Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mario Andretti, where were you?




     I am afraid that this post will sound like an advertisement for truffles and the Motovun Truffle Festival.   I must admit that I am not an expert on food, nor truffles,  On this subject I feel more like a redneck who blundered into a beer and crawdad festival.   Previously, most of my experience with truffles is like a kid window shopping for toys at Christmas.  My experience has been more like  field testing for flavors I have never known to exist.  However, I will try my best to give a straightforward analysis of the whole affair.

     This has been one of the best weekends I have had all year!  We have had some great ones.  Reviewing the weekend my mind has indulged itself, lingering over long moments of a taste so warm and filled with the  sudden sensation of glorious contentment.  It was that good!

     Finding almost nothing but short critiques on the festival on the internet,  and only first knowing about it by watching Anthony Bourdain's show on Croatia, I was not sure what to expect.  Would I see  a bunch of farmers standing  in their  muddiy boots selling their booty to rich “foodie” tourists? Would the festival be more like a circus of truffle cuisine?  Would the inhabitants be out in force to sell their arts and crafts?  Would they proudly have on  display their pigs and dogs who dig the truffles from the forest?  Would it be so crowded that the experience would be ruined?

Mario's House Below
    
We parked our car half way up the hill and walked to the top, passing at about half way up the restaurant, Konoba Mondo,  where we would have our glorious feast at lunch.  At the top we wanndered around the top of the village along the wall and enjoyed the view below.   The trees below were turning color as the sun warmed the valley that had been previously layered by fog.   Walking by a guide, we stopped to llsten as he pointed to a house below that belongs to Mario Andretti.  We also watched and listened to a radio show host, interviewing people, the station was from Pula.  Sitting outdoors in the sun and existing with a cool drink we just took in the valley below.  These days of sun are valuable to us as we liive in the Veneto where rain and clouds are more often than not.  It felt good to be  outdoors for what might be the last good weekend before damp weather sets in.

     Under the tented area were many artisans who had  created tastes not just of truffles, but jams, and spreads, bakery goods, and more.  People  were encouraged to sample  pretty much everything before buying.  On one table we saw a whole prosciutto about to be carved in tiny slices.  By the time we finished walking around the tent, it had been sampled with a vengence.  Of the many items we tried we ended up bringing home  a jar of small black truffle pieces mixed with capers, a loaf of black bread, a bottle of red wine by Tomaz, and a type of jam made from pumpkin and apple preserves.

    
We walked back down the cobbled street and entered Konoba Mondo.  It was lucky we had made a reservation as few tables were available for late comers.  Mondo has had many excellent reviews, covering the food, the preperation and the owner Klaudio.  None were negative, instead praising the whole experience.  We were ready!

     Klaudio  was most gracious.   We had a list of questions to ask.  He took the time to explain his use of  truffles, where they are gathered, how long their freshness lasts, and the differences between white and black.  He even took time to talk about Bourdain's visit, explaining how many cameras were there, how many people in the crew and how Bourdain liked the restaurant.  At the end of all this he pointed to the wall over the bar and we saw a large photo of Bourdain in Mondo.

     My wife and I chose different dishes so that we could compare tastes.  mine was tagliatetelle, and she chose risotto made with Terano wine with radicchio. Both dishes are made with white truffles which we were told were freshly gathered.  Klaudio, in his white gloves,  sliced a white truffle, and the flakes floated floated down on onto our food.  He was very generous in slicing, almost to the point that i wanted to say, "Stop, save some for everyone else!”
     
     My pasta had a wonderful flavor, warm and a kind of old, mushroomy and deep taste, but my wife won the day with her choice of risotto.  Because I have had experience with risotto with truffles before, I am now firmly convinced that risotto is the way to go with truffles,    We also shared two different appetizers found on the truffle menu used only during truffle season.   

     Truffles that I have tasted had the taste of warm relaxed comfort.   And these had a scent seemed recognised from somewhere long ago.  In Mondo I enjoyed  filling my senses with an enchanting pleasure.   I forced myself to slow down and take smaller bites and think about what was about leave my fork.  To be honest, though, i think it would be difficult to have truffle dishes everyday or  more than twice a week.  You can overdo things.  They are that strong.
Truffle Flakes



     Dessert was a cone shaped  chocolate cake.   It arrived  topped with white truffle flakes for decoration.  When I cut into the cake, molten chocolate oozed onto the white dish.  What  a great ending to this adventure.  We are already talking about going back soon.
Motovun



If you live anywhere within 4 hours of Motovun, I highly recommend the festival next year.

