Walking in a Winter Bock Wonderland

Conventional wisdom would tell you to stay on the sofa when there’s a near blizzard brewing. Of course, if you have to go to work you don’t have much choice but venturing out into drifts of snow for pleasure generally draws condescension, at least from non-nature types who gaze from windows at the “pretty” white stuff, clutching a hot chocolate for good measure.

snowy forest

Well, hot chocolate was not what we were after and when a friend casually asked if the Ayinger Brewery had anything special on tap that month, I said I believed it was their formidable Winter Bock and nonchalantly mentioned I’d been looking at doing a hike on the edge of the small village. He was game but though there was some snow in the forecast, neither of us imagined what we were getting ourselves into.

Ayinger Brewery & the road we walked to the trail head

Aying is about 45 minutes by S-Bahn from the center of Munich and though the trip is generally pretty, it was particularly spectacular the day we headed out. That “pretty” white stuff was everywhere and suddenly, hot chocolate didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Drinking it from the comfort of the train, gazing out the window was starting to sound pretty good, too.

Dumped off at the cold empty station, surely the thought of going directly to the brewery entered both of our minds but thankfully pride kept it right in that quiet unobtrusive place.  As planned, we made the left at the appropriately named Gerstenweg (Barley Way) and were soon at the actual Ayinger Brewery.  Oddly enough, despite my having been at their brewery tap up the road many times, I’d never made that left before so it was nice to finally see where all that great beer was brewed. Tours are available and there’s a nice looking gift shop but there was only time for a few photos before making our way to the outskirts of town on a windswept snowy road.

the early part of the trail & shrine to a young girl killed by a falling tree

It was a lot less windy once in the forest and the snow not only made everything that much prettier but also was still very manageable for walking. We passed a small shrine to a girl killed by a falling tree and later a small chapel with a small write-up about it. My history loving co-hiker relished some new anecdotal facts or perhaps was just taking a breather but in these temps, there wasn’t a lot of dilly-dallying. The snow kept falling at a steady pace and the further into the forest we ventured, the deeper the snow became.

the story of the fallen tree seemed to be more than anecdote

The snow was making it a lot slower going than planned so I saw an earlier turn on the GPS that would not only cut a kilometer or two off the hike but would also waltz us by a small pond.  This turned out to be the nicest part of the whole hike, through a strand of pines covered in snow, making for a winter wonderland effect. The pond itself was frozen solid but more interestingly it was obviously someone’s very nice summer retreat, resplendent with a log cabin and an island-bound gazebo connected with a small wooden bridge. I joked about it probably being a mosquito magnet and the even more problematic logistics of getting beer out there.

the enchanted forest leading to the frozen lake retreat

We soon broke out of the forest where we seemed so utterly on our own only to find  a horse farm. Seconds later, a woman on a horse sauntered up the trail we’d just trod on with far more effort. Obviously, beer at the cabin wasn’t the problem I’d alluded to. The trail led us along the perimeter of the ranch and the open scenery was a change of pace that lulled us into complacency.

After one short dip back into the forest, we found ourselves at the last open stretch leading back to Aying.  And I do mean open. The route I’d planned was across what in summer would be a nice field. Conventional wisdom would have aborted plans and taken the parallel road into town but with such a short distance, I wasn’t about to resort to convention. If I were that sort, I’d have stayed home and drunk hot chocolate. No, we plodded on, knee deep in some fine powdery snow skiers dream of.  It was obvious not one person had been this way since the snow started falling days earlier. Well, no one in their right might would go this way. We trudged on, into the wind, into fine icy snow now whipping into our faces. There was nowhere to seek refuge. Where were the shrines full of anecdotes when you needed them? The historian was silent. I kept thinking he’d fallen behind but the few times I turned to check on his whereabouts, he was right behind me: silently plodding and probably plotting to never ask me about the seasonal beer at Aying again.

the last open stretch to Aying & the familiar sign of its onion-dome church

I never thought I’d be so happy to see an onion-domed church as I was when I saw the familiar top of Aying’s St. Andreas. While I consider myself spiritual, I’m not a religious man but I do know the church is right next to the Ayinger Bräustuberl and that was where we were heading. There was a Winter Bock waiting for us and I was fairly certain that no one there deserved one more than we did.

a hearty reward of roast pork & dumplings & Ayinger’s Winter Bock

 

 

 

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