Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Café of the Skinny Dipper, or, Bavaria au naturel

Naked bathing in Bavaria with Gary and Lorraine???

Here's a fun story from the dynamic duo about revisiting old haunts - and the things you never forget.

Rottach-Egern, Germany—

Twenty-one years ago, the two of us traveled to Europe for the first time. The occasion for me was a client’s global management team meeting to take place at a small hotel on the Tegernsee, a beautiful alpine lake an hour south of Munich, and the opportunity for Lorraine was a two-for-one business class deal with Sabena – already leading the industry back then by flying empty planes across the Atlantic from Boston, where we were living at the time.

During the days, I worked intensively with the client’s senior team while Lorraine explored this new world, and then shared her discoveries with me over dinner each night. One particular story stuck with me. She had rented a bike at the hotel, rode it around the shoreline of the Tegernsee, and discovered a glorious café along the way, one that served beer, coffee and a few pastries on a lovely deck literally over the water at the end of a deserted dirt road. The setting was incredible, but the memorable event was when the woman sitting at the other end of her long table finished her beer, paid her bill, walked down the steps of the café’s deck, calmly removed every single article of clothing, and dove into the water.

Fast forward 21 years, and another business meeting has brought me back to Munich, this time on Emirates from Dubai, rather than poor Sabena from Boston. Lorraine decides to come along, and we plan a weekend to rediscover the Tegernsee and see what’s changed.

The first disappointment is that the lovely little rustic B&B that we stayed in back then, the Seehotel Ueberfahrt, has obviously been successful—it is now a 5 storey glass and steel monstrosity with five stars and room rates to match. We stayed elsewhere, needless to say.
But the news improves from there. This time my work was finished before the weekend, so we rented bikes together, rode down the shoreline past a few beaches, and voila! There it was. It had also seen its share of success in the last 20 years. The long tables were replaced by classy wooden café sets for seating two- and four-tops, and a high tech retracting roof had been added, with a nod to Bavaria’s sometimes unpredictable weather. The setting was every bit as beautiful – far away from the hotel crowd at the end of a long peninsula, it is truly a discovery, with a breathtaking view that takes in the length of the lake.

The menu had also gotten an upgrade. We were impressed with the range of traditional Bavarian dishes, although on this occasion, we settled for a mid-afternoon nosh of a Côtes du Rhône rosé and a fantastic trio of chocolate mousses accompanied by perfect fruits and berries. Just the thing to give you the energy for the rest of the ride…

Sadly, I can’t really tell you how to get there by car, because it seems to be relatively inaccessible that way. However, riding a bike or walking west along the beach from the Seehotel Ueberfahrt in Rottach-Egern will get you there quite efficiently – there are occasional signs to the “Strandcafe” to give you a clue. By boat, there is of course a dock, just across a small bay from the “Abwinkl” ferry stop. The GPS coordinates are N 47° 41.754’, E 11° 44.292’, so if you paste those into Google Maps or Earth, or your SatNav, you will have a very good idea of your target.

And no, for those of you who are still wondering, that event that made Lorraine realize she was in a different culture altogether twenty years ago was, sadly, not repeated.

Them’s the breaks.

1 comment:

  1. Michel@dufresne.atSeptember 23, 2009 2:30 pm

    Dearest author,
    you are really making me homesick!!!! When I was a boy my parents went there almost every weekend and I greatly enjoyed the forbidden sip of beer and a huge non-commercial icecream (huge in my boy's eyes then). I even had my first swimming-strokes there, although not very successful then... Can't recall any nudes then! Maybe too long ago!
    Thanks for your blog