   



Motovun, Croatia







Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dead Pig Walking!

     I am calmly sitting at my table, waiting for a steaming plate of wild boar, called cinghiale,  nestled on a small pile of soft polenta.   Sipping my wine, and reasoning like a kid who suddenly realizes because ol’ Santa could not possibly deliver all those presents to the whole world,  I consider how many hunters and wild boars would be needed to furnish all the restaurants in Italy that feature wild boar every day.  
     Later I posed this question to my buddy, Alfonso, who has an agritourismo restaurant in the hills outside of Padova.  His answer delivers a crushing blow to my romantic view of Italy.  I am told those so called wild boars are a sham, fradulently labeled as wild, but instead raised on a farm.   (The word for swindlers in Italian is truffatori.)   Consider that wild boar is served in some Italian restaurants in the states.  Are they importing?  A waiter who writes on a blog called Waiter Rants, says that his restaurant uses rabbit, but labels it wild boar.  The word that comes to mind is charlatans (ciarlatani).
     In Italy there are many wild boars roaming the hills, causing trouble,  rooting up the vegetation, and leaving a stinky mess behind.    Encountering a huge mother boar and her piglets when on a hike in the hills can be jeopardous to ones health.  Boars can run very fast and when they catch you, the will tear and slash with their tusk, hurting a person severely.  
      
     Near my village, in the Colli Euganei hills, are swarming bands of these huge pigs, now so many that the authorities are hiring professional hunters to cull the numbers.  These boars are not babes in the woods,  they cause a lot of trouble to the grape fields so valuable to the production of some of the Veneto’s very superior wine.  Nearby crop farmers are also prompting the extinction of  the boars.   I have been hoping that my father in law who is a cacciatore (hunter) will be chosen and we would might get a few choice cuts, but he tells us  that the meat would not be allowed to taken home by the hunters.  My belief is that the authorities will be the ones taking the meat home.  Another story!

     Many Tuscan villages in October have a group of hunters get together on one Saturday and head out into the misty forest with their dogs before dawn.  Plans are to corral  a large area in the forest where they have spotted the boars foraging.  The dogs excitedly smell the ground until they find the scent.  Yelping and running like horses in the Kentucky Derby they race to find their quarry.  Shots are heard, and within minutes several boars are pulled out of the undergrowth. I should mention that every year some hunters are shot by accident in Italy.   Alcohol is the major cause.

     The boars are carried from the forest.  Bottles of grappa, a powerful Italian hooch, are passed around and the dearly departed are toasted along with praises to the bush whacker who blasted the poor critter to his last reward.

     Later in the village, glowing inwardly, the congenial group will warm themselves around a bon fire, and feeling no pain, they toast each other with wine as the boar is skinned and then cut up for the village feast.  No part will be wasted, even the head will end up on the wall of the local salumeria.  Meanwhile the dogs repose by the fire  while the hunter’s wives fill the table with regional specialties.   Thinly cut slices of different salamis and cheese, bruschetta piled with tomato and spices, and liver pate are set out. The  hunter/leader calls everyone to the table, a speech is made, and the feast begins.  The exuberant party of hunters will stuff themselves with their “real” wild boar.  
The one who made it to the market

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Motovun Truffle Festival

    
       Soon we will be joining carloads of foodie worshipers headed down the autostrada to visit the Truffle Festival in the small village of Motovun, Croatia.  This area’s forests are famous for the malodorous fungus known as the white truffle of which these are said to be of the highest quality.   October and November are said to be the months where the most truffles of quality are found.   These truffles were known throughout history, especially used by both the Greeks and Romans.  The Istrian truffles from the Montovun area were featured in a television show on Croatia by Anthony Bourdain.

     Local producers will be showing their largest mushrooms, liqueurs, wine, crafts and cheese.  I have read that if you pay a fee of 20 kn you can have a non-stop guzzling of wine, and there will be demonstrations of cooking with truffels.  Free tasting is ncluded after the demonstrations.  Somewhere in the middle all this we have a reservation to Konoba mondo Motovun Restaurant which has an exceptional reputation.

     I have to confess that I know very little about truffles.  My culinary credentials as an expert foodie are inadequate.  Seven years of living and eating in Italy has increased my culinary knowledge, but buying truffles is something a retired teacher cannot afford in his everyday shopping.   Fortunately, I had an awakening experience a while back as we stumbled onto a restaurant in a tiny village called Camignone in the middle of nowhere, near Lago Iseo.  (There are so many of these villages!)  We had been to a great extent lost and hungry, and my wife with her unexplainable talent for finding exceptional places of dining hit a real home run. 

