Was ist typisch?

My search for a proper introduction to a customary Bavarian dish was long, winding, and filled with many failed attempts, but finally, on a cool Wednesday night in a Biergarten by the name of Hirschgarten (Deer Garden) in Munich’s Laim district, I attained what I had sought. I had already visited Hirschgarten twice before. In my first week, I went alone and simply ordered a BrezeI and Pommes Frites (no reason to order a 1 liter Maß Bier to drink alone!), and enjoyed the good weather with a book in the park.

The second time I visited with meine Freundin, but the Biergarten was not yet open so we ate some fresh fruit we had brought along, and shared the rest with the resident deer that give the park its name and fame. Aller guten Dinge sind drei! After Vespers and Mass with the Benedictine sisters whose Abbey adjoins my apartment building, I made my third visit to Hirschgarten with Pater Stephan, a Benedictine priest and professor at LMU, Luísa, who is also studying German through the SLA program.


We strolled over to Hirschgarten to enjoy conversation and eat together etwas typisches (something special to the region) We decided on Steckerlfisch  – Makrele seasoned with salt and light spices, served on a skewer (Steckerl in the dialect), and eaten with a small wooden pick. We also each enjoyed a pretzel and an Augustinerbier, although I still haven’t built up the courage to order an entire liter for myself.

Pater Stephan talked about the significance of Biergärten in Germany, especially for Bavaria. Other topics of conversation were the ongoing Weltmeisterschaft (Germany had sadly already been eliminated), Pater Stephan’s travels in the U.S., and our mutual interests in theology. It was a beautiful night and a wonderful way to finally learn about a regional meal from a local dining partner, after trying unsuccessfully on other occasions to convince a waiter to describe at length the dishes on the menu. I hope to keep in touch with Pater Stephan as time goes on, and am very grateful for getting to know him through mealtime conversations such as this.

Who is American in Munich?

One thing I’ve realized staying in Munich is that it is not only a German city, but also an international city. That being said, I also notice a lot that Munich is a city influenced by American culture. When the radio plays in the morning the talk show hosts speak in German, but most of the music is in English, less often in German and Spanish. That being said, the question of what American culture is – who is American – is one that has required clarification multiple times in Munich.

My American Peanut Butter – Bought in Munich!

My host mother, Mariana, is from Argentina, but has made Munich her home. We have spoken a few times about what it means to come to Germany from the Americas, and the question comes up often in conversation with new acquaintances.

To this point, the most common question I’ve received here, perhaps even more often than an inquiry after my name, is “Woher kommst du?” – “Where are you from?” Most often I answer, “Aus den USA,” or “Aus den Vereinigten Staaten.” Generally though, this is eventually clarified by my interlocutor or myself as America. Mariana reminded me in the first few days of my stay that she too is an American; Argentinians are Americans, from South America, just as those from the USA are Americans, from North America. Mariana laments that people from Germany and the USA alike don’t recognize the common history of the Americas. After Mass one day I was talking (in German) with a Peruvian woman, Justina, and she made a similar comment; she is Peruvian but also American.

In fact, Munich is not the first this place where this point has been clarified in conversation. The question asking to whom the title “American” belongs was also a common one in my high school Spanish class, and my teacher from Mexicali would often reiterate the same idea as outlined above. It is interesting to see that the issue is not only one between Americans of the north and south, but also in Europe and perhaps beyond.

Nevertheless, among Germans and most of the international students at the Sprachschule, Americans remain citizens of the US alone. I don’t think this they mean to discredit citizens of other countries in the Americas; rather, countries have grown to be a greater marker of identity than these larger geographical designations that are perhaps more historical and cultural, less political and economic. Looking at the newspapers here, one sees that these political and economic issues dominate the headlines. Alongside Kanzlerin Angela Merkel, one often sees images of President Trump accompanied by questions of what lies in store for political relations in these somewhat uncertain times.

That being said, there are also some German newspapers that focus less on these looming questions, and instead share stories about curiosities. I found this one a while back:

The cat came back after eight years of being away! Lucky’s Unbelievable Odyssey

Fronleichnam in Munich

At the end of May I was able to participate in one of Munich’s biggest religious citywide ceremonies, Fronleichnam, or Corpus Christi, as we call it in the US. It was a very warm day, and the Mass began in midmorning. When I arrived in Marienplatz, where Mass was celebrated, I found many different communities gathered under representative banners: student groups, Handwerker organizations, Polish and Vietnamese communities formed part of the assembly, each attired in traditional garb.

Cardinal Marx

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and his homily was on going with Christ through time – “Mit Christus durch die Zeit” – he also talked about reading the signs of the times and the citywide celebration being one of joy and not power. Mass was followed by a procession through the city to Königsplatz. There are questions these days in Bavaria about how Christian identity should be represented in the public sphere. The state government, led by Markus Söder, has determined that Crosses will be hung at each public opening to a government building. Söder recognizes the Cross as an essential part of Bavarian culture and history, a recognition of its Christian roots and foundation.


The Sunday before was Dreifaltigkeitssonntag (The Feast of the Holy Trinity), and in the cathedral, Frauenkirche, the homilist addressed the topic of cultural identity in Bavaria through the prayer of the Sign of the Cross. He affirmed that the Cross is a sign of identity, but before being a marker of identity with a culture, it marks identity with the Trinity, “In Namen des Vaters, und des Sohnes, und des Heiligen Geistes.” He continued by emphasizing that this needs to be remembered in a debate that may lose sight of the meaning of the Cross.


The week before, I had the grace of meeting a Benedictine priest, Fr. Stephan Haering, who lives in my apartment building, and is a professor of canon law at Ludwig Maximilian’s University. As a representative of the University he concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Marx and a number of other bishops and priests. During this first meeting, I was able to speak with him about my philosophy and theology studies, his work and vocation, and aspects Germany and Bavaria in general (all in German, with his patient assistance!). He even spoke with me about the dialect he grew up speaking, comparing the basic sentence same sentence in Boarisch and German (in Boarisch I understood nothing whatsoever). Since then I have visited with him for dinner each Wednesday, after he celebrates Mass for sisters in an abbey directly next to my apartment. It is quite a gift to meet with him and the sisters!