller Platter. Some have indoor seating, allowing the keller season to be extended.
The kellers have a special atmosphere. Yes, you can drink beer there, but it’s almost the least important part of the ambiance. On a nice evening, if the weather is good, the kellers are full. It’s like a calling from the heart of the woods and you take a walk up the Kellerberg.
During the hottest days of summer I call this walk to the Keller, the Franconian work-out regimen. It’s approximately a mile walk up to the Kellerwald. The shade cools you when you arrive and then you spend the evening lifting the glass or the krug to drink the beer (obviously getting a biceps workout as a result) before you walk another mile back home.
Upon arrival, you usually see people that you know and you find a seat near them, making a night of simple delicious food and laughter. This is a great example of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit- the feeling of coziness and sweetness that prevails in Bavaria-you don’t need to make plans, the Keller is its own meeting place.
Often in the evening there are lights strung around the keller too. People are smiling. They are even jolly. Nothing earth shattering happens, it’s just a way to appreciate the time of year and the company.
A few nights ago we had just this experience at my favorite Keller. This is one of the Kellers with indoor seating for winter time and well known bratwurst and hot food. Our favorite Schauferla was sold out so we ordered a Keller Platter, kind of like Brotzeit. The owner of the Keller is always there and his sister is the chef. A really nice guy is the beer meister and once he heard us speaking English and invited us to see the old keller underneath the restaurant.
The owner always sits at the same table near the building. This could be called a stammtisch. A stammtisch is a table that is kind of reserved for a specific group of people who are the regulars. Heinz and Jola have a stammtisch at their favorite local place, the Lohmule. There’s a funny tradition here, (well funny if you are from the US) When you want more beer, you lay your beer krug like this and they bring you another. Not joking.
There is also a huge fest each summer in the Kellerwald called the Annafest, but that’s for another post. The rest of the year Kellerwald is a sweet, familiar and delicious place. Just the type of place you wouldn’t want to become touristy which is maybe why sometimes the Franconians don’t smile at strangers on walks!
So far, Keller season is my favorite season in Deutschland. Although Oktoberfest season (Wiesn) is next. So maybe that will become my favorite. I’ll find out when we go to Munich on Thursday!