     The special menu board featured truffles on different pastas, risottos and meat courses, and it was difficult to make our selection.  Later as I looked over the top of my wine glass the owner/chef came bursting out of the kitchen to talk to an old  friend.   He was carefully carrying  a white bucket.  With raised voices they chatted excitedly, then gesturing hands together in a prayer like manner then pointed to their cheeks with a rolling of the finger.  The aquaintance reached for his reading glasses and then dropped his head into the bucket.  He lingered for some time then rose out of his chair and exclaimed,  ”Oh Dio!”  
After more gesturing and loud proclamations the bucket was carefully passed around the table for all to enjoy, and all the customers realized it was a huge bucket of truffles.  The chef had hit the jackpot, no wonder he had a smile as big as  Gary Bussey.  Noses came out of that bucket with faces of delirious pleasure.  Right then and there I was determined that this bucket was not going to disappear into the kitchen until I had a shot at finding out what a entire bucket of truffles smelled and looked like.  

I waited patiently…., then I stopped the chef with my hand out like a traffic cop, and he proudly let me look into that bucket.  I dove… I inhaled… I came up hooked forever.  Truffles are contagious!  

The chef personally brought our risotto to our table and we tasted and lingered and drank our wine while discussing the sumptuos pleasure of truffles.  Even that word cannot describe them well.  This was a day to remember, a time capsule of pleasure.   So you can see that I am hoping that there will be a repeat performance in Montovun.
  

The restaurant I have written about is Osteria Casa Marcelina, via Chies, 76,  in Camignone, near Lago Iseo.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

No Tweeking Allowed!

 
     American television shows are shown in Italy, but they are years behind the actual date.  Most are older shows such as Hawaii Five 0, Ironside and The Simpsons.  All are repeated constantly,  but the best shows are related to food and travel.   
     We watched Anthony Bourdain visit Tuscany and attempt to make a pasta for a young group of Toscani friends.  Bourdain should have been alerted that they would never appreciate his pasta.   (My wife says that the whole thing is probably staged.)   We see him nervously prepare everything and cooking it, making sure it is al dente but tweeking it with a few new components.  He did not realise that trying something new with pasta would not be pleasing to Italians.   Italians do not seem to enjoy innovation but instead consider it an annoyance.   Adulteration is out!   The word “purists” would correctly describe them.  The result of the dinner was that Bourdain became the main course in front of his television audience.

     There was a funny episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where his Italian mother faked sharing her precious recipe with Raymond’s wife, yet cheated by deleting one item so the dish would never be perfect.  The writer of that episode must have been Italian.  Recipes handed down here are sometimes guarded by a level of secrecy.  Grandmas sometimes do not share many of their recipes, some take them to the grave.

     Jamie Oliver had a series of episodes where he visited Italy and cooked with the locals.  They kept telling him not to add any new components to basic Italian cuisine.  They did not want to modernize their tastes.  Near the  end of the series, we see him sitting in his van, leaning over and looking into the camera to proclaim that Italians are a very stubborn people. 

     I have run up against my own jury when I made my lasagna.  Just a few months after I moved here I invited a housefull of hungry Italian friends.  My lasagna had multiple levels of home made pasta, fresh mushrooms, ground beef, and cheese with a tomato sauce.  It came out looking good, smelling good and they respectfully tried it.  The first comment I heard was,  “Where’s the white sauce?” I was dumbfounded, and could not understand what they meant by white sauce.  Then it was explained to me that lasagna here in the Veneto has bechamel sauce in lasagna.  They politely said the lasagna was interesting, but I was told I should learn to make it “their way.”  I had learned my lesson in eating regional food, and from then on I made it a passion to find out more.  I also learned not to serve my friends Italian food “my way”.     

Friday, October 9, 2015

Driving Me Crazy!

    
      Remember when you were at the circus and the tiny Italian car drives into the center ring and one after another men keep coming out of the car?  Fooling you into wondering, how many more?  And  they keep coming!!   This is much like my life struggling with the Italian Driving Exam.
     I have been studying for the driver exam for many months.   It  has been developed over the years by a group of whom I believe to be a scheming and deceitful bunch of question makers.   The exam has been created at a  level of the Italian language which is a much  higher level than my Italian language school.  I am not a teenager, I have driven for years the freeways in Los Angeles, San Francisco and never had an accident or been stopped for bad driving.  However, here in Italy I have had to spend a great amount of time with the Italian driver exam.  For months many of the things I like to do have been put on hold,  as every morning my nose is buried in the text book.

