The S&M Motel

October 13, 2011

Welcome to the S&M Motel.  Our zesty moniker derives from those of our founders and present owners, Sue and Martin.

You be staying in our premier suite.  It is fully furnished with a cozy bed, armoire, and ample storage.  It includes a private ensuite bathroom with shower and sink.  Your suite also has a fully-stocked galley style kitchen with gas cooktop and range.  It is equipped with an audio system, computer workstation and a small reference library.  It also has a full mini-bar where cocktails are served daily.

Your suite is lavishly appointed with forest green draperies and upholstery with wood trim.  It has plenty of windows with dynamic views and a skylight.  Soft lighting is provided at night to create a special ambiance.

The S&M Motel also provides optional guest accommodations in nearby temporary facilities.

We have an identical suite reserved for you at our partner accommodations throughout Europe, Many of these locations are conveniently situated close to historic or cosmopolitan cities, major attractions, or restful pastoral climes.

We hope that you will enjoy your stay at the S&M Motel and that you visit again next summer.

Picture of the S&M Motel (the RV we're traveling in)

The S&M Motel

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Bavarian Beer Halls and Beer Gardens

October 12, 2011

Bavaria is all the stereotypical images of Germany rolled into one. Lederhosen, oom-pah-pah-bands, sausage eating, and especially beer-drinking. They say when in Rome…

The Czech Republic drinks the most beer per capita in the world (159 litres per year) with Germany a respectable third (110 litres per year) after Ireland. However, if Bavaria were its own country, they would beat out the Czechs by drinking an astonishing 170 litres per year! Although Canada fashions itself a beer drinking country (“I am Canadian”), we are light-weights compared to these champions. Canada ranks in 22nd place drinking only 68.3 litres per person per year. Tell that to your accuser the next time they criticize you for drinking too much beer! Source: Wikipedia – Beer consumption by country

The monks of Bavaria are the traditional brewers of beer here, with secret recipes being handed down for hundreds of years. They still own some of the breweries and beer halls today. The first beer hall we visited was Augustiner Brau in Salzburg, Austria (not technically Bavaria, but close by). It has 4 huge rooms, one of which is non-smoking, which seat up to 2800 people in total. This beer house was founded by the Augustinian monks, and the image of Jesus adorns each room (perhaps they’re hoping to keep intoxicated visitors on their best behaviour). Beer is poured directly from large casks to thirsty patrons waiting in line with empty crockery steins.

Diane waiting for Beer At Augustiner Brauhaus in Salzberg

A Thirsty Patron

 

Upper floor of the Hofbräuhaus where Hitler spoke

Upper floor of the Hofbräuhaus where Hitler spoke

Bavaria, in the southern part of Germany, has a plethora of beer halls (known as “Brauhaus”). Many of these are hundreds of years old with rich histories. The most famous of Bavarian beer halls is the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Founded by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, they have been serving beer there since 1589 (that’s 423 years of continuous beer drinking!) In the early days, it was a place for men only. It is doubtful that women would have wanted to participate anyhow due to the cursing and the fighting and the vomiting. Also, the tables had troughs underneath so the guys could urinate without leaving their seat, allowing a near continuous flow of beer in and out. Another example of German ingenuity and practicality. In the early 20th Century the upper floor of the Hofbräuhaus was also the meeting place of the fledgling Nazi party, and on February 24, 1920, Adolf Hitler proclaimed the twenty-five theses of the National Socialist program at the Hofbräuhaus, which reconstituted the German Workers’ Party as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as the Nazi Party. Today the Hofbräuhaus is primarily filled with tourists drinking expensive beer in large steins.

Munich is home to the largest beer gardens I’ve ever seen. Every park seems to have one or more. Beer gardens of up to 7000 people are commonplace. In order to be an official beer garden, three things are required — it must serve beer, it must be in Bavaria, and it must have chestnut trees. Bier gardens were traditionally located on top of the underground cellars where the beer kegs were stored. People drank beer there because that’s where the beer was! The casks were winched up from below, tapped on the spot, and people stood around drinking beer setting their glasses on the beer kegs (it was only later that tables and chairs were added). Why chestnut trees you ask? Chestnut trees have broad leaves and shallow roots and were planted on top of the underground beer cellars to keep them cool in summer.

Diane enjoying beer and a pig's knuckle in a Munich beer garden

Diane enjoying a pig's knuckle for breakfast

The disadvantage of Chestnut trees is that they randomly release hazardous projectiles each year around this time. Diane was hit on the hand in our first week here resulting in a bruise. And one night in Munich she sustained a direct hit into her beer glass which exploded sending shards of glass into our meals.

Diane eating dinner with broken glass from fallen chestnut

Notice how Diane’s glass is half the height of the others.