     The process for gaining a license to drive is more complicated in Italy.  Besides taking the test, I had my pockets emptied by the Italian government, with a second heist being committed by the driving school  that I am forced to use.  In America the driving exam is completed in one’s own car, but here I must use the school’s double driver car, and use the driver school to take the mandatory 6 hours of driving practice, after which they  complete my papers, order the doctor exam then send and later receive the results of my computer driven driver exam.  I am scheduled to take the test for the third time, in two weeks having flunked it by only one question on the first two.  

     I won’t go into the details of the 365 page text book that I have had to translate and learn, but I will  discuss some of the questions so that you can see what a bunch of shysters these question makers are.  Here are some examples of the over 7,000 (someone needed a job) questions developed  to use in  the test.   You can pratice using these questons online.  I have seen over 6,600 of them.  The exam will use 40 questions, and you can only miss 4.  Many Italians flunk the test, retaking it several times.  It was once possible to take the test in English, but a few years ago they dropped this and now it  is only in Italian.  The language they use can be tricky if not down right sneaky, clearly formed to trick people who speak English.  (Many immigrants  come here knowing English.)

Here are some examples.

In America we pay a premium each month to have insurance…
The question is…Il fondo di garanzia per le vittime della strada è un premio per chi non ha provocato incidenti.  translated…..The fund of guarantee for people involved in a crash is…(un premio), if you are not perfect in knowing Italian you would be tricked into thinking … "premium".., but  this does not work as in Italian  premio means prize.  The conniving testers know that this is a tricky translation!

Le corsie è una pista riservata alle vetture da corse.. The lanes of a road are reserved for cars of…
If you don’t know that "vetture da corse" are "racing cars",  you are fooled as your translation is headed for a meaning in another direction.  

How about discussing a crash with the words "forza maggiore"… Sounds a hell of a lot like major force doesn’t it?   They know that,  these scheming bastardi!   But the meaning of forza maggiore in Italian  means something very different….even though google will translate it out as MAJOR FORCE.  It means something that you could not avoid.

My Italian friends have a good laugh over many of these dubious questions.  There was even one about having cold air hit your throat while driving.  
How about this one:
Per evitare rumori fastidiosi, occorre chiudere con forza le portiere dell’autovettura, in modo da non doverle richiudere…  by the way, the answer is FALSE  translation by google is:  To avoid disturbing noises, must be forcefully close the doors of the car, so you do not have to close.  It is reassuring to know that the motor vehicle people are against pollution of noise.

Here is one that is not even in my driving text manual.  
Durante la guida, si deve fare uso di occhiali da vista o di lenti a contatto solo quando la miopia supera 6 diottrie.  FALSE is the answer.  What importance is this?  Anyone taking the exam is already been tested for vision by a doctor (provided by the school  for 30 euros more), and how would I know how powerful 6 dottrie is?  I think one would have to guess the answer!

It is not impossible to realise that the test has not been developed for them to  know if the person knows the laws of driving.  Instead it is comprised of questions to test the intelligence and ability of knowing italian,  made more difficult through logic and double negatives.....  Remember those guys getting out of that circus car?


At the end of October i will stand in line at the Dipartimento della Motorizzazione Civile and be sent to a computer,  where I will push the start button.  I will taking the test again with the temper of Rosie O’Donnell, and  thinking of what I could do with my missing 600 euros.   In the old west these outlaws would be caught and strung up like a bunch of horse thieves.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Our Differences

        It is October 5, and I have walked to my usual bar every morning I carry my laptop with which I  study for the Italian driver exam.  If you walked into this bar you would know me right away.  I am the only person with a jacket hanging on the back of the chair.   I am the only person not wearing scarf.   I am in short sleeves, and I  am here for the long haul nursing my Coffee Americano. I refuse to give up summer easily.  I am hard-core!
     You see, just two weeks ago, as if a starter shot his gun off to announce winter, all Italians made the fundamental decision to begin wearing coats and scarves.   Even if the sun comes out and makes the day extra warm they, in a “one for all all for one spirit”,  remain wrapped up like Eskimos.  Once inside the bar, Italians never take their jackets and scarves off when seated.  Almost all of the customers will be leaving this watering hole within a few moments.  Many of them are there only long enough for two or three swallows and then they leave with a quick  “Arrivederci!   
     This battle of  clothing, I always lose.  I lose it every Fall.  Today I have to  raise the white flag of surrender as I notice the room is beginning to get  colder and I have to put my jacket back on.  Looking around I see that one of the customers has exited and left the door open.   Since it is just a tad over 50 degrees (10 C.) outside, things quickly get a bit nippy. 
The new owner of the bar, doesn’t mind as he likes to keep the door open as much as possible, even when it is cold outside.   I think he believes that having the door open will bring in more customers.  The regulars are not coming anymore.  Last week I watched him stand out on the street for about half and hour looking up and down wondering what happened to all those patrons.   
    I begin to lose interest in the driving exam, it is tedious work and there are over 7,000 questions to study.  I have read 6,650 of them!  My mind wanders. I begin to think of the differences I have experienced in the past 7 years.
     I will admit that Americans are wasteful with energy.   The use of air conditioning and heating units are really different between our countries.  There is a law here in the Veneto that heaters are not to be used until October 15, houses not to be warmer than 20 Centigrade (68 F) and heaters must be turned off on April 15.  We Americans abuse the right to have good air conditioning and heaters, owning devices far more capable to cool and heat  large multi-storied homes with a basement.  (My old house in Colorado)  The resulting difference is that Italians have to wear a lot more clothing indoors during the winter than I am used to.  I have also been spoiled by living in Los Angeles many years. 
     During the spring and summer while in a bus or a train Italians hardly ever experience air conditioning.  They quietly endure sultry days, without complaining.  I have endured some torturous, scorching hot rides, with my face soaked in sweat, and I wonder why don’t these folks at least crack open a window?  In July the driver of my bus, a spitting image of an Italian Billy Bob Thornton, has his window open for a breeze.  Billy Bob thought nothing of neglecting his passengers, whose windows were not made to open.  A flick of the switch on the AC would have liberated us from the disabled list.   (It was over 90 that day.)  I had a malevolent thought to hijack the bus and force the driver to sit in the back!  On another day in August my train was leaving Venice and my car was at least 100 degrees with the high humidity we get here and not one person opened a window.  
     That’s my campaign against the predicament of life in the Veneto.  I am not sure I will ever get used to this, and probably to old to change.   The poster above was used during the election, and I am what Italians call a Stranieri.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Octoberfest in Munich