A nice thing about beer gardens (other than the beer of course) is that you’re allowed to bring your own food. This is done to appease the local merchants who know that the beer gardens attract so many people that to restrict outside food would affect their sales. Presumably the beer gardens are making lots of money from the beer anyhow. 500 ml and 1 Litre sell for about $5 and $10 respectively with no price advantage for buying the larger size.

The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 (the Reinheitsgebot) allowed beer made in Bavaria to contain only 3 things — water, barley, and hops. German breweries continue to adhere to a slightly expanded version of this law today (wheat can now be used and a couple of additional ingredients are allowed depending on the type of beer being brewed). This law was originally put in place to prevent price competition between bakeries and brewers for wheat. The restriction of beer grains to barley was meant to ensure sufficient supply of wheat for baking bread. Hops adds flavour to beer but also acts as a natural preservative, and it was required by the Purity Law to prevent other inferior types of problematic preservatives from being used (for example soot or stinging nettles). Those of you with a science or brewing background may notice that a critical component of beer is missing. That’s because it was not until the 1800’s that Louis Pasteur discovered the role of microorganisms in fermentation, so it was not known that YEAST was a required ingredient of beer. However brewers traditionally added some sediment into each batch from the previous fermentation which provided the necessary organisms. If this was not available they would put the beer in multiple vats allowing natural yeast to inoculate the brew.

The undisputed champion of beer drinking locales is the city of Munich which, in addition to Oktoberfest, has beer festivals for over 30 weeks each year. The current pope, in addition to re-distributing child abusers, was Cardinal in Munich in the 1990’s and was known to drink beer with the locals. Because the tables are usually full, we’ve found the beer halls to be an excellent place to talk with the local people. What better way to interact with the locals than over a big stein of beer!
Patrick enjoying a beer in the Englisher Garten


Coming to terms with an alternative lifestyle

October 12, 2011

Even after I had decided that not working at a job was an option for me, it took months to transition to my alternative lifestyle. The hardest part of this was the mental shift required. I’ve had to deal with all sorts of issues and insecurities that came up. I wasn’t expecting to encounter these during what is normally considered to be an agreeable life transition. Many ‘retirees’ (early or otherwise) face the same issues, and many of them never deal with them effectively.

Why do people with lots of money continue to work, often very hard? I suspect that some of them are doing it for the best reason (that they love their work), but many (perhaps most) are doing so for less authentic reasons (e.g. fear or jealousy). I’ve faced visceral issues such as, “Will I go hungry in my old age?” and “Who will look after me when I’m old?” and more esoteric ones such as, “What if I fall behind my friends?”, “What will people think of me?”, and “Is how I spend my time worthy?”

Although each of these took (or is taking) some time to address, we decided to proceed despite our uneasiness. Live boldly! Some of these are issues of risk that can be quantified and assessed. It is possible to evaluate them objectively. The others are insecurities that can be tackled.

Worrying was the fact that one’s 40’s and 50’s are typically one’s most important earning years, when people pay off their mortgage and make serious headway towards their retirement savings. Each additional year worked usually has the concurrent financial benefits of increasing retirement assets or benefits, while lowering the remaining years of cost and life by one. Although financially advantageous, it’s the last item that can be problematic. Life is short enough already. Additionally, both retirement income and expenses are variable. Rates of return, taxation, reliability of pensions, health and other factors all contribute to the uncertainty.

Offsetting the ample incentives to work longer are the facts that life expectancy and quality of life are uncertain. My parents both worked long and hard to subsequently enjoy short and health-challenged retirements, having giving most of their precious time to their employers and leaving the bulk of their largest assets, their pension plans, unexploited. Even if one lives to the statistical average for their demographic (the best guess for most people), research shows that spending drops considerably as people age, even when controlling for health.  People can only spend so much money as they get older. Having more than this may be unnecessary and you can’t take it with you. So, working longer doesn’t add much value after a certain critical threshold has been reached.

In the end, all the financial issues come down to the question of “how much is enough”. Most financial planning books begin with an assumption about one’s income requirements in retirement, when this is by no means given. Retirees are less likely to have the sedate lifestyle once touted by society. They are more apt to travel and enjoy the fruits of life. Given this, deciding how much is enough can be, or should be, a much more considered process.

As for my issues of insecurity (e.g. image, jealously), these can be addressed also. It does not matter what the opinions of others are as long as what I know that what I am doing is right, and then I am impervious to criticism. I will run my own race and what other people think of me is none of my business. Taking these principles to heart however, takes both time and practice. Ultimately, like everything, how I live my life is a choice. I will try to live the lifestyle that is optimal for me, regardless of societal conventions. This means coming to terms with my own issues and insecurities, and not focusing on the perceptions of others.

Are you living an ‘alternative lifestyle’? If so, how are you dealing with the issues and insecurities that you face?