   
     During my University days my trumpet professor, James Whitlow, talked about his sabbatical trip to Germany and going to Octoberfest. At the time he  sparked my interest in attending the festival, enjoying the music and doing a little beer tasting, and so long ago I put it on my bucket list.   So when we received a flyer ,from a tour operator offering an overnight trip to Octoberfest ,we were interested.   The tour operator was also  proposing a side trip to the famous castle called Neuschwanstein.  We could not pass this up!
     On the the day before the grand opening of Octoberfest, we wait in a small parking lot north of Verona.. The bus arrives from Milano packed with Italian beer aficionados.  We will drive through the night stopping several  times as per the rules of the Euro Zone require a rest to the bus driver.
    Tourist buses that are used to transport people in Italy are outfitted with televisions that show movies.  Seats are more comfortable than the seats I remember with Greyhound, and we settle in.  It will be an 8 hour ride including restroom stops.
     The featured movie is the American made Wedding Crashers with John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey.  The men in the bus find it especially funny.  I am laughing at the laughers more than with the movie.  (There are a lot of 24 to 30 year old guys in the bus so a movie about guys picking up hot women every weekend keeps them totally attentive.)  It always amazes me that most jokes translated into Italian are still funny.  I am watching the lips way too much and wondering how the studios, in dubbing the voices, found people with a similar voices that sound so close to the original actors.  
     We wake up just as we are entering Munich and the sun is rising. The only shops that are open are the bakery shops.  Noses are at the windows as see heavenly goodies displayed in the shop window.  You can almost smell it!  There is no comparison, between Munich and Padova,  there are so many breads, many different brown breads, and pastries of all types.  I want to yell to the driver to stop the bus, while in my mind I see a vision of kidnapping my Italian village baker and forcing him to see what could be!
     Grouped outside the bus the guide sternly tells us that  at 10:00 the bus will leave the parking and head for the hotel.  Anyone not there will use the map handout with instructions on how to get to the hotel.  There will be no waiting for anyone.  Further instructions inform anyone who boards the bus and becomes  sick and vomiting will walk home.  
     Walking towards Octoberfest entrance  we immediately see a bakery packed with goodies of all types.  The differences between bakeries in Germany compared to the ones in Padova is astounding. 
     Walking past each beer pavilion we see lines of young people decked out in Bavarian costumes.  They have plastic boxes holding bottles of beer which they will allow them a head start on celebrating.  It is 8:45 and they will not be allowed to enter until after 12:00 when the Mayor of Munich announces the opening of the festival with a twelve-gun salute.  
     Taking the subway to the center of Munich we walk past a market where the parade will begin.   We are surrounded by  all the floats and wagons stacked with beer barrels.  Music is flowing and so is the beer.  The horses, also in colourful costume, patiently await the start of the Parade.  Men in all types of lederhosen, hats with big feathers, and women charmingly dressed in Bavarian dresses.  It is all quite dazzling.
     We find an extensive food market and it is truly a really a nice one.  They have so much produce displayed beautifully, including truffles, and at least 5 kinds of chili peppers.  In Padova we find only two types of chilis and they are not hot, but sweet.  We see rhubarb, something not available in northern Italy. 
We buy some warm pretzels and walk over to  Starbucks where we pick up a package of coffee beans to take home.  After watching the parade begin and the big clock in Munich ring out the  hour we take the subway back to Octoberfest where the parade is headed.
     After some great music and a few mugs of beer we decide to take a tram and go further away from the loaded pavilions and find a restaurant along the tram line.  This turns out to be a great idea and we enjoy what I call Man Food: pork, mashed potatoes with a rich brown gravy, and purple cabbage.  I am happy, my Italian wife not as happy but puts up with the German cuisine.  
After this we walk through a big park and see a huge beer garden packed with far fewer sloshed locals and and lots more family groups with children.  The feeling tone of this  beer garden was very pleasant.
     We walk through the park and over to the famous Hofbrau Haus.  I am a fan of good beer and what I call  “Oom Pah" music and this place always seems to have a partly smashed  band of brass players having a good time.  They have played the tunes so many times that even playing wasted they hardly need to see the printed music, instead  put all their energy into keeping  everyone singing and swinging their beer steins in the air.  Taking a close look at everyone I notice the ratio of males to females is about 9 to 1.  Most of the males are fairly polluted with eyes glassy, and slurred words.  A fellow, at our table, about 30 years of age, moans, leans forward and pukes in his mug.  Maybe this is the reason why the  mugs are made of  grey ceramic?  Friends carry him out of the building.  After a few songs and one mug of beer we eventually leave this drunken revelry and head back to the park by subway.
     With 6  million beer lovers sucking down 7.7 million litres of beer you have to expect to see folks who have gone over the edge.  And sure enough as we come out of the subway we begin to see staggering people, lots of them  helping each other maneuver.  One fellow in lederhosen , one arm curled around a night pole, talks to it.  
In the  park we see a grass covered hill on our right, covered with people lying down,  mostly semi conscious.  Over 100 volunteers, and doctors are stationed in the medical centre while ambulance attendants carry a kind of stretcher with a plastic dome where they put the unconscious inside and carry them off.  Portable johns have huge lines, and there is a sign saying that there is no cellular coverage in this area.  It is obvious that you cannot sit in the johns call your friends. 
     You can imagine the problems this festival creates.  Electric power consumption totals approximately 2.7 million kilowatt hours.  We see more and more trash overflowing from the bins and cans provided as crowds wander about and clog the intersections where one  can hardly move.  It is worse that Disneyland  on a school holiday.  There are more people than can be jammed inside the  pavilions, so the rest wander around aimlessly.
     The next day, surrounded by the beautiful Bavarian Alps, we observe the Disneyland like castle as we drive the road.  Ludwig II of Bavaria was a  visionary in this respect, creating such a beautiful castle with all those spires perched on the side of a mountain. 
Parts of the castle are unfinished, as Ludwig mysteriously met his end at the bottom of a lake nearby and the funds to finish it were publicly cut off.  Actually I think that the view of the castle is better than what is seen inside.  
One thing about living in Europe, you begin to get too used to seeing castles and the extravagant furnishings. I never thought I would say this when living back in the states.  I am also getting tired to see cathedrals. 
     The drive back through Innsbruck and down the pass to Verona was quite beautiful.  The Fall colors, the robber baron castles perched on the hill tops, and the blue lakes and streams make it a painter’s paradise.  Being a painter I am quite happy but we will skip the pavilions and head to the market and  revisit the beer garden.